Knowledge Rights 21, along with Library Futures and Authors Alliance, has launched an ebook pledge, calling on publishers to sign up to it and adopt the principles set out by it. The principles are as follows,

  1. To make all eBooks available to libraries to preserve and to lend to the public directly or via inter-library loan, as soon as they are available to the public.
  2. To make all eBooks individually purchasable by libraries outside of bundles.
  3. To make available to libraries pricing terms which are transparent and clearly differentiate between the cost of the eBook itself (Digital File), and any hosting and platform costs (Platform Costs). Where percentage-based models are the norm, this should comprise the percentage paid to the publisher and the percentage paid to the author, and the platform provider.
  4. To offer pricing for the Digital File on a “one copy one user” basis that is the same or similar to the price of the paper copy of the book, where available.
  5. To allow all registered users of the library to access eBooks onsite and off.
  6. To grant libraries the right to receive and host the Digital File on their own platform in perpetuity if requested, and lend to their own patrons on a “one copy one user” model without incurring any Platform Costs. For the avoidance of doubt, unless agreed otherwise, a publisher shall no longer be responsible for or have any obligations to provide libraries with replacement digital files when they become corrupted and degraded, in the case of files being held on library servers.
  7. To also offer a licence on fair and equitable terms that extends access beyond a “one copy one user” model.
  8. To not withdraw titles during the subscription period, and with at least 12 months prior notice to both libraries and authors, unless required due to an unforeseen legal reason.
  9. To offer contracts to libraries that respect limitations and exceptions for libraries and their users provided in national copyright law.
  10. To allow libraries to develop and freely share catalogue records acquired as part of ebook purchases with other libraries.
  11. To align any collection of data with library privacy policies, and share non-personal and/or anonymised usage data with libraries to support their own decision-making.
  12. To provide authors with appropriate remuneration for the lending of their works by libraries.

There is a wealth of information on our website detailing the fundamental problems with the ebook market and so I will not rehearse them now, except to say that, far from being contentious, maverick or ground-breaking, the enactment of the above principles would afford libraries the same lending rights and protections hardcopy books have long since enjoyed.

Knowledge Rights observe that, Libraries have historically played a crucial role in enabling education, research, and broad access to culture. Yet their ability to deliver this is no longer guaranteed, in the face of changing media and business models. although lending is enshrined in copyright law, the move to licensed eBooks has undermined many things we once took for granted, including stable pricing, preservation and inter-library loan, through to even the possibility for a library to acquire a book. This is not sustainable.

We fully support the ebook pledge and echo the call for publishers to sign up to and apply the principles within the pledge. We also ask that Libraries and Consortia adopt these principles in negotiations with publishers and Authors adopt these principles in negotiations and discussions with publishers. Finally, we ask that supporters of #ebookSOS use the pledge as a resource to start a conversation with democratic representatives and market and competition authorities about the difficulties libraries are currently facing regarding ebook acquisition and ownership.

#ebookSOS would like to thank all involved in the creation of the pledge. It is a seminal document that cements in clear and fair terms the conditions that must be met in order for libraries, authors and publishers to thrive in the digital age.

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