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At the time of this writing, we are in an early acceptance phase for ebooks, such as Kindle. Libraries are caught in this change, but there may be positive ways forward.

The big six publishers have stopped providing ebooks to public libraries. This was in a letter from my local library. You can just Google it to check it out. I love my Kindle just like you do and I love the fact that I can borrow a library book without having to drive to the library to pick up the book and drive back to the library to return it. It's bad for the environment - not to mention my wallet. What's your take on this?

In this excerpt from Answercast #7, I look at the effect Kindle and ebooks are having on libraries and publishers and explore some possibilities that may be available to libraries in the future.

Kindle and ebook popularity

My take on this is that we are in an early stage of ebook acceptance where the growth of the ebook market is disrupting more traditional publishing and publishing related ventures.

Digital music and the mp3 file has thrown the music industry into a loop and pushed several music publishers into very defensive positions where they're trying to regain some kind of control. In my opinion, book publishers are in this same position.

They need to learn many of the lessons that the music publishers are, hopefully, learning as well. Ebooks are here to stay: they are a wonderful way to get information distributed; they are cheaper to manufacture. Libraries are important to people and as a result, it's really incumbent on the book publishing industry to come up with solutions that allow libraries to work... for the reasons that you've just mentioned.

Working library solutions

I have seen scenarios that work and work well.

The most common one is where a library is issued a fixed number of electronic copies. In a sense, that's kind of a made-up concept because obviously the books are digital; they can be copied instantly. You can have infinite copies of ebooks, but the licensing agreement that they take up with the publisher gives them a fixed number of copies, say six, so that those six copies can be loaned out and no more than six copies can be loaned out at a time.

This basically mimics what libraries do if they were to publish six physical books. That is part of (I think) what keeps publishers comfortable because it mimics something that they're used to.

I do believe that the publishing industry is in quite a bit of turmoil behind the scenes as electronic publishing and digital books become more available. I think it's going to be an interesting few years, as a lot of the issues like this one get themselves resolved.

Next - How do I recover my lost password on my Windows XP computer?

Article C5184 - April 9, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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10 Comments
Andy
April 10, 2012 8:56 AM

My public library in St. Louis County, Missouri, does a great job of lending electronic books via a service called Overdrive. Some weeks, there have been several hundred titles added to the "shelves."

Jan
April 10, 2012 8:57 AM

Having problems downloading free kindle books(well out of copyright) I followed the instructions but nothing happens.

Dan
April 10, 2012 9:39 AM

Never thought I would read ebooks, but got a windows phone, loaded kindle on it, and now I have something to do when standing in line, or in a situation where I need to chill. Instead of always having one paperback in my back pocket, I have 10 or so waiting on my phone. And when I get to my laptop, it knows where I left off on my phone, and allows me to continue there. I am hurting the book publishing world because there are enough free books out there to keep me reading for a lifetime before I ever have to buy one. I was the kind of guy that went to the library book sales where you could fill your bags with books for 3 to 5 bucks. If a book does catch my fancy and I want to read it right away - I would purchase -- thinking of doing that with the hunger games series - but if I can check them out of a library - that would be even better! Have only been in the ebook world for a couple weeks - should have thought of libraries earlier!

jon coram
April 10, 2012 10:46 AM

Amazon has had some bad press recently in the UK., particularly from the Kindle Ebook system. Because they have set up their operations abroad, but marketing in the UK they can avoid paying VAT and nearly all taxes, and undercut the normal hard copy bookshops. They have even advertised that you can thumb through a copy in a bookshop, then buy a pristine copy or download online. It is this avoidance of paying their dues, supporting the infrastructure of the Country, that stops me going for a Kindle. Indeed I am considering not buying at all from Amazon.
As Libraries are supported by the public purse, there may be a correlation.

Rod
April 10, 2012 11:37 AM

E-books are a great idea. BUT….

Will the technology 10 years from now allow you to read the e-books you purchase today? Will the literature of the 21st century be lost to the archeologists of the 25th century? If you find a really good e-book can you give it to your neighbor when finished or sell it in your next garage sale? Will your grandchildren be able to read the e-books you are providing your children today?

