Libraries have been providing access to digital content to their users for over two decades. Until recently this content largely comprised access to aggregated databases of journals, newspapers, popular magazines and technical and specialized monographs. However, the recent explosion in availability and popularity of eReaders and tablets, along with a corresponding increase in the availability of commercial eBooks, has seen a growing demand for downloadable eBooks in public libraries.
This scenario offers libraries many opportunities. The availability of digital content, downloadable onsite at the library or remotely through online catalogues has the potential to develop a digital culture of reading that will benefit users, authors and publishers. However, the current situation facing libraries is anything but positive. There are presently many difficulties, as downloadable eBooks raise a variety of technical, legal and strategic issues which are leading to concern, confusion and frustration for libraries and their users, publishers and authors.
IFLA has produced a background paper setting out these difficulties in full, as well as commissioning an independent thinkpiece to encourage debate among the library community. Following both papers IFLA issued Principles for Library eLending to help librarians worldwide approach the issue with prepared guidance.
Last update: 19 February 2013