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Audiobook and eBook Publishing in Canada (2008)

Part IV: Circulation in Libraries

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"Welcome to the brave new world of Canadian libraries. With more and more information available online, the pressure is on to provide users with digital content."

Quill & Quire, May 1, 2008

In this final chapter of the study, we consider the types of alternate-format holdings (that is, other than print) available in Canada's public libraries. We will look in particular at how audiobook and eBook titles are collected and circulated by Canadian libraries, and at some of the issues libraries face in working with these digital editions.

In earlier chapters, we have identified a couple of key aspects of the role libraries play in making non-print materials available to both print-disabled patrons and to the general library service population. In terms of spoken-word audio, we observed that most consumers (41% of all audiobook listeners) get their audiobooks from libraries. We expect that this is accounted for in part by the fact that the audio selection of a typical public library far exceeds the selection of titles available at most local bookstores. This may change as mainstream audiobook consumption continues to shift online. However, as we will see below, libraries are also expanding their catalogues of downloadable audio files, both to keep pace with consumer demand and to recognize the expanded selection available online.

We have also noted that Canadian libraries are an important component of the developing marketplace for digital books. The potential for increased audiobook and eBook sales to libraries has already proven to be an important trigger for expanded digitization efforts among Canadian publishers. In particular, the 2008 CRKN sale brokered by Gibson Publishing Connections has proven to be an important illustration of this potential.

It seems fitting that the first major Canadian content sale was made to academic libraries as the pace of adoption for digital collections is generally faster in academic libraries than in their public library counterparts. This reflects an underlying pattern in that educational and scholarly publishing, including scholarly journals, has moved to digital platforms and formats more quickly than has trade publishing.

Further, universities are populated with "digital natives"—students who have grown up reading on screens and who are very comfortable with electronic resources. A 2008 survey of students and faculty at several universities in the US and elsewhere found that eBooks were mainly used for research or study purposes (see Figure 9).

Figure 10. Bar graph illustrating survey responses of university students and faculty to the question, "For what purposes do you usually use eBooks?" (Multiple answers per respondent.)

Vertical Axis: Research, study, teaching, leisure, other
Horizontal Axis: Percentages 0 to 90 in increments of 10
Research: 78%
Study 56%
Teaching: 10%
Leisure: 10 %
Other: 2%

Figure 10. Survey responses of university students and faculty to the question, "For what purposes do you usually use eBooks?" (Multiple answers per respondent.) Source: Springer

It's generally held that as much as half of academic library collections budgets are now spent on digital content. An April 2008 paper by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) provides some indication of growing spending on eBooks in particular:

"Although complete figures for the growth of the market in Canada are not currently available, an analysis of electronic monograph titles held and purchased by CARL libraries demonstrates both the growing importance of e-books to CARL libraries and also the importance of libraries to the e-book market. Expenditures on electronic monographs have grown from $1,127,372 in 1999–2000 to $6,048,491 in 2006–2007—a staggering 436.5% increase. In the past year alone, CARL libraries have acquired $2,890,369 electronic monograph items. Electronic monographs currently represent approximately 13% of total monograph titles held by CARL libraries, and that number is expected to continue to grow over the next several years.49"

Another recent study by Primary Research identified comparable growth in eBook spending among a combined sample of academic and public libraries. In the Primary Research sample, "Institutions that gave data on e-book spending from 2006 to 2008 showed an increase in spending between 2006 and 2007 from a mean of $19,340 to $26,290, a 36% increase, while in 2008 mean spending rose to $29,861, a 13.6% increase from 2007.50"

Generally speaking, however, the shift to digital is less acute in public libraries, where spending on electronic collections accounts for only about 10% of total acquisition budgets. However, we expect that some of the same factors that are driving growth in consumer markets—standards, new service providers, expanded selection—will contribute to the continued growth of demand for digital books among Canada's public libraries as well.

Finally, a plurality of formats is one of the persistent challenges that librarians face in handling audiobooks and eBooks. As we will see below, librarians maintain non-print collections in a variety of formats, including cassettes, CDs, and downloadable files. There is also considerable variety within these categories. There are often at least three types of audio CDs in a typical library collection: standard audio format, MP3 CDs, and DAISY titles as well. Similarly, downloadable audio and eBook files often come in a variety of file formats, with the further wrinkle that DRM provisions or requirements for specialized playback software (or devices) add to the services required of librarians. They also limit the flexibility of librarians' and patrons' use of digital books.

