Seeking a Made-in-Canada Solution to Library Ebook Lending

eBOUND Canada and CULC/CBUC released an RFI on June 5th seeking vendors and solutions providers interested in partnering with libraries and publishers to provide a Canadian-controlled infrastructure for the storage and distribution of digital content to libraries. Responses are requested by July 11, with the long-term goal of a pilot project in 2013.

From the press release: “CULC/CBUC has been involved in a constructive collaboration for over 18 months with members of the broad Canadian publishing community, and we feel that the time is right to seek a Canadian-made solution that can offer an innovative win-win-win-win for publishers-authors-library users and Canadian public libraries” says CULC/CBUC Executive Director Jefferson Gilbert.

Why are libraries looking for an alternative?

Libraries in Canada buy all ebook content from one supplier at present because no alternative is available. While options are expanding in the United States, the approach distributors are taking means that libraries must buy content bundled with specific platforms, applications and ways of searching.

Library patrons need to be able to search for content through one interface, the library’s discovery layer, and they need to find all content there, whether it’s physical or digital. The suppliers that are in the library ebook market or are now entering it each provide their own interface. Content can’t be moved from its original repository, and isn’t owned by the library. In the current model, if a library wants to purchase from a new ebook supplier, they will be forced to give up the investment they’ve already made in ebooks, or introduce a new interface for searching the new suppliers’ collection and pay maintenance fees twice. This doesn’t make sense.

In addition to the technical challenge, Canadian content isn’t a priority for U.S. companies. Right now, libraries must search for new titles by publisher, and can’t see a list of all the new Canadian content available since our last purchase. We’ve also heard from publishers about challenges on their side: One author’s book had been submitted to a library ebook distributor but wasn’t available to libraries yet due to technical issues that the publisher didn’t know about – in the meantime, the book won an award, and the opportunity for increased sales to libraries was lost.

Libraries, publishers and authors need a solution that puts a priority on Canadian content, so that we continue to have a strong Canadian book industry and we build our shared audience of readers. Through this RFI and continuing our conversations, we hope to find solutions that will work for all stakeholders.

This is a guest post from Christina de Castell, Director, Resources & Technology at the Vancouver Public Library.

To read more from Christina, visit the VPL blog, Uncovering eBooks. And for more on this issue and the RFI, read her post “Public libraries join forces for better eBook Access”.