New-Tech E-Books Boosting Old-Book System: Libraries

So we know that the effects of e-book publishing are likely to be widespread and possibly quite subtle, but here's one that may be a surprise: In the U.K. they're boosting Library membership figures, quite significantly.

e-reader library

Only a limited number of regional authorities are trying out e-book lending from public libraries, but they've seen some surprisingly marked upswings in membership numbers. According to Luton Libraries spokeswoman Fiona Marriott, the number of downloads has been fast-increasing, and despite the library having a strict locals-only policy there have been examples of "people emailing us from all over the country and even abroad asking if they can join as members online."

The system couldn't be simpler. Members just login to the library's Web site, find the e-lending section, and type in their access code to get a copy of the relevant text in a format that works on most e-readers apart from Amazon's Kindle. They then get two weeks to devour the book before the code expires, and the book self-deletes (akin to the Amazon 1984 scandal, although this time readers know what'll happen.) It's a clever system and, it's boosting the fortunes of an important state-run service that's been in decline as the digital revolution surges onward.

But does it perhaps signify more than this? Is there an important take-away for Amazon from this news? The answer is almost certainly "yes." I wrote last week about a technological direction Amazon could take its e-book devices in—arguably a key issue for the company, as it risks loosing its early lead as the Kindles and Kindle store date very quickly. A few months back I also wrote about the moves by other e-book readers to embrace the open source e-Pub format, which is exactly the kind of system that enables libraries' lending of e-books. There's even a limited lending function built into Barnes and Noble's Nook e-reader. And this is really a direction Amazon should consider for its Kindle ecosystem. We're all used to borrowing books from libraries and friends, and it's just not something Amazon permits. With the International Kindle bungled from launch, Amazon is really exposing itself to being overtaken by competitors like Barnes and Noble and Sony who's user-friendly product philosophies could well pay off.

[Via The Telegraph]

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