The #ebooksos campaign in Ireland

The #ebooksos campaign in Ireland by Stuart Hamilton, Marian Higgins and Cathal McCauley

Against the backdrop of COVID-19, this article outlines the ebooksos campaign. The origin and rationale for the campaign is described. Development of the campaign and possible future developments are considered.

Irish libraries, across all sectors, have responded superbly to the COVID-19 global pandemic. In the face of a constantly fluctuating public health context and associated restrictions, libraries innovated and adapted to continue to meet and exceed users’ needs and expectations. In addition to increasing the scope and diversity of library activities due to the emergency, many library colleagues also found themselves facing new challenges in the shape of operating community help lines, contact tracing and repurposing 3D printers to produce personal protective equipment (PPE). During this time of extreme uncertainty, and difficulty, one of Irish libraries responses was to significantly increase spending on ebooks. On the 26th March 2020, just 13 days into what could now be called Lockdown 1, the Irish government announced an additional €200,000 investment in e-books for public libraries and they injected a similar amount again in June 2020. Academic libraries have also ramped up spending on ebooks and welcomed the decision by many publishers in 2020 to make a range of content temporarily available at no additional cost. Unsurprisingly, given the sudden increase in availability and the reduced access to physical stock, ebook usage soared by up to 300%. The increased content was broadly welcomed by students, faculty and members of the public. However, library leaders like the undersigned authors and colleagues were worried about the sustainability of the approach and concerned about the fact that this increased dependence and spend on ebooks was highlighting the longstanding problems with the current models of ebook provision that predated COVID-19.

The #ebooksos Campaign

By the summer of 2020 the authors were discussing what we considered the perfect storm of financial pressures, a dysfunctional market and skyrocketing customer demand in relation to ebook provision. As we struggled with these issues the ebooksos campaign ( was gathering momentum in the UK and Research Libraries UK issued a content statement ( in support of libraries. The ebooksos campaign started when subject librarian Johanna Anderson was unable to obtain ebooks to support a new flagship course at her institution. The few titles that were available as ebooks cost multiples of the print equivalent via third party platforms. To add insult to injury, the titles that were made available were sold directly to the school for an annual subscription – limiting access to a small group of students and removing the library from the relationship. Frustrated by this experience she started the ebooksos campaign with other colleagues including Caroline Ball and Rachel Bickley.

The UK ebooksos campaign’s primary objective is to call for an investigation into the academic ebook market. By early July 2021 more than 4,400 people had signed the open letter ( including the Library Association of Ireland, CILIP, senior university staff, eminent academics, student unions and many librarians. In parallel to this the campaign crowd sourced data to highlight the issues of concern. This confirmed that many ebooks are many times more expensive than their print equivalents, many titles are unavailable as ebooks and vendors apply a raft of onerous terms and conditions to ebooks that are available.
do with concepts such as ‘exploding licenses’. In addition to highlighting these problematic issues the call also suggested areas for action including more support for Open Educational Resources (OERs), copyright reform and – echoing the campaign in the UK – a call for these issues to be investigated by government and/or other relevant bodies.

The Campaign in Ireland

Building on the work of our UK colleagues the LAI drafted a call for action (Irish librarians call for action on the electronic content crisis facing libraries and library users – Library Association of Ireland) on what we called the electronic content crisis facing libraries and library users and, working together, the call was signed by four key representative groups: the Library of Association of Ireland who represent librarians and libraries in Ireland; the Irish Universities Association Librarian’s Group; the Technological and Higher Education Association Librarians’ Group; and the Consortium of National and University Libraries. This was an unprecedented cross-sectoral move which underlined the level of concern in libraries about these issues. This cross-sectoral dimension is an interesting difference from the UK campaign which started out with an exclusively academic library focus.

The key issues addressed in the call for action were the unsustainability of electronic content and ebook pricing and the objectionable terms and conditions under which they are made available. It is important to note that public libraries face even worse terms and conditions than academic libraries.

We followed up the call, again following the UK ebooksos example, by gathering examples of the kinds of issues we were concerned about and our data collection confirmed that some ebooks are 20 times more expensive than the print equivalent and many are 3 – 10 times more expensive. Interestingly, the data gathered suggested that the largest multipliers are applied by the large international publishers rather than the small local Irish publishers.

