IFLA has issued the below statement in support of its German members, who are currently engaged in discussions around reforms which would create a guarantee that libraries can acquire and lend eBooks on reasonable terms, in the face of opposition. 

IFLA stands by its members in Germany in their efforts to secure a legal framework for eLending that enables libraries to acquire and lend eBooks on reasonable terms, and regrets the accusations made by other stakeholders through the public media.

Reading and literacy are foundation skills for participation in economic, social and civic life, as well as a core component of cultural rights. Furthermore, the right to access information is one side of the same coin as freedom of expression. It is not possible to have one without the other; neither should be a privilege limited to the wealthy.

Libraries, through their investments in acquiring content, the role they play in supporting discovery of new authors, and broader efforts to develop a strong reading population into the future, already contribute to the health of the book sector as a whole. This role applies as much in the digital world as in the physical. As reading moves from the print to the digital world, it is critical that the equity of access historically enabled by legal frameworks for libraries continues.

With eBooks representing an essential means of accessing a diverse range of information, it is therefore essential that everyone should, through their library, have the possibility of reading them. To enable this, libraries themselves must be able to rely on the possibility to acquire and lend eBooks on reasonable terms. This is central to libraries’ work to support the book sector as a whole, facilitating its economic and social sustainability.

We note furthermore that already in 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union underlined that rules applying to traditional lending should also apply to eLending. As such, we hope that decision-makers in Germany will act to implement the ruling of the Court, and that other stakeholders will come together constructively, and on the basis of complete evidence, in order to explore how to ensure a healthy reading society, into the long term.