The german library e-lending system DiViBib is a controversial system for allowing libraries to lend electronic content, films, e-books and music, with a number of limitations. The system allows only the number of copies that the library has purchased to be borrowed, and the content can only be re-issued when the lending time is up. A pretty traditional “physical object” kind of system. The system also uses DRM to prevent copying and the use on several different units.
There is a major discussion among German librarians on this. I have blogged (in norwegian) favorably on DiViBib because I believe that this is a means to get norwegian publishers to start publishing e-books. So far, none of the larger norwegian publishers have published e-books since the great e-book bust of 2001. Today there is almost no really interesting or new material
published as e-books in norwegian. This is a problem for norwegian libraries, and DiViBib may be the solution to getting publishers to start publishing e-books, and thus get e-books to the public.
The limitations of DRM and outdated lending model are problematic, but also useful for making e-book publishing and lending “safe and familiar” to publishers and librarians that are sceptical of e-books and digital libraries in general. The introduction of DiViBib in norwegian libraries will give norwegian publishers a “safe” place to try e-book publishing. The Norwegian library bureau will act as an “responsible” agency and the main interface between publishers and norwegian libraries, and the introduction of DiViBib will also introduce e-books and digital material to a majority of norwegian librarians who are not familiar, or comfortable, with these new procedures and new forms of interaction between users and materials.
I do not believe that the restrictions on lending, and the DRM, will be major problems for this introduction. The majority of library uses, will probably not mind, ( just look at the sales figures for DRMed music) and over time the idea of DRM-free dissemination of library material will probably win out when publishers and librarians see that the public is not a “bunch of thieves” but ordinary people that acutally understand and approve of the need of authors and creators to be paid for their work.
We are in a time of change and new models for how library material and users are connected will surface as we gain experience and a deeper understanding of the processes involved.