While libraries might naturally prefer to harmonize their holdings, there are two practical constraints on how quickly this can be done. First, library service populations are diverse and library patrons have high expectations not just for the titles they wish to have but also the formats in which they want to have them. Particularly in the case of older patrons, libraries are understandably reluctant to phase out "legacy formats," such as cassettes, too quickly. In addition, many libraries simply could not afford to set aside the considerable investments they have made in these older formats and replace their collections with newer editions.

As one of our respondents noted, "We are gradually shifting to digital. For many of our [patrons], it's better to go one step at a time."

6.0 Alternate-Format Holdings

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A typical public library in Canada carries a wide selection of alternate-format items, both for the use of print-disabled patrons and for general circulation within the library system. There is naturally some overlap in the library catalogue for these two types of users, but a portion of these library holdings must be set aside for the exclusive use of blind or print-disabled readers51.

Aside from video and online databases, alternate-format library holdings typically consist of analog materials on cassette, CDs with various file formats, downloadable audio or text files, DAISY-format titles, and large-print books.

In September 2008, Library and Archives Canada surveyed public libraries across the country to gather current data on their alternate-format collections. We can make a few general observations based on those data:

  1. Alternate-format collections are heavily weighted to large-print books and spoken-word audio on cassette. CDs occupy the next-largest share of alternate-format collections, followed by downloadable files.
  2. Even so, the number of downloadable files available is notable, given that these libraries would have mainly begun developing their downloadable collections within the last couple of years. Like many other aspects of the digital marketplace, these digital collections appear to be growing quickly.
  3. Larger library systems are more likely to offer downloadable audio or eBooks.
  4. Smaller libraries (those with 10,000 or fewer registered users) have very limited alternate-format holdings. This appears to reflect the challenges these libraries have in stretching available budgets to address the needs of the relatively small populations of print-disabled readers in their communities.

6.1 Building Digital Collections

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A 2008 survey of academic and public libraries highlights the role of aggregators in building digital collections. Of the sample libraries' total spending on eBooks, nearly 70% was placed with digital content aggregators. Another 25% was spent directly with publishers.

The term "aggregator" can mean many things in digital content markets, but for libraries it most often refers to a relatively new category of library service providers. These firms—such as NetLibrary, OverDrive, and Numilog—bring together large collections of audiobooks and eBooks and package them with sophisticated services and tools for library usage.

Figure 11. Pie chart showing library spending on digital collections to aggregators and direct to publishers.

Pie Chart
Publishers: 25%
Other: 6%
Aggregators: 69%

Figure 11. Library spending on digital collections to aggregators and direct to publishers.
Source: Primary Research Group

These library service providers play a critical role in the digital marketplace by clearing and managing digital rights, standardizing terms of use, aggregating large selections of digital books (and other content), and providing a range of supporting technology and services for librarians and their patrons.

The following sections provide illustrative examples of library service providers that have a significant presence in the Canadian library market.


Based in Cleveland, Ohio, OverDrive is a prominent aggregator and service provider among Canadian libraries. The company was founded in 1986 as a distributor of disc-based media and founded its Content Reserve digital content warehouse in 2000 and then the OverDrive Digital Library Reserve (DLR) in 2002. Today, the OverDrive DLR contains more than 100,000 eBooks, 20,000 audiobooks, and a range of other digital content resources.

OverDrive's eBooks are predominantly PDF files, but Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket, and EPUB files are also found in the DLR (with some titles available in multiple formats). The DLR serves its audiobooks as "OverDrive Audio" files, but technically speaking the file format is WMA, or Windows Media Audio, a Microsoft audio format that incorporates a "DRM wrapper" (i.e., digital rights management).

To listen to an OverDrive Audio/WMA file, the library user must first download and install a player from OverDrive—this requirement is in fact part of the DRM framework within the Digital Library Reserve. Beyond this type of structural requirement, DRM restrictions are managed within the OverDrive system on a title-by-title and/or publisher-by-publisher basis. In effect, the publisher sets the DRM limits for its listed titles, and those specifications become part of the metadata (the data that accompany each digital book file and that instruct the system what the file is and how it can be used). The OverDrive user will see that DRM restrictions vary across the catalogue. Some titles allow copying to a CD or converting to MP3, and some do not. For that matter, some are DRM-free altogether52.

OverDrive has established a strong client base among Canadian libraries, as indicated in the figure below.