Gaining Momentum

The campaign attracted a great deal of attention from the outset. Webinars focusing on it have attracted over 500 delegates, librarians involved in the campaign have been asked to speak at many events, the BBC (University staff urge probe into e-book pricing ‘scandal’ – BBC News) ,The Guardian (‘Price gouging from Covid’: student ebooks costing up to 500% more than in print | Higher education | The Guardian), and many more organisations have written about it. IFLA interviewed (IFLA — An Electronic Content Crisis: Interview with the Library Association of Ireland) the authors about the campaign in Ireland. In the UK an increasing number of senior staff in relevant organisations and UK government departments are now interested in the campaign and the issues it is highlighting. During March and April 2021, ahead of planned meetings with Irish government officials, we engaged in a concerted social media campaign which was able to avail of the graphics prepared by our UK colleagues. In May 2021 a series of meetings were held with officials in key Irish government departments and agencies (including the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission) about our concerns around ebooks and a similar process was underway in the UK. At the time of writing these processes were ongoing but at the very least have resulted in significantly increased levels of awareness of the challenges facing libraries and may result in national and/or European action to address them. In late May 2021 the UK campaign issued guidance for academics on negotiating contracts with publishers ( This guide offered practical tips for academic authors to consider when entering into contracts with publishers and flagged up some of the common pitfalls that lead to many ebooks being difficult and/or expensive to access. In July 2021 the ebooksos campaign, including the Irish component, was one of the central elements of the launch of Knowledge Rights 21 ( a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) funded by Arcadia and advocating for a twenty first century copyright and open access environment across Europe in the area of education and research.

Most recently, in August 2021, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) gave its support to the campaign and the IFLA Secretary General committed to write to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the UK urging that a market investigation into the issue is undertaken as a matter of urgency.

What can you do!

The Irish library community has rallied to the ebooksos campaign. The cross-sectoral support for it has been excellent. Individual librarians can help to sustain the campaign by signing the aforementioned letter at and seizing opportunities to highlight the problems associated with most publishers’ current approach to ebooks. This could be in a meeting with academic colleagues to discuss publishing options, in a collection development planning session with library colleagues or when consulting with students and other library users. Colleagues who are active on social media should also consider highlighting the challenges
caused by current ebook pricing and associated issues using the #ebooksos hashtag. It is important that these issues are raised within libraries and beyond so that they remain in the spotlight that the campaign has successfully generated until acceptable solutions can be found.
Future Developments For many of us who worked through the transition from print to electronic journals in the 1980s and 1990s and the recent move to more open access publishing, the current situation in relation to ebooks is familiar. Then, as now, publishers resisted change for many years but when it did come it came very quickly. It is likely that the same pattern will be repeated on this occasion. Through our involvement in the ebooksos campaign we aim to ensure that the changes that will come will lead to a tangible improvement for libraries in the key areas of terms and conditions, pricing and licensing. Importantly, libraries must also continue to foster alternatives routes for knowledge dissemination including the use of open access book publishing (via for example university presses), open educational resources (OERs), controlled digital lending and other approaches. The promotion of such routes will have the dual benefits of reducing our over dependence on the traditional ebook publication process which has proven so problematic, and encouraging routes that will increase knowledge accessibility. Ultimately, we want publishers to play their part in the ebook market but to do so on fair, reasonable and sustainable terms.

Stuart Hamilton, PhD, Head of Libraries Development, LGMA, Marian Higgins, BA, HDipLIS, Past President of the LAI and Kildare County Librarian and Cathal McCauley, MLIS, CDipAF, ALAI, President of the LAI and University Librarian at Maynooth University

This atricles is taken from An Leabharlann 30–2 October 2021.

See more articles from An Leabharlann



Featured Articles

Recent news

LAI Awards
24th May 2024
Library Association of Ireland AGM 2024
24th May 2024
LAI President’s Medal awarded to Sarah Webb
24th May 2024


  • Library Association Of Ireland: Privacy Statement
  • Collection of your personal information
  • How we use your Personal Information
  • Security of your personal information
  • Third party services
  • Updating your personal information
  • Website visitors
  • Use of Cookies
  • Changes to this statement
  • Contact Information

Library Association Of Ireland: Privacy Statement

The Library Association of Ireland (LAI) is committed to protecting your privacy. The information you share with us means you will be able to use the services we offer. We only collect the information that is necessary to carry out our business, provide the particular service you have requested and to keep you informed. Our privacy policy gives you details on when and why we collect your personal data and how we use it.

Collection of your personal information

The amount and type of information we collect from you depends on the nature of the interaction you have with us. For example, we ask members who wish to join to complete an application form. In each case, we only gather as much information as is necessary to fulfil the service request. But in general we collect the following personal information:

  • contact information including: home or work address, telephone number, qualifications and email address
  • affiliation and role
  • bank details if appropriate.

Information about your computer hardware and software is automatically collected by the LAI. This information can include your: IP address; browser type; domain name; access times; and referring website addresses.


