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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Kindle Library Lending Arrives, Hints at More Change

It's been a busy week or so in Kindle news. No sooner did the digital ink dry on my criticisms of Amazon and its lack of library involvement than the company announced a new deal with OverDrive to enable lending on the Kindle. I'm sure there will be flaws and gaps that will need to be filled in with time, but this still marks a great step forward for ebooks. The move will allow millions of Kindle owners (and the millions more to come) a way to stay involved with their library systems and make better use of their taxpayer investments.

If you want a video synopsis of the news along with some interesting critical questions, try the Newsy coverage here.

Following are the key bullet points from OverDrive's announcement:

  • The Kindle Library Lending program will integrate into your existing OverDrive-powered ‘Virtual Branch’ website.
  • Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers. As you add new eBooks to your collection, those titles will also be available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and Kindle reading apps. Your library will not need to purchase any additional units to have Kindle compatibility. This will work for your existing copies and units.
  • A user will be able to browse for titles on any desktop or mobile operating system, check out a title with a library card, and then select Kindle as the delivery destination. The borrowed title will then be able to be enjoyed using any Kindle device and all of Amazon’s free Kindle Reading Apps.
  • The Kindle eBook titles borrowed from a library will carry the same rules and policies as all our other eBooks.
  • The Kindle Library Lending program will support publishers’ existing lending models.
  • Your users’ confidential information will be protected.
  • The Kindle Library Lending program is only available for libraries, schools, and colleges in the United States.

With this expansion of the relationship between ebooks and libraries, we take another step in the evolution of libraries' roles. Librarians increasingly expect that locations will hold fewer physical books but increasingly transition to being local community centers. You already see this happening with increases in things such as family movie nights, local activity discounts/passes, and teen programs.

I should also point out that I increasingly see libraries service as impromptu office space. I'm starting to adopt the habit of working one or two days per week at the library, simply because it's easier for me to focus under deadline with fewer phone, email, and social media interruptions. My wife keeps telling me to just ignore those things, but...easier said than done sometimes. And there's just something about the library atmosphere that I find soothing and conducive to work. Apparently, I'm not the only one. By 11:00 AM, practically every table at my local library is occupied, each with at least one person working on a notebook. I have to get there at 10:00 when it opens just to get a table with a decent view of the duck pond.

Will taxpayers continue to fund libraries when they've essentially become community resource centers? Perhaps not as libraries per se. This is why I wonder if existing library facilities will start to fall under different state and/or county programs (such as regional recreation centers) and ebook assets will ultimately be managed by a highly centralized entity, such as the Library of Congress. If budgets don't improve, increasing consolidation and centralization would seem to be the only way library lending will thrive.

1 comment:

  1. Immediately after posting the above blog entry, I found this: http://www.thebookseller.com/news/more-library-closures-set-summer.html

    Over 500 public libraries in the UK slated to close their doors this summer. Grim.