Figure 12. Bar graph showing the number of OverDrive client libraries in Canada, by province.

Vertical axis: Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia
Horizontal axis: 0 to 50
Nova Scotia: 2
Ontario: 35
Manitoba: 37
Alberta: 3
British Columbia: 45

Figure 12. Number of OverDrive client libraries in Canada, by province.
Source: OverDrive

British Columbia's Public Library Services Branch has negotiated a province-wide license for OverDrive, as has the Manitoba library service, and the company's Canadian client base otherwise includes major library systems in Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax, as well as many others across the country.

From the perspective of the library, a service provider like OverDrive allows for a rapid ramping up of downloadable files available to library users. As in retail channels, a broad title selection is key to driving usage and adoption in libraries and aggregators allow libraries to build their collections more quickly than would otherwise be the case. Librarian-respondents that we spoke to during the study also gave OverDrive high marks for sophisticated services and tools for library staff. In fact, OverDrive reports that its ongoing training program provided training for 5,000 librarians in September 2008 alone.

From the perspective of the publisher, a service provider like OverDrive is a mixed blessing. Publishers can efficiently access institutional markets by working with an OverDrive-like aggregator, but this does put them at one remove from the library-client, and it does come at a cost in that aggregators reportedly claim as much as 50% of all revenues generated by library sales.

For the library user, an aggregator brings a broad title selection and additional user supports in the form of additional help resources and title information. However, the DRM regimes that accompany most aggregator platforms do restrict how audiobooks or eBooks from the collection can be used, and this may or may not match up with the user's needs.

Gibson Publishing Connections

Established in 2005 and based in Montreal, Gibson Publishing Connections is a Canadian aggregator and the originator of the Canadian Publishers Collection, the largest available digital collection of Canadian books.

Aside from its distinctive focus on Canadian content, Gibson has engaged powerful digital platforms for its library clients in the form of ebrary, a widely used platform for delivering digital content, and codeMantra, a digital asset distributor that provides conversion, management, hosting, and distribution services. Gibson employs both of these platforms to convert publisher titles from their original source file (including print-to-digital scans of the original print editions in cases where suitable electronic files are not available). Through the conversion process, incoming titles are initially transformed into an XML file (codeMantra's PubXML format), and then to additional file formats for distribution. Within Gibson's digital collections, the titles are most commonly converted to codeMantra's Universal PDF format.

Figure 13. Workflow chart illustrating the codeMantra conversion

CodeMantra's PubXML
Level 1: PDF, Word, Hardcopy, Quark, PostScript and XML
Level 2: The Robust and highly structured PubXML format allows for efficiencies and automation in conversion from source formats
Level 1: Content Repository
Level 2: All converted content can be stored in a Digital Asset management System
Level 1: Mobi, POD file, Custom XML, Print PDF, NL PDF, Universal PDF, NL OeB, Amazon and ebrary PDF
Level 2: All output formats can be automated based on the cM XML format

Figure 13. The codeMantra conversion workflow.
Source: Gibson Publishing Connections

Following conversion to PDF, the files are ready for integration into the ebrary platform for circulation to libraries and library patrons. ebrary converts the files again for final delivery by serving them as Exchange Data Format (EDF) files. EDF is a proprietary format for delivering PDF files page-by-page within the user's browser window for a faster and more efficient viewing experience.

Figure 14. Flowchart illustrating file handling within the ebrary platform.

1: From Publishers
2: to PDF
3: to DCP
4: to EDF
5: to Libraries, Government Offices, Students and Corporations.

Figure 14. File handling within the ebrary platform.
Source: Gibson Publishing Connections

Gibson has distribution agreements with more than 60 Canadian publishers, among them five French-language publishers from Quebec. Altogether, they have posted 1,114 French-language and 7,652 English-language eBook titles, for a total of 8,766 Canadian titles in the Canadian Publishers Collection (as of October 2008).


The NetLibrary collection consists of more than 160,000 titles with academic, business, scientific, technological and medical content, principally eBooks and audiobooks as well as electronic periodicals, in more than 20 languages.

NetLibrary serves its client-libraries through the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), a not-for-profit research organization established in 1967. OCLC serves more than 69,000 libraries in 112 countries and territories around the world by locating, acquiring, cataloguing, loaning, and conserving library materials.

