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Magazines > Information Today > November/December 2019

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Information Today
Vol. 36 No. 9 — Nov/Dec 2019
The First Public Library in Tonga
by John Charlton

The Pacific island nation of Tonga opened its first public library in October thanks to the efforts of volunteers and donor generosity. Many libraries in Auckland, New Zealand, as well as individuals, donated books, while local Tongans helped renovate the abandoned building in Kolovai where it is housed. The driving force behind the project is Auckland couple Kahoa and Brendan Corbett, who visited Tonga shortly after Tropical Cyclone Gita devastated it in 2018. They saw that many schools and their books were destroyed in the disaster and decided that the nation, which has a 99.34% literacy rate, needed a good public library.

Kahoa tells me that Kolovai Community Public Library has about 10,000 books now, with more still coming in. Kahoa does most of the book pickups and drops them off to CFR Line, the shipping company whose CEO, Harald Hermans, “offered to ship all our books free to Tonga. … My husband and I just pay for [whatever else needs] to be paid. …”

Kahoa adds that other companies have offered help, including Onzo, a New Zealand bike company that has donated 20 cycles to the library. “We are going to get them hired out to cover for the internet, power bills and water bills. And if not covered by bikes hired out we [are] more than happy to cover the bills ourselves.” Additionally, Kahoa says, Tonga’s local ISP, TCC, installed Wi-Fi, and an Auckland librarian arrived to do the cataloging.


Adverse comments on social media alleging the use of inappropriate images has prompted Cambridge University Press to pull an edition of a medical textbook. The work, Advanced Examination Techniques in Orthopaedics, attracted negative posts on social media over its inclusion of images that showed female patients wearing only bras and underwear being examined by seemingly male doctors. For example, neurologist Kate Ahmad, from Sydney, Australia, tweeted, “If you don’t think women in medicine have problems—check out the required textbook for orthopaedics at one Australian med school.” She attached photos illustrating her point. Ahmad later tweeted, “And if you were thinking that this textbook had been ‘modernised’ in the new edition, you would be very wrong. @CUPAcademic why are you repeatedly publishing images which objectify and demean women?”

Cambridge University Press provided me with the following statement: “The first edition of this book was published by Greenwich Medical Media [GMM]. Cambridge University Press acquired GMM and its backlist. The Press asked the authors to replace the inappropriate images ahead of a second edition which we published in 2014. However, it is clear that the images used in the 2014 edition are also unacceptable. We deeply regret this happened and are removing the current edition from sale. It will remain out of print until a thoroughly revised third edition is produced. We are sorry for the offense and upset this has caused.”


Resale of ebooks is something of a hot legal topic. Reselling is all well and good in the hard-copy sphere, but things are rather different in the digital one, in which copies are always new. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) received advice from its advocate general, Maciej Szpunar, saying that under current EU law, it is not the case that copyright is exhausted when an ebook is resold.

Commenting on the opinion, Rudy Vanschoonbeek, president of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), says in a press release, “[I]n a world that makes it easy to re-sell a digital service it would not be sustainable for publishers and their authors to develop and maintain new means of accessing that type of content. Resale of an e-book is very different from resale of a printed book, since digital copies can numerously and potentially be sold to an indefinite number of users, whereas a physical copy can only be sold and read by one person at a time, and is subject to a degree of deterioration.”

Vanschoonbeek continues, “If the Court were to interpret current EU law according to [Szpunar’s] Opinion … this will encourage the development of new business models.” The case was brought by two bodies representing Dutch copyright owners that have been disputing the legal grounds underpinning Netherlands-based ebook-resale site Tom Kabinet.

In a recent interview, Tom Kabinet founder Marc Jellema said the following:

We launched Tom Kabinet (meaning empty book cupboard …) in the summer of 2014 out of frustration: how come ebooks are pricy to buy without the possibility to sell it if you no longer needed it? It was and is our strong [belief] that once you buy something, you own it and if you own something you have the right to resell it. The property you own being digital or tangible shouldn’t make a difference. To cut it short, we believe digital exhaustion of copyright exists and our platform [proves] it does. Publishers believe otherwise and that is why ever since our launch we have been in and out of court with publishers.

FEP director Anne Bergman-Tahon says, “This is not a ruling yet, this is the opinion of the Advocate General and the ruling will follow in a few months. So we remain cautious about the final outcome” from the CJEU. FEP members see the law the same way Szpunar does, she notes. She says that “the EU law is very clear about the fact that rights in intangible works are not exhausted with their communication to the public” and quotes what Szpunar writes about risks for copyright holders: “The first is the risk of competition from copies of the same quality offered at a fraction of the original market price and the second is the risk of an uncontrolled multiplication of the copies in circulation. Multiple exchanges, over a brief period, of a digital copy of the work are equivalent in practice to a multiplication of copies. That is especially true when, as is often the case for books, the user’s needs are satisfied after a single reading.”


Aficionados of Maltese library matters will be heartened to learn that book loans are increasing. According to the recently released “Statistics on Libraries: 2018” report from Malta’s National Statistics Office (NSO), total book loans across public libraries in the Mediterranean island state reached about 1.02 million, up 111,370 from the previous year (an increase of 12.2%). Library membership is on the rise too, with 6,266 new users registering in 2018, up 22.4% from 2017. Youngsters dominated, with 65.5% of new public library members younger than 18.

Ebook loans have grown in popularity at Malta’s public libraries, although they are a fraction of hard-copy loans. In 2018, 8,200 ebooks were borrowed, a significant increase from 2017’s 4,521 and 2016’s 3,008. Some 1,680 ebooks were acquired by Malta’s public libraries last year, a sixfold increase on 2017’s 279.


Kolovai Community Public Library

Kate Ahmad’s tweets

Rudy Vanschoonbeek’s statement

Marc Jellema interview

“Statistics on Libraries: 2018” from Malta’s National Statistics Office

John Charlton writes about technology, law, and education for several publications. Send your comments about this article to or tweet us (@ITINewsBreaks)