November 18, 2021

Wyden and Eshoo Press for Answers on Restrictive E-Book Agreements That Limit Libraries’ Digital Lending

Lawmakers Expand Inquiry of Expensive, Restrictive Lease Terms for Lending E-Books by Libraries

Washington, D.C. –U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., today sought answers about expensive, restrictive e-book lending contracts with libraries, in letters to nine e-book aggregators and platforms.

Aggregators are middlemen that license e-books to libraries on behalf of book publishers, and can also develop the e-lending platforms used by library patrons. The questions are part of Wyden and Eshoo’s ongoing inquiry into restrictions on public and academic libraries’ ability to lend e-books.

Wyden and Eshoo raised concerns that libraries are facing financial challenges lending e-books, and are often unable to make books available to their patrons as a result. 

“It is our understanding that these difficulties arise because e-books are typically offered under more expensive and limited licensing agreements, unlike print books that libraries can typically purchase, own, and lend on their own terms,” the members wrote. “These licensing agreements, with terms set by individual publishers and e-book aggregators, often include restrictions on lending, transfer, and reproduction, which may conflict with libraries’ ability to loan books, as well as with copyright exceptions and limitations. Under these arrangements, libraries are forced to rent books through very restrictive agreements that look like leases.”

Wyden and Eshoo sent the letter to the following aggregators: Overdrive, Hoopla (Midwest Tape), EBSCO, ProQuest, Axis 360 (Baker & Taylor), Bibliotheca, Gale (Cengage), Elsevier (RELX), DPLA Exchange/Palace Marketplace (LYRASIS).

Wyden and Eshoo asked similar questions of the five major book publishers in a September letter. The members are evaluating publishers’ responses.

The full letter is here.