OCLC Canada has its main office in Chambly, Quebec, and serves the country's provinces and territories, working with more than 1,150 participating libraries. Its members are university, public, school, government and specialized libraries. A number of Quebec publishers collaborate with NetLibrary, among them Les Éditions Septentrion, Presses de l'Université du Québec and Presses de l'Université Laval.

Users can access NetLibrary's electronic content at their libraries using the library's website or online catalogue, the NetLibrary user's site, or through OCLC WorldCat. Talking books can be downloaded and listened to on any office or laptop computer equipped with systems that can read WMA (Windows Media Audio) files. Users are permitted to transfer titles to portable accessories, principally music players or multimedia devices.


iThèque, established in 2006, is a French-language digital library collection. The iThèque catalogue includes 80 audiobooks produced in Quebec and 23,023 titles produced mostly in France, principally by Des oreilles pour lire, Wordiz and CitySpeaker. iThèque intends to add another 20,000 titles through spring of 2009. iThèque's digital audiobooks can be downloaded or accessed via streaming audio.

In addition to spoken-word audio, the company's collection includes 50 Quebec eBook titles and 1,702 titles originating primarily in France, produced for the most part by Publibooks and and consisting of literary classics in the public domain along with works under copyright.

iThèque serves a membership of 250 public libraries in Quebec, especially in the regions, roughly 10 public libraries in France, and the library at the University of Lima in Peru.

6.2 Issues in Working With Library Service Providers

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6.2.1 Pricing Models

In most cases, Canadian libraries are buying digital books from library service providers in the same way that they buy print editions. That is, they purchase a single-user copy of a digital title. When someone checks that copy out, the title is not available for loan until the copy is returned to the library system. On checkout, the file is downloaded to the user's computer, complete with a code that automatically degrades the file at the end of the loan period, rendering it unusable and effectively "returning" the title to availability within the library collection.

The 2008 CARL study we referred to earlier provides a broader overview of pricing options for digital collections.

"E-book licensing models can be grouped into several broad categories, including print, database and Open Access licensing arrangements...[T]he print model treats the e-book as a print book; meaning only one user at a time may access the content of the e-book. Should the library wish to increase the availability of the work, they must purchase additional copies or subscriptions to the work. Examples of print model vendors include NetLibrary and Libwise. Print model vendors tend to employ restrictive digital rights management technology, which may limit printing, copying, pasting and saving of the e-book content. In part because of its inability to accommodate the electronic environment, the print model has already begun to wane. Conversely, the database model, employed by vendors such as Ebrary, Safari and Knovel, treats the content of e-books as comparable to a database. Content is licensed from the vendor and a subscription is required to access the material. Many database model vendors allow simultaneous access to e-book content. Finally, the Open Access model allows e-book content to be accessed freely, though there may be some restrictions on use. Rice notes that many Open Access vendors, including Project Gutenberg and the National Academy Press, do not encrypt their e-books with DRM technology.53"

Single-user pricing (aka "print licensing" as in the CARL overview) is generally tied to the price of the print or disc equivalent, where digital editions are available at an equal or lower price. Broader licensing terms vary quite a bit but are usually calculated based on per-user fee for some or all of the defined service population of the library.

6.2.2 Integrating Service Provider Collections

Primary Research reports that 81% of the libraries it surveyed for its 2008 study of library eBook usage catalogued their eBook collections and listed them within their online library catalogues.

Digital collections from library service providers appear within the library holdings in a couple of different ways. First, a selection of titles from OverDrive, for example, may simply be listed as an OverDrive collection within the library's online resources. Or the same collection could be branded in a different way (but still delivered by OverDrive or another library service provider).

For example, OverDrive's province-wide license collection in British Columbia is branded as "Library to Go" whereas the OverDrive service in Manitoba libraries is presented as "eLibraries Manitoba." In each case, these services operate on the OverDrive platform, using OverDrive's inventory, management tools, and user support services.

6.2.3 Canadian Content

A 2006 Pollara study of library purchase patterns in Ontario found that Canadian content is a priority for libraries in Canada. "[I]t was felt that, all things being equal, public libraries would select a Canadian-authored book first, particularly in subject areas such as law or accounting where Canadian content is more relevant.54"

However, one of the principal challenges in building digital collections from large library service providers is the limited availability of Canadian eBooks and audiobooks found in these aggregated inventories. We expect that this situation will improve—particularly with respect to eBooks—as Canadian publishers continue to expand their digitization efforts55.

