Worried about security and sales, many publishers and vendors permit individual e-book chapters to be shared but don’t routinely include the lending of whole e-books in library contracts. Even when licenses do allow e-book lending, libraries typically lack the technology to make it work. You can’t just pop an e-book into an envelope and ship it off by delivery van or the post office.
But lending e-books may soon get easier. This spring a pilot project called Occam’s Reader will test software custom-built to make it both easy and secure for libraries to share e-book files while keeping publishers happy—or so the software’s creators hope.