Don’t get me wrong, as a consumer I was celebrating as much as the next guy (or gal) last week about library ebooks (from OverDrive) FINALLY being available on the ever popular Amazon Kindle. I love my Kindle, I’ve written about it. The few textbooks and pdfs I’ve put on it make me love it more. But….
But as a librarian and an ebook activist (if I do say so myself) I have to say we got the short end of that stick my friends. I have been working an expansion of my May blog post for Library Renewal where I raised some concerns :
new concerns have started to creep in as I think through the long term implications for this deal. Amazon is getting access to a LOT of information about libraries, even if it is anonymized, and it is making me wonder if we should have done a better job negotiating our deal. I applaud OverDrive for working with Amazon to get ebooks on the Kindle (and Kindle apps); however, I can’t help feel they should have worked a harder deal for the information we will need to ensure that libraries have a future in the ebook business.
Let’s look at few examples.
Amazon will know exactly how many Kindle owners are library borrowers. This is huge information as we advance in the evolution of ebooks. Libraries should have access to these numbers. Amazon won’t even confirm the exact number of Kindles they’ve sold. Yes OverDrive should be able to tell us numbers and percentages for how many of our borrowers are Kindle owners. But what I would really like to know is how many Kindle owners also borrow from their public library.
Amazon will know exactly what percentage of library checkouts lead to purchase. We know that borrowing books from a library doesn’t hurt sales, and in fact it improves them. There has been research. But now Amazon will have the cold hard numbers that show what percentage of people borrow a book from the library then buy it from Amazon. They might even know if you borrowed an ebook then bought a print copy. This is so important as we (and Amazon) move forward in negotiating our place in the ebook world.
Amazon is going to have access to a LOT of stats about library user habits, both borrowing and buying. These are just two examples. This is very valuable information as we advance with the development of ebooks, and the role libraries play. This is information libraries need and should have. While I am thrilled personally that I’ll be able to use library ebooks on my Kindle, and professionally that I’ll no longer have to tell Kindle owners that they can’t borrow ebooks from the library because Amazon doesn’t allow it, I can’t help be concerned that in the end we have made a very uneven trade.
But Gary Price over at InfoDocket has put together such a great list of questions and concerns I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Gary raises some great points so go read the whole thing. Really. Here are a few points I want to highlight
- Is Amazon collecting download information?
- Is Amazon saving library download info permanently?
- If not, how long will they keep it? Is there a retention policy?
- Can you provide any info about privacy as it relates to OverDrive/Amazon?
- Will the library books you borrow be used by Amazon to provide recommendations of books for you to purchase?
- Is there a link to scrub all of your personal “library” data from Amazon.com’s servers with a single click?
- Do OverDrive and Amazon.com have any suggestions about how to make the entire process clearer to users?
- How would they respond to the issue that, since the service is being marketed by libraries, users might incorrectly think library privacy policies may still apply?
To top it off today Amazon made some pretty big announcements today: including 3 new black & white ereaders, their first tablet and their very own browser. In the last year or so Amazon has also announced it’s own Android App Store, Streaming video for Prime Members and a cloud based music library. Add to that their ownership of Audible and wireless delivery of audiobooks directly to your Kindle and Amazon is sitting pretty on a huge mountain of electronic delivery options. Some might argue that so is Apple, but Amazon tops Apple in two ways first their price points, you can’t argue with cheaper. Second is their amazing customer service. Sure Apple might have good service, but you wont know that until you shell out the big bucks for one of their products fist. But I was getting amazing service from Amazon before Kindle was a twinkle in Jeff’s eye. Good service makes for loyal customers.
How long do you think it will be before Amazon starts their own lending library? Oh wait they already have. You can rent textbooks right now. I guess the question is how long do you think before they start applying what they’ve learned from that model to fiction and popular nonfiction?
Ok so back to libraries and how we got screwed with the library ebooks on the Kindle. We stood around like beggar orphans asking for more instead of making demands. The public library systems in America (and elsewhere) spend a great deal of money each year on books. Money that goes to publishers and authors and instead of standing up as a unified body we’ve taken the pitiful ebooks scraps we’ve been given. I’m not even going to get in to the ebooks as a whole, let’s just talk about the Amazon deal. All of those questions on my list and Gary’s, we should have answers to those. We should at the very least given access to any and all that stats we want or need. We should be getting a referral fee every time a patron buys a book after discovering it in library catalog or something off the one click page that shows up later.
I want to be angry about the bad deal we’re getting, but I’m not even sure who’s screwing us and I don’t know who to be angry with. I could be angry with Amazon, but they are business in business to make money. I could be angry with ALA because they have totally blown it on the books issues, but they are a nonprofit that gets a new president every year and is mostly run by volunteers, and I’m not totally sure they can speak for all the libraries. I could be angry with OverDrive, but they are business too and I think they did their best to do right by us. I could be angry with the government and political system that have allowed a valuable institution such as public library system to be bullied and dominated by profit hungry businesses, but I wouldn’t even know where to start with that whole ball of mess. I could be angry with the consumer who doesn’t seem to care about privacy and is willing to spend money and sacrifice so much for just a little convenience, but I don’t know how to make them see or, more importantly, care. I could be angry with me, because it doesn’t matter how many blog posts I write or how many presentations I give I feel like I’m standing alone shouting into the dark about how we’re getting the shaft and I don’t know what to do to make a difference, a real difference. I just don’t know.
But I know we got screwed.
- How to Check Out (and Return!) Library eBooks from OverDrive on Your Amazon Kindle
- eBook FAQs. 36 Most Common Questions Answered by the OITP eBook Task Force
- Seth Godin Misses the Point on Libraries, Again.
- The eBook User’s Bill of Rights #hcod #ebookrights
- Publishing Industry Forces OverDrive and Other Library eBook Vendors to Take a Giant Step Back
- eBooks and eReaders: There Can Be Only One
- Why I Chose Kindle
- Some Questions for Overdrive and Amazon about the Kindle Lending Library – Updated
- Amazon’s Kindle Price Punking – edited to add 9/29/2011 2:35pm CST
- Amazon Kindle Fire’s Silk browser sounds privacy alarm bells
- Will Amazon Offer Purchasing and/or Donation Options for Library-Owed E-Books edited to add 4:35pm CST
- Kindle Library Lending: A Triumph of Practicality Over Principles edited to add 2:25pm CST
- Why We Won’t Purchase More Kindles at The Unquiet Library
- How eBook Catalogs at Public Libraries Drive Publishers’ Book Sales and Profits
- After Kindle Lending, the Deluge | Josh Hadro
- Kindle Lending Library | Jason Griffey
- Kindle Library Lending and OverDrive – What it means for libraries and schools | OverDrive
- Questions we should be asking about Kindle Library Lending | Sarah Houghton-Jan
- Amazon to Launch Library Lending for Kindle Books | Stephen Abram
- Some Questions for Overdrive and Amazon about the Kindle Lending Library | Bobbi Newman
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