Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ebooks vs Ebook Readers

I just attended a web conference session on ebook readers. I was hoping the session would address the problem of lending ebook content that the library already owns with the Kindle. For a quick summary of why Overdrive books don't work on the Kindle, read this.

For that reason, the session was more concerned with describing the wide variety of ebook readers available and encouraging libraries to try lending the readers themselves. My initial reaction was that this was kind of crazy AND probably crazy expensive to implement. Besides, aren't libraries about content, not devices? Of course, then I thought about how every branch provides public computer stations, because the real point of the library is facilitating access to information. Plus, the accessibility of ebook readers is phenonemal, since they are much more flexible than a printed book. Text size can be changed for readers who have vision problems and some ebook readers even have a text to voice feature that makes a book accessible to the blind.

Logistically, a Kindle lending service would be tricky, but a few public libraries are already doing it. The patron is effectively borrowing a mini-library when they get an ebook reader since it can hold so many books. Would a library offer themed Kindles, like one with a collection of popular mysteries and another with romance novels? Or just put the entire NY Times Best Seller list on all of them?


  1. Let's say you loaded $1000 of content on an ebook reader and the patron lost it. Is he/she on the hook for the $300 kindle plus content? Could the library recover the content, but still have to bill the reader? Some sort of deposit and or insurance would seem to be likely needed. If the content providers tie the electronic media to a specific device, then the whole thing would never work. If the PDF books were like regular books and able to be checked out and moved from reader to reader (and thus would be indestructable and last forever) then the long term savings and benefit might be huge.

  2. Gotta be careful with the Kindle. Did you see that Amazon can remotely disable content you've purchased if their interpretation of the digital rights changes?

  3. I did see that and at least they are getting backlash and bad press on that kind of heavy-handedness.

    As for the content on the kindle, it can be backed up on a computer account and is tied to your Amazon account, so I think that means the library would only be out the loss for the device and not everything on it.

    It would be important to disable the purchase feature before lending it out, but apparently other libraries have done this.