In the meantime, aside from the Gibson Canadian Publishers Collection, the aggregated collections of most library services providers contain a very modest proportion of Canadian-authored titles, and libraries have clearly signalled their interest in a greater selection of Canadian books.

The Toronto Public Library, for example, initially opted not to sign on to the OverDrive system because of its lack of Canadian content, or even of international titles for which Canadian digital rights had been cleared56. As the provider was able to clear more digital rights for Canada, the TPL subsequently did launch the OverDrive platform in November 2007. However, TPL officials, quoted in Quill & Quire, have noted, "We are always wanting to encourage [vendors] to add more Canadian [content].57"

As we have observed, there are a number of factors that affect the ability of Canadian publishers to create digital editions of their books and to access markets for digital content. As we will see below, there is a corresponding set of factors that influences the degree to which Canadian libraries can acquire and circulate digital books and Canadian books in particular.

6.3 Aggregated Collections and the Print-Disabled Reader

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All of the issues we have previously explored regarding the accessibility of digital editions for print-disabled users apply to the downloadable file formats normally supplied by commercial library service providers. However, some of these vendors have also begun to create specialized platforms for print-disabled users that offer greater degrees of accessibility. There are two examples we know of in this regard, one produced by OverDrive and a second created by Numilog in France. In addition, there is one integrated digital library for the print-disabled in Canada: the CNIB Digital Library.

CNIB Digital Library

The CNIB Digital Library is available to registered CNIB library patrons. The library features more than 12,000 downloadable audiobook titles, and 8,600 eBooks.

The majority of the audiobook titles available through the library have been collected or created by CNIB as part of its ongoing library collection development efforts. The CNIB Digital Library also licenses audiobook (4,000 titles) and eBook (8,600 titles) from NetLibrary to offer users a broader selection.

Writing in a spring 2007 issue of Library Trends, CNIB officials noted:

"Technological change has been the norm for libraries serving people who are blind or otherwise print disabled. Technology is required to produce and disseminate books in various formats, and technical devices are often used as a means for a person to read the books. However, the development of digital technology combined with the evolution of the Internet has prompted significant changes for library services and operations in the past few years. The CNIB Library recognized the opportunity to create more content faster, provide more choice and accessibility, and to streamline and revolutionize processes by building the Integrated Digital Library Service (IDLS) in partnership with industry technology leaders.58"

CNIB reports that usage of the digital library is growing quickly—by 25% in the past year and 50% from 2006 to 2008.

The CNIB Library also makes its holdings, including the downloadable titles in the Digital Library, available on a subscription basis to public, school, academic, or other specialized libraries through the Visunet Canada Partners Program (VCPP). VCPP offers participating Canadian libraries a selection of alternate format books and magazines for restricted circulation to patrons with a print disability.

The library circulates materials in both English and French across the country. CNIB provides French-language material such as DAISY digital audio books and magazines for 16 public libraries outside Quebec, among them the Ottawa Public Library and others located mainly in Alberta and Manitoba.

Overdrive and Unabridged: Digital Audiobooks for the Blind

Unabridged is an audiobook collection delivered via the OverDrive platform and designed to be more accessible for blind library patrons. The site is collaboration between OverDrive and nine libraries59 serving blind and other print-disabled readers. The participating libraries share a common collection of downloadable audiobooks, and also contribute audio files to the collection.

Unabridged principally serves OverDrive Audio-format files (aka WMA or Windows Media), but it does so on a website, and using a specially designed downloadable player for the audio files, that have both been developed to meet web accessibility standards for blind patrons. The collection is available to patrons in the home states of the participating libraries: California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Texas.

The Unabridged site Numilog's BnH (Digital Library for Disabled Persons)

The Unabridged site (left) and Numilog's BnH (Digital Library for Disabled Persons)

Numilog's Digital Library for Disabled Persons

The Digital Library for Disabled Persons (the Bibliotheque Numérique pour le Handicap or "BnH") is a joint venture of the French digital content platform Numilog and the City of Boulogne-Billancourt in France. After an initial pilot phase from January 2006 to September 2007, the BnH is now available to all print-disabled French citizens.