As e-book production increases paper books will decrease and become much more expensive resulting in the decrease in the number of book publishers till the few left can tightly control what is published. This has already happened in the news reporting where the news we read today is highly censored and slanted.
Read Fahrenheit 451. Your library should still have a copy.

Dan, will you ever be able to go to library e-book sales and fill your bags with e-books for 3 to 5 bucks? For myself I will stick to purchasing good ole paper books. (I bought over $400 worth in the past year.) And… when my electric power goes off for five days like it did in last month’s snow storm I can take out a candle and read my paperback books long after the battery back-ups for my computer have gone dry of energy.

One definition of intelligence is the ability to deduce the results caused by actions. I would hope our citizens think about possible results of switching to all electronic books.

evelyn k
April 10, 2012 11:40 AM

Don't understand all the Amazon gripes, I've downloaded free books, cheap books and paid for a few. Had trouble downloading a library ebook and my kindle instructions didn't work. I called Amazon and a very patient young lady tried to help and when she didn't succeed turned me over to another young lady who patiently explained my wireless connection was insufficient and told me steps to take and then emailed written instructions, after which I successfully downloaded the book. I think much of the discontent is, perhaps,impatience

William in Las Vegas
April 10, 2012 2:24 PM

I have not tried downloading books from the library, but I'm guessing that because I can download books (if I choose to) from our library, which actually are free as I understand it, the publishers are not generating any / only some revenue. Am I correct / on target with that??

I assume they make or don't make money in the same way that they do with paper books in the library.
Leo
13-Apr-2012
Harold archbold
April 10, 2012 3:09 PM

I have books of mine in public libraries and I don't get a cracker from the deal. Artists are the least remunerated workers in our society because we all think they don't need food and lodging. Libraries lending ebooks should be charging the borrowers the writer's royalty of $2 per read and passing it on to the writer. If that's considered too much, let them stop buying newspapers as well if that's how indifferent they are to people who write for a living. Public lending is a government initiative to help more people read books, not a means of further impoverishing an already impoverished profession. Imagine if we confiscated fifteen percent of a greengrocer's stock to distribute to people down at the Mall for free. What's so special about greengrocers that nobody wants to do this to them, just to writers?
As a poor writer, I have to pay $6 (Inter-Library Loan) to borrow each book from my library because the book I need for research isn't at my local. It could well be that libraries as we've known them for seventy years will soon be a thing of the past. The challenge is to set up a fairer system for the producers of the goods, and to afford the writers in our midst a little dignity.

Ned
April 10, 2012 4:46 PM

William, the way ebooks are sold to libraries is exactly the same as paper books. The library buys a number of copies and they can only lend them out 26 times each, then have to buy them again. 26 is much fewer than a paper book can be loaned, so the model is really biased against ebooks. The publishing industry is applying a 19th century business model to a 21st century business and the users are the ones that suffer. It doesn't take much thought to come up with a better business model that would work for the libraries and the users, and probably make more money for the publishers, and hopefully, the authors as well. Some authors have realized it's more profitable to bypass the publishing houses and self publish. They may not get as much exposure, but they make more money.

Parallels with the movie and music industries are obvious.

Alberta Hagerman
April 10, 2012 6:01 PM

I started to read Pride and Prejudice on my computer as an ebook, but then it disappeared because my grandchilds kindle went with her. Now this is a book the library has had for years. I doubt my driving to the public library to check it out produced any revenue for anyone, so what is wrong with reading ebooks that the library already has a copy of. It saves gas as wellas the hazard of even being on the rode driving and at 73, that is important to me. I paid for my library card and all books at the library are available for me. I've even donated books and many libraries throw a lot of books away. I picked up a dozen or so this year from the give away cart. I have a book written about my family and Arizona history in the reserve section. You would have to go there to read it since research/reserve books do not leave the library. Complicated, but really I would love it if this was an E book. It is a great book about a lot of reality and some fiction. Life does change. Just watch the news and see who has died this week that were journalists of the finest kind.

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