ASA – on Digital Lending Rights

DLR key to sustaining author/illustrator careers

The ASA has been campaigning for the expansion of the Australian lending rights schemes (PLR/ELR) to include digital formats (ebooks and audiobooks) for a number of years, and our latest research demonstrates the issue is more significant than ever.

Upon review of the Australian Public Libraries Statistical Reports for Australian public libraries for the years 2015 to 2020, we can report the following on public library collections:

  • The print collection reduced by 15% from 2015 to 2020
  • The ebook collection increased by 64.7% from 2015 to 2020

In the same period, ebook loans increased 135.4%.

These statistics demonstrate the growth of ebook collections and loans without factoring in the full impact of COVID in 2020 and 2021, which has considerably accelerated the trend. Once the 2020-21 and 2021-22 statistics become available, we are concerned the increase in ebook collections and loans will be even more stark because we know that during the pandemic large numbers of library patrons switched to ebook borrowing, possibly permanently.

But none of these ebooks will be captured in library surveys when PLR/ELR payments are calculated.

See the interview from Ambassador and ASA Board Director Kirsty Murray about her lending rights experience: 

Markus Zusak discusses below how Digital Lending Rights will be key in supporting and sustaining the careers of Australian authors and illustrators.

How important are PLR/ELR payments to an author?

Personally, PLR/ELR payments were a great support to me early on. They gave me the time and support I needed to write all of my books, but especially The Book Thief, which could not have been accomplished without PLR/ELR. When I look at the amounts I received during that time period, there was a moment where I’d think ‘I’d have to do more than a month’s worth of school visits to make that kind of money,’ which is, of course, a month you were just given to write. Or it goes on your home loan, or pays bills, all of which makes the process of writing less pressurised.

Have you noticed a change in your PLR/ELR payments over time?

My PLR payments have been declining. When I look at my local library services at Woollahra Municipal Library and City of Sydney Libraries (14 branches in total):

The Book Thief 

3 out of 21 editions are in digital format (14.3%)

Bridge of Clay 

5 out of 31 editions are in digital format (16.1%)

Why do you think it is vital to expand the lending rights schemes to include digital formats?

PLR/ELR are instrumental in supporting Australian writers to both progress, and sustain their careers. Expanding towards a Digital Lending Right in parallel with digital reading and borrowing trends only makes perfect sense. It holds one more key to a promise – that upcoming Australian writers might have the same opportunities I had.