The BnH library delivers audiobooks in WMA format and eBooks in PDF or Palm formats, the latter for mobile devices. Denis Zwirn, president of Numilog, commented on the new platform in 2007:

"As the main French-speaking aggregator of digital books, Numilog runs both the technical platform of the BnH - for it to be able to lend books to disabled people - and the catalog of digital books. These books and audio books are the results of partnerships set by Numilog with a number of French-speaking publishers, including Gallimard, POL, Le Dilettante, Le Rocher, La Découverte, De Vive Voix, Eyrolles or Pearson Education France. The BnH project is particularly important for Numilog, on the one hand because it offers a real service to people with various disabilities, on the other hand because it shows the added value brought by digital technology to reading and to a better access to reading. It also demonstrates the ability to offer technical and economic models that are both adapted to disabled people and suitable for publishers, whose rights are fully respected within this digital library.60"

Library director Alain Patez adds, "We believe that digital publishing is the best way for disabled persons to access information and culture. The BnH wants to make it possible for any disabled people to download digital books. These are not public domain books, they are copyrighted books currently available in bookstores. We don't provide adapted books - i.e. Braille books or books in large fonts. We provide adapted access to books, with a technical mediation.61"

6.4 Canadian Library Consortia

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"While library consortia are not new phenomena, it would not be inaccurate to say that over the last few years the interest in, and development of, library consortia in Canada has been increasing remarkably."

— Consortia Canada Website, October 2008

Canadian libraries62 collaborate in a variety of ways to build, manage, and share audiobook and eBook collections. They cooperate through their industry associations and also through provincial ministries or other provincial ministries.

For example, Canadian libraries participate in provincial license programs with major library service providers. The British Columbia Library Services Branch is the organizing body for provincial licensing in BC, and the Manitoba Public Library Service plays the same role in Manitoba. Similarly, the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec (BNQ) and Quebec's public libraries established the Consortium d'acquisition de ressources électroniques du Québec (CAREQ) in March 2003.

CAREQ's principal mandate is to negotiate collective subscription licences for access to electronic resources on behalf of the libraries, getting them the best possible rates and conditions. The specific objective is to obtain permanent access, ideally at a distance, to electronic resources through the Internet on a cost-sharing basis. Acquiring these resources brings a double benefit for participating libraries: easy, unlimited access for their clients and a much less cumbersome technology infrastructure than that required for CD-ROMs.

The InterLINK libraries in British Columbia are another example of regionally based library collective that works together to create audiobook adaptations and share those titles among the collective.

On the national stage, meanwhile, Consortia Canada63 is the broadest current example of a nationwide library collaboration. The organization is essentially a consortium of consortia, with participation from 23 library collectives around the country. Participating groups include library consortia from the public library, academic library, and school library sectors.

Consortia Canada is effectively a mechanism for these library groups to create a dramatically larger scale for their negotiations with vendors of electronic resources. The Consortia Canada website provides the following elaboration of the group's mandate64:

  1. The delivery of information in all subject areas is being revolutionized by the emerging digital communications technologies. All types of libraries in Canada are actively working to collect, preserve, and make accessible to their clientele, information in digital form. By working collaboratively, Canada's libraries can effect real cost savings, both in the time of personnel across the country involved in individual licensing initiatives, and in the actual costs of the licenses (est. 20-40% savings).
  2. The transformation of Canada's libraries to the digital library model will, of necessity, be a lengthy process. However, the nature of the model is one that Canadians find persuasive. It is:
    • * Collaborative;* Broad-based: in subject matter; and, in the types of consortia involved;
    • * Indifferent to geography, providing access to content and service regardless of physical location; and,
    • * Highly accessible and user-friendly, providing transparent electronic linkages between the user and the information they seek.
  3. Valuable experience with regional site licensing in Canada has laid the foundation to move to national site licensing. In fact, the trend is increasingly toward national site licensing, with notable examples in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Europe.
  4. The initial focus on materials of importance to Canada and her citizens, will provide opportunities for libraries:
    • * To develop new partnerships in this country;
    • * Work collaboratively with national institutions; and,
    • * To explore other sources of funding and support.
  5. By working through established consortia, all types of libraries will help to create the context for future national site licenses, and will have the opportunity to participate in the development of national digital library services.

6.5 Factors That Influence Public Libraries' Adoption of Digital Books

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Through our discussions with respondents throughout the study, a clear picture emerged of the factors that influence a public library's capacity to build and manage digital book collections. These are summarized below to conclude our chapter on managing digital collections in public libraries.

  1. Libraries need funding, both for staff training and equipment needed to support expanded digital book delivery and also for increased capacity to invest in digital collections. There will be some natural transfer of collections budgets from print to digital in the years ahead, but libraries are grappling with the need to manage multiple formats for their diverse service populations at present. This means that additional collections funding—and other supports as noted above—will be needed in the near to medium term to enable libraries to build a critical mass of digital titles and to begin to phase out some of their older formats for spoken-word audio.

