Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kindle Loosens Library Policy

Readers of this blog may recall two earlier posts regarding the ability of library patrons to borrow both Kindles and the eBooks that are in the library's collection. The first post addressed issues concerning the restrictive license that Amazon, maker and distributor of the Kindle, puts on eBooks downloaded from their site. The second post dealt with Amazon allowing libraries to check out the electronic reader i.e., the Kindle itself. In both cases it was argued that market forces, rather than legal action, would encourage Amazon to allow use of the Kindle in a traditional library setting.

Now, according to a NY Times article by Julie Bosman - Kindle Connects to Library E-Books - it appears that Amazon is on the way to allowing public library patrons to use their own Kindle or borrow a library Kindle, and to download ebooks that are in the library's collection. The conditions are not overly restrictive and are in line with typical library practice; for example, if a library buys 5 copies of a particular ebook it can only lend 5 copies. Just like lending print books.

There are two major problems that have yet to be resolved:

1. The new Amazon program is limited to 11,000 libraries. Great. But there are 122,000+ libraries in the United States. So, less than one percent of all US libraries will be affected.

2. Some publishers are still reluctant to get with the program. These publishers fear that library usage will cut into their traditional business model (a concern that has been around since the advent of the book iself). Perhaps it is time for publishers to change their business model. One possible business model publishers can adopt is the Netflix model. Unlimited views (think Netflix Instant) for a monthly fee.

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