A quest a couple of years ago to discover the selection of ebooks by African authors one could borrow from national public libraries in the East African Community yielded mostly disappointing results. It turned out the question should not have been about e-novels per se, but whether the libraries even had digital versions of their Bibliotheque in the first place. The National Library of Burundi had a page giving the opening time and history of the library; the Kenya National Library Services website had pages offering e-resources and data, but no ebooks; the National Library of Uganda a website under construction promising to include digital books. The Tanzania Library Services Board did not seem to have a website. The Kigali National Library had the best showing, with a well-appointed website offering a collection of over 600 ebooks and audiobooks. What is the situation now? The Tanzania Library Services Board now has a vibrant website with a virtual library offering a collection of school textbooks, but no e-novels. The National Library of Uganda too now has a website, though it only features an e-resource portal and none dedicated to ebooks as yet. I couldn’t find the National Library of Burundi website; it however must be there somewhere. The Kenya National Library Services now has an e-library offering over 3000 ebooks, 900 of them fiction, though for children mostly. The Kigali National Library website informs one the physical library is under renovation, though the virtual library remains operational. A count indicates an increase in the number of ebooks and audiobooks to over 1,300. Worth noting, however, is that the Kenya and Rwanda national public libraries among a handful of countries in Africa – nine in total – subscribed to the American platform OverDrive, a global distributor of digital free content for libraries and schools. Most of the subscribed African countries, including Kenya, have signed on to the platform’s K-12 schools programme. Rwanda is subscribed to both K-12 and public library programmes. E-books offered at the Kigali National Library are mostly sourced from OverDrive. While OverDrive is a free service, the only condition to access it is one has to be a member of a subscribed library. But other free internet platforms such as The Online Books Page or the more famous Internet Archive have no such conditions. Still, one may ask, why resort to foreign aggregators of ebooks, and not African ones? It is because of several challenges in the continent, ranging from a lack of sustainable funding to the high cost of infrastructure, poor digital literacy and copyright issues. These inadequacies impede access but hinder the development of e-libraries in the continent. Adding to these, African publishers generally seem reluctant to put out digital versions of their books. With piracy rampant, theirs is a business decision to confine their books to print if they are to keep afloat. With these challenges to improve digital access, the options left as seen in the example of Rwanda and Kenya is to form partnerships with private institutions such as OverDrive. But there’s no turning away from technological advancement and one can conceive a future where every country has a public e-library, including a continental e-library that would probably be run by the African Union. Such a future is more than plausible, except that the dream of having a thriving e-library already faces a major threat. The threat may be seen in a court case pitting the Internet Archive against a group of book publishers in the United States that does not seem to have received much attention locally. At issue are 127 books that Internet Archive lent out through its controlled digital lending (CDL) program. CDL works like the normal print-book library and lends only the number of copies it owns. If it has one copy of a title and has lent it out, the next reader has to wait until the time allocated to the person currently reading the book is exhausted. Agreeing with the publishers, however, the judge found that the Internet Archive’s circulation of the ebooks was not fair use, or copyright infringement, because the 127 ebooks were also available under license through platforms such as OverDrive. When you buy a printed book, for example, nobody asks you when or to who you lend it out, which is how libraries work. The ruling amounted to giving publishers the right to dictate how a library lends materials it has purchased. That is too much power, which publishers might prevent lending out profitable books such as the 179 under contention. Internet Archive plans an appeal. But local publishers must be watching to see how it ends and could spell doom for African e-libraries even before they get off the ground.