A study panel has been convened to look into a joint project between public and private sectors that aims to distribute electronic books, or e-books, to public libraries all over Japan. The aim is to set up a mechanism and process in the public libraries where people can borrow e-books and then to use this as a business model for the publishing companies to offer services for these institutions. They are targeting to put this into operations either during or after next fiscal year.
The panel convened this month is comprised of the different publishing companies, public library officials as well as experts in the field. Government officials from the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plus online distributors like Amazon and Rakuten were in the panel as observers. The panel is also looking into distributing e-books to hospitals and welfare facilities, where the patients and residents can take advantage of the electronic media’s unique functions, like reading aloud by a computer-generated voice or the text can be enlarged for those with poor eyesight.
The idea of lending e-books in libraries has many advantages, including no storage space needed, they cannot be damaged and users do not need to return the e-books to the libraries since it will be deleted when the lending period ends. However, there are only a few available e-books to the libraries, and they also cannot afford to lend reading devices to those who don’t have one yet. That’s where publishers will come in, by providing their respective e-books to the libraries. Both the publishers and distributors will also be converting to e-books the books and documents that have already been digitized by the National Diet Library.
At present, only the Akita Prefectural Library and Sapporo Municipal Central Library have been offering e-books so equipping the rest of the libraries will also be a challenge. Other issues like distribution service fees, handling copyright issues, as well as the revenue sharing system between the libraries, publishers and copyright holders, will still be studied and compiled into a report by the panel.
[ via Yomiuri ]
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