DCMS consultation on e-lending in libraries

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The DCMS is currently conducting a consultation on the topic of e-lending in libraries. It would be useful to make a submission to this. The closing date for responses is 5pm on Tuesday 6 November, so there isn't much time. They are asking for views on six themes, listed below. Please do feel free to contribute and help to shape our response. Thank you. --Stevie Benton (WMUK) (talk) 13:58, 5 November 2012 (UTC)

If contributions could be made and a final response reached by 3.30pm on Tuesday 6 November that allows us time to make a final submission. Thanks. --Stevie Benton (WMUK) (talk) 14:01, 5 November 2012 (UTC)

Please note that the response to the consultation has now been sent. The final edit made to its content was by Mike Peel at 22:52 on 6 November. Thank you to everyone who gave their input. --Stevie Benton (WMUK) (talk) 17:41, 7 November 2012 (UTC)

The panel and the request are described at [1]. The panel are considering the following areas, and welcome submissions from any interested parties:


Wikimedia UK is the local chapter of the Wikimedia movement in the United Kingdom. We exist to help collect, develop and distribute freely licensed knowledge (and other educational, cultural and historic material) - in particular, doing so via the the Wikimedia projects, which includes Wikipedia. We achieve this by bringing the Wikimedia community in the UK together, and by building links with UK-based cultural institutions, universities, charities and other bodies.

In this response we have focused on e-lending of reference and research materials and out-of-copyright fictional books rather than recently published fiction books.

1. The benefits of e-lending

Wikipedia editors make use of a wide variety of reference materials, in particular online and via libraries. Increasing the range of reference and other works available for access online in the form of e-books would both increase the amount of information that Wikipedia could summarise and reference, and make it easier for readers of Wikipedia to access works referenced in Wikipedia articles. This is particularly the case for reference books and journal articles (for example, the access to journal articles that is provided by the US-based JSTOR service to academics has proved to be particularly useful for Wikimedia volunteers). In general, the Wikimedia movement supports the idea of free access to knowledge, and as such support expanding the library services to include more e-lending.

2. The current level and nature of demand

The current level and nature of demand for e-lending in English libraries, along with a projection of future demand. For example, will e-lending be in addition to traditional borrowing of print books, or is it likely to transform the way in which library users access services? What is the demand for downloading e-books remotely, that is, away from library premises? To what extent do owners of e-readers value public e-lending above what is freely or commercially available elsewhere?

We feel it is likely to rise. Awareness of what is already available is often low, as we have found when offering global access to particular reference sources to a limited number of editors - many UK ones were not aware they could already access them through their libraries. For our community, remote access is key, as people will want to be able to write up the material immediately, often using other sources.

3. Current supply models

Current supply models, barriers to the supply of e-books to libraries, and likely future trends

Demand for access via mobile phones and other portable devices, rather than a desktop or laptop computer, is likely to significantly increase over the next few years. This has been our experience on the Wikimedia projects, where mobile access to the Wikimedia projects has increased significantly over the course of just the last year (see the Wikimedia report card, section on 'Page Views to Mobile Site', where a growth of 165% has been recorded over the course of the last year). This is partly due to the introduction of a Wikipedia mobile application and the 'Wikipedia Zero' project, but it also reflects a growing increase in the amount of mobile internet users.

4. Systems for remunerating authors / publishers for e-lending

We note that a large amount of out-of-copyright books are currently digitally available, and could be made more widely available via e-lending without the need to remunerate authors for the work. We believe that it would not be appropriate to remunerate publishers for the provision of these out-of-copyright works.

In addition there are in-copyright works for which the copyright owners have chosen to permit sharing under various licenses for a variety of motives but with no requirement for direct monetary compensation.

5. The impact of e-lending on publishers and their business models

(This section has been left blank as it is a complex question that the Wikimedia community has no clear single view on.)

6. Any unforeseen consequences

Any unforeseen consequences of e-lending. For example, the impact on those who cannot keep up with technology, the likely long-term impact on the model of highly localised physical library premises, skills requirements for librarians, etc

We note that the cost of printed books will likely increase over time (as it has been doing over the last few years, where the cost of the average paperback has increased from £5 to £8), which will probably decrease the financial barriers that are presented by the cost of technology. However, these increasing costs will not decrease the level of knowledge that is needed to make use of resources available by the internet. As a result, we note that librarians are likely to need to learn new skills in order to teach people how to use internet-based resources rather than physical books.

On a wider scope, we note that as part of a global movement we look at the limitations on access to information largely from a global perspective. The emerging business models being practiced online increase the emphasis of the importance of information being freely available, but much of the world is disenfranchised from the supply of that information. Information provided by the Wikimedia projects is accessed by around 7% of the world-wide population (0.5 billion compared with 7 billion), and this has been steadily increasing (see the report card, linked to above). The amount of information that is requested by the world-wide population will only increase over the coming years, and as such we would encourage global access to e-lending wherever possible.