Last week, Alan Inouye, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy, traveled to France to discuss the U.S. library ebook lending ecosystem at the Salon du Livre (in English, the “Paris Book Fair”). There, he served on a lively digital book panel along with Johanna Brinton, a business development executive from OverDrive and Maja Thomas, who is the former senior vice president at Hachette Book Group.
Inouye shared his experiences at the book fair in detail on the American Libraries magazine E-Content blog. Here’s a snippet from his article:
The ebook market in France is much smaller than in the United States, by roughly an order of magnitude. This contrast was clear as I walked down every aisle of the fair–I encountered only a handful of ebook vendors and saw little presence from technology companies in general. This was very different from my experience at the 2013 Book Expo America in New York City.
Given the state of the French ebook market overall, it is not surprising to learn that the French library ebook evolution is in its infancy. However, I did see keen interest from the full amphitheater, with librarians comprising about 20% of the attendees (I asked, and said it was “magnifique” in response to the good showing).
My remarks centered around ALA’s activities and experiences during the past few years. Our fundamental and current strategy is direct engagement with publishers and other players in the reading ecosystem. I recounted the dark days of 2011 and 2012, the improvements in 2013, and the lessons learned along the way. The questions were wide-ranging, from detailed queries about ebook distributor platforms (glad that a representative from OverDrive was present) to addressing the library ebook lending issue via legislative means.
The Ministry is taking a great interest in the library ebook issue. In addition to featuring the issue at this fair, the Ministry established last fall a working group of key stakeholders and is hopeful for expeditious work and progress.