THE HAGUE, Netherlands, 28 February 2018 — eBooks have enjoyed a remarkable success in the years since their invention, accounting for around a quarter of the publishing market in countries like the US and UK. They have brought benefits to readers, who have been quick to take advantage of their ease of use.

eBook formats have, in particular, been a life-line to people with print disabilities, who can now adjust the display to ease reading. They have also helped independent authors and publishers, who have found new ways of reaching the public.
While there is little sign of them replacing print books any time soon, they have taken a significant place in the publishing landscape, at least where conditions have permitted. If ebooks encourage citizens to read and engage with books, surely this benefits authors and publishers alike? 
Libraries have been quick to see the potential, not only enabling and promoting eLending, but also helping users learn how to use their devices. Vancouver Public Library is, for example, promoting local self-published indie authors. New York Public Library has developed its own open source eBook platform. 
This makes their dismissal by Hachette CEO Arnaud Nourry as a ‘stupid product’ unfortunate. It is true that his comments have been taken out of context – indeed, M. Nourry looks forwards to developing more interactive, and engaging products.
However, it remains the case that with better suited legislation and business practices, eBooks can continue to play a major role in promoting access to, and enjoyment of, ideas and knowledge.

To this end, IFLA has long called for: 

  • Governments to clarify that eLending is legal 
  • A right for libraries to buy eBooks, on reasonable terms
  • Less complexity in the licensing terms employed by publishers
  • The right to override contract terms, and work around technological protection measures, that prevent library lending of eBooks

IFLA Secretary General Gerald Leitner underlined:

Libraries have been demanding better terms for eLending for years, yet progress is too slow. Given the benefits they bring to independent authors and library users – in particular the print-disabled – I’m calling on governments and publishers alike to give eBooks a chance”