With the exception of a few countries, European libraries have been slow at adapting to change and modernization. This means that the introduction of e-books is in many libraries merely one of many future plans. The situation can partially be blamed on the considerable turbulence in relation to the matter when it comes to the American experience where there has been constant disagreement in the relationships between libraries and publishers without a system that could cater to the needs of both in site.
Most large service providers impose their own conditions that often place libraries in a subsidiary role and are therefore perceived as unjust or unsustainable. Adding to this, certain sales systems totally bypass libraries or even take over their role. What is raising concern is that these systems are threatening the basic mission of libraries, as their substantial power allows them to far more promptly respond to changes brought by the development and advances in technology. This means that users are now offered a number of paying services that offer e-book borrowing. With large publishing houses generally standing behind these systems, users are able to choose from a great range of front-list and commercially interesting titles than available to public libraries that mostly have access to older and commercially less interesting works.
The European Union in its outlook (Digital Agenda and Europe 2020) clearly defined public access to cultural contexts as one of its basic priorities. Being one of the primary generators of a reading culture, the public library system contributes greatly to the development of the European cultural area. Irreparable damage is being done with libraries unable to effectively carry out their primary activities.
That is why we came together to establish a European Project for Proposal that initiates the collaboration between different countries to share the experience and know-how of establishing a user-friendly, public libraries based e-book lending program.
Re-Book: Who and Where?
The project joins 6 countries and 6 organisations from the wider European region: Slovenia (Beletrina Academic Press), Belgium (Bibnet), Denmark (Copenhagen Main Library), Latvia (Culture Information Systems Centre), Serbia (Biblioteka grada Beograda) and Czech Republic (Charles University Library). The partnership joins three partners with already established public e-book lending programmes and three who are still in the process of doing so, in order to maximize benefits of the project for all stakeholders, including policy-makers.
Re-Book was developed as a project with two main objectives:
– To help establishing a Cross-European sharing of good promotional practices regarding the e-reading culture (partners will be sharing and implementing various promotional and innovative audience development tools evolved in the partner countries with the aim to broaden the range of e-books users in public libraries and stimulate e-reading of European literature in Europe and beyond.)
– To support analysing and designing appropriate business models and policies including e-books in public libraries based on a study that was conducted by Bibnet (one of the partners to the project) from Flanders, Belgium and Bibliotheek.NL from the Netherlands.
The project’s aim of establishing cross-European sharing of good promotional practices will be implemented through the creation of an open source archive of creative and innovative solution for e-reading promotional campaigns. This archive of promotional tools will be open to any other country interested in e-reading promotion, not limited only to partner countries of the project. During the three years of Re-Book project all partner countries will use each other’s promotional activities in connection to their ongoing e-book lending models.
The project will therefore help to cross-fertilize the experience, expand the dialogue and develop suitable business models and unified European policies which will outline possibilities for successful development of e-book platforms in the future. Most public lending models are designed in a way that enables remote e-book lending to the end user (library member) free of charge. Nevertheless it could be hardly claimed that inter-institutional licensing settlements have been so far developed in a manner that would allow libraries an establishment of attractive e-book catalogues. Project partners will work closely with publishers during the project period and several business models (time-limited licenses, loan-limited licenses) will be tested in order to discover the ones that render the best results in audience development.
Keep your fingers crossed for the EU funding process to be sucessful … Re-Book would be the first e-book project to be supported in the EACEA scheme of Cooperational Projects.
By Renata Zamida
This blog was originally published on ELit Literature House Europe‘s website on 7 December 2015.