How we use your Personal Information

The information we collect and hold on you will be used in a number of ways, including:

  • to fulfil membership requests
  • to fulfil bookings for attendance at events
  • provision of a LAI service,
  • provision of information to inform you of other products or services available from LAI and its affiliates
  • process payments, e.g. fees for attendance at events, payment of invoices, etc.
  • to facilitate discussion and sharing of knowledge through discussion lists and events
  • to contact you to conduct research about your opinion of current services or of potential new services that may be offered
  • when you use the LAI website.

The LAI will keep your information only for as long as is necessary for the purposes set out in this privacy notice and to fulfil our legal obligations. We will not keep more information than we need. The retention period will vary according to the purpose the data is collated.

The LAI does not sell, rent or lease its customer lists to third parties. The LAI may, from time to time, contact you on behalf of external business partners about a particular offering that may be of interest to you. In those cases, your unique personally identifiable information (e-mail, name, address, telephone number) is not transferred to the third party.  In addition, the LAI may share data with trusted partners to help us process payments, perform statistical analysis, send you email or postal mail, provide customer support, member services or arrange for deliveries. All such third parties are prohibited from using your personal information except to provide these services to the LAI, and they are required to maintain the confidentiality of your information.

The LAI will disclose your personal information, without notice, only if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to: (a) conform to the edicts of the law or comply with legal process served on the LAI or the site; (b) protect and defend the rights or property of the LAI; and, (c) act under exigent circumstances to protect the personal safety of members of the LAI, or the public.

Security of your personal information

The LAI discloses personally-identifying information to its management committee, contractors and affiliates in order to provide services available from the LAI. Payment processing is an example of this. They will not use your data for anything other than the clearly defined purpose relating to the service that they are providing.

Please keep in mind that if you directly disclose personally identifiable information or personally sensitive data through LAI public message boards, this information may be collected and used by others. Note: the LAI does not read any of your private online communications.

The LAI secures your personal information from unauthorised access, use or disclosure. The LAI secures the personally identifiable information you provide on computer servers in a controlled, secure environment, protected from unauthorised access, use or disclosure. When personal information (such as a credit card number) is transmitted to other websites, it is protected through the use of encryption, and security protocols.

Third party services

The LAI utilises third party services to assist in the delivery of some of our services, e.g. Eventbrite. When you interact with these sites you may provide information about yourself to those third parties. The LAI is not responsible for how they collect, use and share your information. We encourage you to review the privacy statements of the websites you choose to link to from the LAI, so that you can understand how these websites collect, use and share your information.

Updating your personal information

The LAI will endeavour to ensure the data we hold on you is correct and up-to-date. If you wish us to amend or remove the personal information we hold on you, please contact us by email or write to Library Association of Ireland, c/o 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2.We will correct any inaccuracies or remove you from our databases as soon as practicable.

Website visitors

Like most websites, the LAI collects non-personally-identifying information of the sort that web browsers and servers make available, such as the browser type, language preference, referring site, and the date and time of each visitor request. We do this to maintain the quality of the service, to determine what LAI services are the most popular and to provide general statistics regarding use of the LAI website. The data may be gathered from our website hosts and Google Analytics.


Use of Cookies

The LAI website uses ‘cookies’ to help you personalise your online experience. A cookie is a text file that is placed on your hard disk by a web page server. Cookies cannot be used to run programs or deliver viruses to your computer. Cookies are uniquely assigned to you, and can only be read by a web server in the domain that issued the cookie to you.

One of the primary purposes of cookies is to provide a convenience feature to save you time. The purpose of a cookie is to tell the web server that you have returned to a specific page. For example, if you personalise LAI pages, or register with the LAI site or services, a cookie helps the LAI to recall your specific information on subsequent visits. This simplifies the process of recording your personal information, such as billing addresses, shipping addresses, and so on. When you return to the same LAI website, the information you previously provided can be retrieved, so you can easily use the LAI features that you customised.

You have the ability to accept or decline cookies. Most web browsers automatically accept cookies, but you can usually modify your browser setting to decline cookies if you prefer. If you choose to decline cookies, you may not be able to fully experience the interactive features of the LAI services or websites you visit.

Changes to this statement

The LAI will occasionally update this Statement of Privacy to reflect user feedback. The LAI encourages you to periodically review this statement to be informed of how the LAI is protecting your information.

This statement was last updated on 20th June 2018.

Contact Information

The LAI with review and update this Statement of Privacy. If you believe that the LAI has not adhered to this statement, please write the President, Library Association of Ireland, c/o 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2. We will use commercially reasonable efforts to promptly determine and remedy the problem.