"The plan to allow the reading public to rent e-books, much as they rent movies, has proved so much more contentious than its pioneer, the former Waterstones managing director Tim Coates, had hoped.

That publishers are chary of the idea of his new Bilbary e-rental venture, which launched this week, is perhaps not entirely surprising: although the e-rentals automatically delete themselves when the borrowing time expires, they fear the scheme might harm sales.

Less controversial, however, is Mr Coates' generous pledge to donate a good chunk of Bilbary's profits to campaigns to keep open libraries threatened by government budget cuts. Hundreds of the nation's 4,000 public libraries are at risk; and campaigners' attempts to persuade courts and councils to keep them open are largely failing."