Available – But Not Accessible? Investigating Publisher E-Lending Licensing Practices
Information Research, 24:3, 2019
19 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2019 Last revised: 14 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 4, 2018
Introduction: We report our mixed-methods investigation of publishers’ licensing practices, which affect the books public libraries can offer for e-lending.
Method: We created unique datasets recording pricing, availability and licence terms for sampled titles offered by e-book aggregators to public libraries across Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and United Kingdom. A third dataset records dates of availability for recent bestsellers. We conducted follow-up interviews with representatives of 5 e-book aggregators.
Analysis: We quantitatively analysed availability, licence terms and price across all aggregators in Australia, snapshotting the competitive playing field in a single jurisdiction. We also compared availability and terms for the same titles from one aggregator across five jurisdictions, and measured how long it took for a sample of recent bestsellers to become available for e-lending. We used data from the aggregator interviews to explain the quantitative findings.
Results: Contrary to aggregator expectations, we found considerable intra-jurisdictional price and licence differences. We also found numerous differences across jurisdictions.
Conclusions: While availability was better than anticipated, licensing practices make it infeasible for libraries to purchase certain kinds of e-book (particularly older titles). Confidentiality requirements make it difficult for libraries to shop (and aggregators to compete) on price and terms.
Keywords: public libraries, libraries, elending, e-lending, ebooks, e-books, aggregators, licensing, oc/ou, metered access, OverDrive, visualisation, information research
JEL Classification: Y10, Y80, Z10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation