Academic libraries and e-books in Sweden


Before the summer break, we completed a survey of academic libraries in Sweden on the subject of e-book policies and management. The survey was in two parts: first we surveyed the 31 libraries that were known to provide an e-book service and then, using a modified questionnaire, those that appeared not to provide e-books. Inevitably, the second survey revealed one or two that are providing e-books, but the response rate was low and, in the information that follows, these have not been included.

In terms of the key theoretical constructs in Winston’s model for the adoption of technological innovations, we find that there are two main drivers (the supervening social necessity), first, what might be described as technology push in the sense of the librarians’ desire to keep abreast of new technology and, secondly, access and availability. Interestingly, this second driver was written in by librarians and, perhaps, had it been presented in the list of topics, it might well have been ranked first. Thus, two things come together: a technology and the librarian’s professional ethos with the librarian’s desire to ensure that users have access to material when they need it and the technology’s ability to deliver that service.

The main sources of supply for academic libraries were aggregators such as Dawsonera, eBrary, etc. Libraries used direct purchase from publishers for, on average, 20% of their supply and aggregators for 80%. The number of suppliers used for e-book acquisition ranged from one to 100, with a median value of forty-six.

The number of volumes to which access is given also ranged widely, from 155 volumes to more than 700,000, with a median value of 135,000.

One of the principal problems in e-book supply is the lack of Swedish language material. Only one library reported that its need for Swedish language material was met: this library reported that 20% of its e-book collection was in Swedish. Most libraries (17), however, reported that they had no such material.

The number of suppliers, both publishers and aggregators, that libraries have to deal leads to a number of problems. The most frequently mentioned was the lack of a common delivery platform and the resultant difficulties faced by users in having to learn about a variety of platforms if they are to derive full benefit from the collections on offer. Not only must the user learn how to use different interfaces, they must also come to terms with the fact that the conditions under which material may be used varies from supplier to supplier and, indeed, from book to book. There are different limits on downloading and printing, different ‘loan’ periods and differences in the number of simultaneous users allowed.

As one respondent said in response to a question on the ideal system:

One single, user-friendly platform for all accessed e-books, with an easy account management for end-users. And DRM-free, of course, with guaranteed long time preservation.

Given that different suppliers assume that they have commercial advantage from having their own platforms and different conditions, one must assume that this situation is unlikely to be resolved in the near future.

We expect to have a full report on the survey available after the summer break.

Tom Wilson/Elena Maceviciute

Papers from the 2nd Publishing trends and contexts conference.

The papers from the “Pula conference” held last in Pula, Croatia, on 8-9 December, are now available in the online, open access journal, Libellariunm. Here’s a list of the contents:

E-books: the publishers’ dilemma
T.D. Wilson
Book selling and e-books in Sweden
Elena Maceviciute, Birgitta Wallin, Kersti Nilsson
E-book aggregators: new services in electronic publishing
Tomislav Jakopec
Is self-publishing a salvation for authors? The case of Lithuanian printed bestseller in the digital environment
Arūnas Gudinavičius
Self-publishing of Lithuanian cultural periodicals in Soviet and contemporary times
Asta Urbanaviciute
Long-term accessibility of e-books: challenges, obstacles, responsibilities
Maja Krtalić, Damir Hasenay
“Freemium” business models in publishing. New packaging for the needs of readers in the digital age
Ivona Despot, Ivana Ljevak Lebeda, Nives Tomašević
Publishing Croatian scientific journals: to e- or not to e-?
Ivana Hebrang Grgić
Third level publishing studies: Lithuania, a case study
Aušra Navickienė
Three Rs in publishing education
Ewa Jabłońska-Stefanowicz
What comes first? Publishing business or publishing studies?
Josipa Selthofer
Publishing studies: the search for an elusive academic object
Sophie Noël
Publishing studies: being part of a cultural practice plus x ?
Christoph Bläsi
Publishing studies: what else?
Bertrand Legendre

Petition for lower VAT on digital books


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Today a petition for lowered VAT for digital books was published. It is signed by 270 authors, publishers, actors and others interested persons. This petition marks the start of a campaign launched by the Swedish Publishers’ Association (Svenska Förläggareföreningen) that sets a goal to increase the awareness of Swedish book consumers and politicians about this issue. It also addresses the politicians in Brussels.

In Sweden, printed books enjoy lower VAT of 6 per cent, but digital books (downloadable or streamed) are taxed at the rate of 25 per cent. The EU laws and regulations define which products and services can have reduced VAT in member countries.

– The fact that the most modern book format is taxed 19 per cent higher than any other book format influences the retail price and prevents the digital format becoming established on the Swedish book market. It is very important that books are available on the platforms that are accessible to children and young people to a great extent. The reduced VAT for all books regardless of the format is an important moment in the broadening of reading. This is an issue for democracy, – says Kristina Ahlinder, the chair person of the Swedish Publishers Association.

The campaign seeks to make an impact on Swedish politicians whose position is important in revising Swedish laws and influencing the EU so that common laws are also changed. The main aim is to have the same reduced VAT (6 per cent in Sweden) for all books regardless of the format.

The campaign website allows anyone to join and demand the lowering of VAT for digital books, to read the petition and to get information about the VAT issue, digitisation of books and simple instruments for all who want to engage in this movement. There you also can find an audio recording with the talks of some of the most respected authors and actors.

More information on
And through contacting
Karin Sandberg, Svenska Förläggareföreningen,, +46-70-193 79 45.
Translated from the SFF Nyhetsbrev by Elena Maceviciute

E-book publishing in Lithuania


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E-book Research Group member, Elena Maceviciute, is one of the joint authors of a new paper on e-book publishing in Lithuania, another ‘small language’ market. You will find the paper openly available online at

Here’s the abstract as a ‘taster’:
Introduction. The aim of the research was to increase understanding of the state of e-book production in Lithuania and collect the data about the opinions of publishers regarding the future of e-books in the country.
Method. A review of similar surveys in other countries was carried out and the research method was based on Winston’s model of innovation diffusion. The questionnaire to publishers was prepared using the models of book publishing and distribution or book circuit developed by Murray and Squires. Data were collected by surveying respondents using paper and online questionnaires.
Analysis. A quantitative descriptive statistical analysis was carried out, while open questions were analysed qualitatively looking for emerging topics.
Results. More than half of active Lithuanian publishers completed the survey. Thirty per cent of those who answered the questionnaire publish e-books, but only six publishers had published a significant number of titles. The overall perception of other actors of the book market, such as libraries, book-sellers and self-publishing authors and others is positive. They are not regarded as a threat. The publishers do not expect rapid and significant growth of e-book market in Lithuania in the near future.
Conclusions. The biggest hindrance to growth is a small size of the market and the lack of an export market for Lithuanian e-books. The demand of users for portable and convenient format and the use of new technologies in the educational system are the two biggest drivers in the development of e-book production. The user preference for traditional printed book is seen as one of the barriers for further development. Lithuanian publishers regard the market of e-books as rather uncertain and do not risk high investments in it.

E-books in the shadow of print


Posted for Annika Bergström

Results from the 2014 SOM survey were presented at annual SOM Seminar 21 April. E-book reading increased significantly from 11% in 2013 to 18% in 2014. Both fiction and non-fiction attract larger shares of the Swedish population, and the expansion is found among both frequent and less frequent readers. Just as we found in previous surveys (Bergström and Höglund 2014), e-book reading is more common among young persons and among those who have a frequent habit of reading printed books. Yet one significant explanatory factor is level of education: the highly educated have more frequent reading habits than lowly educated. Of course, access to tablets and smartphones contribute to the e-book reading habit in a positive way.

Interestingly enough, it appears that e-book reading is more common among men than among women, which is the opposite of what is known about reading printed books. One plausible explanation might be that men are more receptive to technology diffusion.

In the 2014 SOM survey, e-book readers were asked how they accessed their e-books. Through the public library was the most common answer, especially among women and older people. It is known from public statistics that a large share of e-book sales is distributed via public libraries, whereas selling directly to customers is rare in the Swedish context.
In the 2013 SOM Survey, we studied affective attitudes to e-books, whereas the 2014 survey focused on a more cognitive perspective in terms of functions of e-books and printed books. We took a starting point in an American study (Rainie, et al. 2012), where the respondents were asked which format is better for different purposes: reading with a child, reading books in bed, sharing books with other people, reading books while travelling or commuting, having a wide selection of books to choose from and being able to get a book quickly.

The results clearly indicate strong support for the printed book in that the respondents find the printed book most suitable in 5 situations out of 6. Only when you want to get a book quickly, are e-books perceived as better than printed books (Figure 1 – Source: The National SOM Survey 2014.).


Printed books are undoubtedly perceived better when reading for children and when reading books in bed. They are also favourable when sharing books with others and for reading while travelling or commuting. When asked about a wide selection of books, the differences between book formats are perceived somewhat smaller.
E-book attitudes to a large extent follow the patterns of e-book reading. An in-depth analysis clearly shows that e-book experience co-varies strongly with the assessments. E-book readers take a more positive standpoint towards the e-book format, even though printed books are perceived as more suitable in most situations.


Bergström, Annika and Lars Höglund (2014) ”E-boken: möjligheter och hinder”. In Annika Bergström and Henrik Oscarsson (Eds.) Mittfåra & marginal. Gothenburg: The SOM Institute, University of Gothenburg.

Rainie, Lee, Kathryn Zickuhr, Kristen Purcell, Mary Madden, and Johanna Brenner (2012) The rise of e-reading. Washington D.C: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Reaction to the European Court’s decision on VAT on e-books

Reuter’s reports that the French government has issued a statement, representing the views of Franch, Germany, Poland and Italy, requesting a revision of the law used by the European Court to demand that France and Luxembourg restore the higher rate of VAT on e-books. Reuter’s notes:

“Ministers call on the Commission to end discrimination against digital books,” the joint statement read. “The essence of a book is the work itself, not the means of accessing it, and the tax applied should be technologically neutral.”

Whether that notion that ‘the essence of a book is the work itself’ will play out in the courts remains to be seen, but it strikes me as powerful argument. If nothing else, the notion that the e-book is a service because you need a device to read it on, is completely illogical when we consider another digital product – the CD or the DVD – devices are needed to use these files, but a music CD is not sold as a service, but as a product, just as the vinyl disc was. To take the argument to its logical conclusion, the Court’s decision suggests that if I buy an egg, I’m receiving a service because I need a device – a frying pan – with which to fry it!

The wrong decision


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It has just been announced that the European Court has found against the French government and for the Commission in the matter of France’s reduction of VAT for e-books from 20% to 5.5%.  The French government will now have to restore VAT to its former level.

The reason for the Court’s decision is that the e-book continues to be regarded as the provision of a “service” rather than the provision of purchased good.  Quite why they come to this decision is not further explained in the news item I found on the subject, but exactly what kind of “service” is provided once you have “bought” an e-book seems difficult to discover.

The fact that it is not a service can be demonstrated by the question, if, at some time in the future, the e-book provider went out of business, who would continue to provide the “service”?  I would still have the e-book on my reader or iPad and could continue to treat it as a book, or I could delete it and never bother with it again. What kind of “service” continues to be provided to me if I no longer have the book?  It is gone, just as a physical book would be gone, if I put it in the waste paper recycling bin.

Perhaps we haven’t heard the last word on this – it would be interesting to hear the e-book publishers floundering as they tried to explain the concept of an e-book “service”!

Further comment from L’Express.

E-books and national digital libraries: preservation and access


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Posted for Elena Maceviciute

The recent fire in one of the biggest Russian libraries, the Academic Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (INION), that happened during the night of January 30-31, 2015, has destroyed approximately one fifth of the huge collection of almost 15 million items. The Federal Agency of Scientific Organizations informs us that among 5.47 million lost items were books weeded out of the collection and duplicates. The library also hopes to re-create 2.32 million books with the help of other national and foreign libraries, publishers, and other organization. The biggest work, however, is to save what has not been burned, but is damaged by smoke, soot, and water and to rebuild the library building, which at present is not possible to use. Thus, the first boxes with the documents have been transported to places of salvation and restoration or temporary storage. The loss to Russian and international humanities and social science is difficult to estimate. However, the fire seemed to have lead to (or at least to speed up) work on changes to the law on legal deposit of documents, which has to be approved by the federal government by February 15 (i.e., right now) and sent to the State Duma. The bill deals with legal deposit of digital copies of all new publications that are issued to the public and are acquired by libraries.

The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation also plans digitisation of all library collections starting with scanning of old manuscripts and also helping to restore the INION collection. Judging from the sum available for the programme at the moment (appr. 1.4 million Euro or 1.6 million USD), the realisation of the plans will take some time, though many digitisation projects in Russian libraries are already in progress. Thus electronic copies of newly published books provided as legal deposit should speed up the digitization of the national library collections and set up the foundation of a modern information system of all published materials. At the moment, the government expects to provide free and unlimited access to the future digital library, but also respect copyright and acquire the rights to use the books using the resources of the state budget. The Ministry is preparing the Law on the National Electronic Library. (see

One can only wish good luck to Russian librarians, but also be rather sceptical about the expressed plans knowing the problems that other National Libraries are meeting on the way to building their national digital libraries.

Quite a large number of national libraries (e.g., Canada, Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, the UK, etc.) have laws covering legal deposit of digital and online publications. Others are permitted to collect digital materials and build national archives (e.g., Australia, Israel, Japan, Slovenia, etc.). Some libraries, for example, Lithuanian Martynas Mažvydas National Library, approach the authors with a request to permit digitisation of their printed books (coming in as legal deposit) for preservation purposes due to restricted storage capacity for physical books.

Most of the libraries do not permit user access to their collections outside the premises of the national library and this service is available only to registered users. Usually, the constraints do not affect material that is in public domain.

The Norwegian plan of digitisation of all the books published in Norway is among the most famous and ambitious plans. It seems to be on its way to success. The National Library of Norway started the programme in 2006, but the initiative has attracted great attention from the foreign press when the legislators and the government have confirmed that the legal deposit act does not specify any specific medium, therefore all documents, regardless of the media and formats, are subject to legal deposit law. Thus, the project of digitising all Norwegian books also acquired new dimension. It pursues two goals: conservation of the national collective memory and distribution of copyright-free material. The plan is detailed and thought through taking into account interests of different parties, legal aspects, collaboration between different actors, organizational and funding matters. All digitised material is available on library premises in the digital reading hall. Digital books are distributed through the Bookshelf. It was launched in 2009 with approximately 50,000 books published in different periods of the 17-20th centuries. Some of the books are not free of copyright but are available through the agreement with Kopinor – the organization representing copyright holders of published works. According to the plan there should be 250,000 books available free online by 2017.

Bokhylla resources are available free to all with a Norwegian IP address. Copyright-protected books cannot be downloaded or printed. Authors and publishers are paid through the collective agreement maintained by Kopinor. The National Library also offers free downloads of 98 books (though the introductory text names only 38) through its own website. They represent a cross section of Norwegian litterature and are available in ePub format.

International Conference “Publishing Trends and Contexts 2014, Focus: Digital Authors and Electronic Books”, 8-9 December, 2014, Pula, Croatia


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Posted for Elena Maceviciute

The second international conference on modern publishing was organized by the Departments of Information Sciences in the universities of Zadar and Osijek during the period of the Book and Authors Festival in Pula. The co-organizers and supporters of the conference were the Association Sa(n)jam knjige Istria and the Ministries of Culture and Science, Education and Sports of Republic of Croatia. They have expected that the conference will increase a better understanding of the processes that are changing book trade and reading at present all over Europe.

In two days of the conference 26 presenters from nine countries discussed the issues of book markets, readers, new models of publishing, the state of publishing studies and education, challenges brought by e-books to authors and other actors participating in modern communication. The participants introduced 22 papers on these topics, but the most useful part was active discussions that took place in relation to these papers and questions raised in them. The discussions went on during the presentations, at the end of each day and during coffee or lunch breaks. Students of Croatian universities were listening to the discussions and took part in them. The atmosphere of the conference was friendly and all participants were not only interested in the topics they disussed but very knowledgeable. The intellectual level was high and horizons broad.

A more complete account of the Conference has been prepared for the March issue of Information Research, and is now online.


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