Thursday, 30 April 2009

Bloomsbury Library Online

I don't generally use this blog to advertise products (except our own) but this press release about the Bloomsbury Library Online is very much in keeping with my current theme of New Ways of Working and I think that the project will be of interest to librarians. Here is the press release and I have added comments below.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Bloomsbury Library Online

Bloomsbury is set to transform the relationship between publishers and libraries, and between libraries and readers, with an innovative development in public lending: The Bloomsbury Library Online.

At a time when the British library system is under pressure to reach larger audiences with tighter budgets, and when the reading public is feeling the pinch, Bloomsbury is launching a unique, affordable and user-friendly online initiative.

In association with and using existing technology in libraries across the country, Bloomsbury is rolling out a groundbreaking e-lending strategy which will allow readers to read collections of bestselling books at local library terminals or with the use of a library card on home computers and internet enabled devices.

The Bloomsbury Library Online will consist of a number of themed shelves: children’s books, sports titles, international fiction, Shakespeare plays, reference books and more. They will launch with a shelf of Book Group titles including Galaxy Book of the Year, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, by Kate Summerscale, Orange Prize longlisted Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie, word-of-mouth phenomenon The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer, and international bestseller The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri. Embracing the advantages of the online format, users will be able to read the book, search the text, access author interviews, reviews, press features, and links to specially commissioned reading group guides.

How will it work?
• The Bloomsbury Library Online will be sold on subscription – libraries will subscribe to a bookshelf for a year at a time and will pay according to the size of population served.
• New titles will be added on a continuous basis – free of charge within the subscription year.
• Users will click through from the Library terminals or through an online portal accessible via any web browser (including those found on iPhone and Blackberry) anytime, anywhere in the UK.
• Text accessible through screen readers and therefore available to blind and partially-sighted users.

Bloomsbury Executive Director Richard Charkin said “Libraries are hugely important to readers, communities and authors and are under severe financial constraints. While never forgetting the importance of books themselves, they’re also being pressured to adapt to the demands of the 21st century: bridging the digital divide, serving multicultural communities, attracting new users and reaching into homes. The Bloomsbury Library Online serves to fill that hole and will hopefully blaze a trail for similar developments in the library system.”

Kate Summerscale added: “I’m delighted that The Suspicions of Mr Whicher will be part of The Bloomsbury Library Online – it sounds a great scheme, especially for book groups.”

For further information please contact Colin Midson on +44 207 494 6054 or email on
To find out more about Exact Editions, please contact Daryl Rayner on +44 207 554 8632
or email on

I don't think there is any doubt that electronic books will play an increasing role in the future of public libraries and I think this is the first time that a publisher has provided a range of modern fiction in this format to libraries. The books have to be read on a PC or portable web browser and this is anathema to many readers and librarians. The book as a physical object will always have its fans! Many libraries struggle to provide enough PC for users who want to use the People's Network so how will they cope with users wanting to spend hours reading a novel? I suspect the focus will be on allowing library users to access these books from home. There is also the issue of subscribing to a particular platform from one publisher rather than being able to select individual titles.
You may be interested in Eoin Purcell's blog on this topic.

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