  2. Confusion abounds within libraries regarding the variety of devices, formats, and platforms used to deliver and play digital audiobooks and eBooks. Libraries are not always sure where and how to invest funds in this area, and this confusion discourages collection development. This is likely to improve as major commercial platforms become more established and as both de facto and formal standards for digital publishing and distribution. Nevertheless, it remains an issue today.

  3. Libraries need a consistent, balanced digital rights management regime. An April 2008 CARL study summed up the challenges of DRM in a library context.

    "[M]ost e-book distributors protect their e-books with DRM (Digital Rights Management). For example, with ebrary, users can only print five pages of an ebrary book at one time. With other e-books, the DRM makes it difficult to copy more than one page of text at one time. In the print environment, copying a reasonable number of pages is permitted...[but] e-books differ significantly from both the e-journal and print experience of most users...Legal copying under fair dealing, preservation, interlibrary loan, and alternate formats for the perceptually disabled are user rights inhibited by DRM. It is important to note that while circumventing DRM would be a violation of [the e-book license], it is not a violation of Canada's copyright law.65"

    Inconsistent or unclear DRM restrictions place considerable additional burdens on library staff and patrons alike. Further, as the CARL overview suggests, both librarians and readers naturally expect that they would be allowed the same usage rights for digital books as they already experience with print or disc media, particularly where such usage is explicitly granted under Canadian copyright law. Outside the library, the consumer response against DRM, along with publishers' interest in getting greater access to key audiobook and eBook sales channels, is already changing DRM practice in the industry. We expect to see a similar pattern in library collections of digital books as libraries, distributors, and publishers work to find an appropriate balance of interests around rights management.

  4. Libraries need to go further in their efforts to promote the use of digital collections among their service populations. Some of our survey respondents conceded that these services were not widely advertised within the library system as librarians preferred to manage a "soft launch" that would allow an extended period of time for staff to be training and to otherwise become more at ease with working with digital books. The corollary point here is that libraries need training in the management and use of digital books, and in emerging service standards for working with digital collections.

49 E-Books in Research Libraries: Issues of Access and Use, Canadian Association of Research Libraries, April 2008.

50 Library Use of E-Books, 2008–2009 Edition, Primary Research Group, 2008.

51 Adapted editions produced under Section 32(1) of the Copyright Act are circulated on a restricted basis for the exclusive use of registered library patrons with a print disability.

52 In March 2008, OverDrive announced that it would add DRM-free titles to its inventory and offer those titles directly to consumers. The company now also sells to consumers through major retail partners, such as Borders in the US and WH Smith and Waterstones in the UK. The advantage of DRM-free files for the consumer is that they can be used with more flexibility, including playback on any MP3-compatible playback device.

53 E-Books in Research Libraries: Issues of Access and Use, Canadian Association of Research Libraries, April 2008.

54 Canadian Books Count..., Pollara Inc., February 2006.

55 Given the economics of audiobook production, however, we cannot expect the same of commercial output of spoken-word audio titles in Canada.

56 Without Canadian digital rights clearances, titles may be listed on the system and available outside of Canada, but not available to Canadian libraries.

57 "The long-distance library," Quill & Quire, May 1, 2008.

58 "The Impact of the Integrated Digital Library System on the CNIB Library," Library Trends, September 2007.

59 The participating libraries are the California State Library's Braille and Talking Book Library, the Colorado Talking Book Library, the Delaware Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Talking Books Program of the New Hampshire State Library, the Oregon State Library, Talking Book & Braille Services, the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library, the Talking Book Program of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and the Vermont Department of Libraries.

60 "The Digital Library for Disabled Persons,", October 2007.

61 Ibid.

62 There are major international consortia focused on building large repositories of digital books. Notable examples include the Open Content Alliance ( and the HathiTrust ( The Open Content Alliance (OCA) is a partnership of US libraries and organizations along with the European Archive, the National Archives in the UK, and the University of Toronto. The HathiTrust is a partnership of 12 American university libraries plus the 11 university libraries of the University of California network. Upon its launch in October 2008, the HathiTrust repository contained two million digitized books.

63 See for a listing of current member consortia.


65 E-Books in Research Libraries: Issues of Access and Use, Canadian Association of Research Libraries, April 2008.

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