Why don't libraries have the right to lend ebooks?

Current European copyright law means that publishers do not need to license libraries to lend ebooks at all.

This means that the choice of ebooks available to borrow is limited and not all local authorities lend ebooks.

Out of the six major trade publishers in the UK only three offer some of their ebooks to libraries and over 85% of ebooks are not available to public libraries in the UK.

Our infographics provide a picture of the current UK lending landscape:

Why is this important?

Almost half the UK population (47%) have used a public library in the past 12 months and libraries play a vital role building literacy skills and providing access to information and reading to build a knowledgeable, informed and connected society.

Ebook sales made up 29% of the total UK book market in 2013 and this is predicted to grow.

The fact that many ebooks are not accessible through public libraries means that this source of information, knowledge and ideas is cut off from families, communities and businesses. 

Libraries should be able to lend ebooks as they do printed books.

What do we want?

We want a clear European copyright law that allows libraries to fulfil their mission of providing everyone with the opportunity to read, and access information and knowledge and provides reasonable payment for authors and publishers. We want:

  • To provide our library users with the latest e-books as we do printed book
  • To buy e-books at fair prices and on reasonable terms
  • All citizens – not just those who can afford it – to benefit from free access to e-books in public libraries
  • Authors to receive fair payment for the lending of e-books as they do for printed books by extending Public Lending Right to include the loan of e-books by public libraries

What can I do?

Sign the change.org petition.

1000s of people across Europe have already signed the petition.

Add your voice and call for a clear European copyright law that will allow libraries in the UK and across Europe to be able to lend ebooks free of charge to the public, as they do printed books.

What else can I do?

1. Become a campaign supporter

  • Sign up as a campaign supporter and we'll keep you up to date with the latest campaign news and opportunities to get involved. 
  • You can sign up as an individual supporter or as an organisation.

1. Raise awareness on social media:

  • Share this message on social media: Libraries should be able to lend ebooks free of charge to the public, as they do printed books: http://bit.ly/1i0qlH0 #eread 

2. Write to your local Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and ask for their support in getting the necessary changes to the copyright legislation:

3. Raise awareness at work

What is CILIP doing?

CILIP fully supports the Right to E-Read campaign organised by EBLIDA (European Bureau of Library, Information & Documentation Associations).

We welcome the ebook pilots currently underway assessing the effectiveness of various licensing models. However it believes that libraries must have a statutory right to lend e-books and this should form part of a revised European copyright framework, currently being consulted on by the EU.

Over the coming months we will be:

  • Encouraging people to sign up to EBLIDA's Right to Eread petition
  • Lobbying UK MEP's, MPs, members of the national devolved parliaments and assemblies to support a change in European copyright law.