Thursday, April 21, 2011

Another eBook Option

In case you missed it, yesterday Amazon announced that they were partnering with OverDrive to start a kindle library lending program.

This is kind of a big deal.

First, because there are millions of kindle (or kindle app) owners who would like to borrow ebooks from the library. As of yet, libraries haven't been able to officially provide this service (emphasis on officially) because Amazon won't let them.

Second, librarians are still feeling the sting from the Harper Collins debacle- in that Harper Collins will only allow an ebook to circulate 26 times, after which the library has to repurchase the book. Which is stupid.

With this being a big deal, it is all over the internet. You can read the Amazon press release and the OverDrive press release. You can read the story, with excellent commentary, in the New York Times or in the LA Times. And then there are the librarian blogs. Thankfully, they seem to be asking very pertinent questions, trying to make sense of what is to come and ensuring that they can provide the best service to their patrons as possible. Because librarians are awesome like that. The top three blogs that have featured this story, in my humble opinion, are the Librarian in Black, the Librarian by Day and I Found Myself in the Library (written by a recent MLIS grad).

Since I don't have much responsibility (or experience) with collection management, I am following this story from the side lines. I find this story particularly fascinating in comparison with Harper Collins' recent policy announcement about the lending of their ebooks. I keep finding my self comparing the two companies. Harper Collins is one of the world's larget publishers. The are directly producing and disseminating content. It makes sense that they want to protect their assets and keep their authors happy. But, they need to be more realistic in their relations with libraries. Amazon is a retailer - and one of the world's largest. While they also want to have good relationships with authors, and publishers for that matter, they are not directly involved with the production of content as Harper Collins. However, they are both companies and therefore need to turn a profit. So now we wait and see what Amazon is going to do....

[Update: After going through my reader, I saw that Andy over at Agnostic, Maybe also has a great post on this issue, also looking at the retailer/publisher comparison]

...I would like to point out that this is not Amazon's first dealings with other learning organizations. As I blogged about back in January 2010, Amazon was working with Reed College and other universities in testing the practicality of students using kindles in the classroom. That study was stopped by the U.S. Justice Department, after complaints from blind students. In a way, I feel that this supports my theory that eReaders are going to be a much larger issue for public libraries than academic libraries. Academic libraries really jumped on the eContent bandwagon with electronic journals, which has been working out okay (there still is a whole bevy of issues of dealing with vendors and subscriptions), but I am not sure if academic patrons are going to be as interested in eReaders and consumers of popular fiction -with seems to be the kindle's largest audience. I guess we will just have to wait and see...

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