By launching a pilot program to bring their publications back to libraries through OverDrive competitor 3M, Penguin has taken a step back toward serving its customers. At least so long as those customers don’t like reading on their Kindle. One of the notable shortcomings of the new system, and likely one reason that it is so appealing to Penguin, is that it completely lacks Kindle compatibility at this time.
The ongoing disputes between Amazon and the Big 6 publishers have provided any number of inconveniences for readers over the years now, but the library system has been hit particularly hard. While demand for eBooks, especially those compatible with the Kindle platform, has been rising at an ever increasing rate, publishers have been doing their best to make sure that eBook borrowing is as inconvenient as possible when it is available at all.
If that sounds horribly over the top, it is. Just not in the way you might think. The appeal of the 3M system for publishers, when it last made big news in library lending, was that it would force customers to both be in the library building to load their eBook and to wait in line as kiosks to get their chance. The OverDrive system, which often allows borrowers to download their titles over WiFi, allows for too little friction. Penguin, along with others, is concerned that if they don’t find some way to make using an eReader less simple and hassle-free then it will result in lost sales.
The argument is simple enough to follow, but seems to demonstrate how thoroughly these publishers understand their customers. By this logic, the only reason that book stores are able to stay in business is that libraries took too much of a drive or had longer lines.
To be fair, 3M has gotten better since those planning stages. Users are now able to browse and borrow from wherever they like, it seems, and there is even a fair selection available. The originally mandatory kiosks have been changed into promotional tools within the library itself and the program now includes branded eReaders meant specifically to be lent out to library patrons. It’s possible this explains why Penguin is only tentatively on board with the whole program even now, as well as why they will only be offering titles that are at least six months old.
Supposedly there will eventually be some degree of Kindle compatibility with the 3M lending network. Reportedly Amazon broke off earlier talks with a request that they resume in June, so at least things are still being discussed. It is unlikely that 3M will allow things to go the same way that OverDrive did, however, in shuffling their users through an Amazon store page. Given the customer base that Amazon already has, as well as the internal Kindle Owners’ Lending Library being used as a promotional tool for the Amazon Prime subscription service, this might become something that takes quite a while to come to terms over. Kindle owners probably shouldn’t be holding their breath waiting for Penguin, 3M, or Amazon to come around.
Obviously there has often been a bit of strain in the relationship between publishers and libraries, much of the time with arguments along the same lines as those currently used against media piracy, but eBooks have been an especially touchy issue. To illustrate how serious they are about disliking eBooks in general and the Kindle in particular, with regard to lending at least, Penguin has chosen to abandon eBook availability in libraries entirely for the time being. This is hardly the first time a major publisher or even Penguin in particular has reacted publicly against eBook lending, but it could be the first time there was anything resembling a sane rationale behind it.
At the moment, the vast majority of libraries in the US offer any eBooks they have available to borrow using the OverDrive service. As essentially the only major platform that libraries have the option of using, pulling out of OverDrive means pulling out of libraries. Unfortunately, publishers see the partnership that this service has developed with Amazon to provide Kindle compatibility as being damaging. Currently when a Kindle owner wants to borrow a library book, they pass through Amazon’s web page. This allows the retailer an opportunity to offer suggestions or advertisements and thereby potentially monetize library lending. There is ample evidence that publishers really dislike Amazon and the Kindle platform in general already, and this extra bit of opportunity is even more of a problem than the already distasteful fact that libraries let people read without spending money.
Sadly, this could spur some of the competition for OverDrive into a more prominent position. 3M, for example, is working on ways to take a part of that market for themselves with a new service by giving publishers more of what they want in terms of control. What do publishers want? Mostly they want things complicated. An oft-expressed complaint about eBook lending is that it is too fluid. Borrowers should be required, they maintain, to be at the library when they borrow at the very least and even that is a minimum standard. As much friction as possible is desired so that eBooks do not become more convenient than paper books. The 3M example is particularly relevant since they are discussing offering kiosks that users would be required to use any time they want to borrow an eBook. While it defeats the point for many people, these publishers would generally prefer them not to borrow in the first place anyway.
Now, pulling out of OverDrive over Amazon’s sales opportunities makes sense in a few ways given the concern about the company’s increasing influence and the fact that other OverDrive partners don’t have similar options. By offering no alternatives and openly embracing a philosophy of obstruction regarding eReading as a whole, however, Penguin is sending a message to their customers that they just don’t care who gets hurt by their sluggish reaction to new media. They want to drive people away from the Kindle by making life harder for Kindle users, but really this just damages their own position. Making a move like this without offering libraries other options was at best premature.
The Kindle Library Lending service launched in the fall of 2011 started with 11.000 libraries. The number has grown to about 15,000 libraries and counting in the US, and 18,000 worldwide. This new service offered via a partnership between Amazon and OverDrive has been very instrumental in facilitating this big jump in membership. more
Kindle Library Lending is available to anyone who has an e-ink Kindle, Kindle Fire, or Kindle reading app. The books can be downloaded via Wi-Fi or USB. Loan periods vary by library.
So it looks like a win win situation for both parties. Customers who want to keep a book can purchase them on Amazon. Amazon has the broad customer base and selection of books to bring to the table. I do hope that they can eliminate some of the steps to downloading a book. In some cases it takes a lot of digging to even find the e-book collection on the library’s website.
OverDrive is the repository that is used for holding digital book collections. This includes both e-books and audiobooks. The e-book collections are available on the Kindle, Nook, and any other e-reader that supports ePub format. E-books can also be accessed on the computer. If the service is offered at your local library, a link to it should be fairly prominent on the library’s website.
Most states have a digital library account with OverDrive. North Carolina’s is called the NC Digital Library. From there, select libraries subscribe to the account and offer e-books. If your library doesn’t currently offer them, keep checking back. More libraries are constantly being added to the service. I see articles about individual libraries launching e-book lending all the time.
Between Kindle Library Lending from my local library and the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, I’ve been able to find a lot of good reading material for free. There are also a lot of reduced priced Kindle books available as well. Each month features 100 Kindle Books under $3.99. The major bestsellers aren’t available on either yet unfortunately, but they do offer a chance to explore new authors and catch up on older bestsellers.
Michael Hart, the founder of ebooks and Project Gutenberg, died on September 6, 2011 at the age of 64. His death will be a huge loss for the digital book and literary community. However, the work he has already done has set the groundwork in the ebook world. Other members of the literary community will have to continue his mission to provide global literacy. Hart founded Project Gutenberg in 1971, and it is the longest running literary project recorded.
Project Gutenberg currently offers over 36,000 public domain ebooks that are available on the Kindle, iPad, PC and other computers or portable devices that allow ePub, HTML, or Simple Text. All of the books are free, and there’s no cost to join. A wealth of information is literally at your fingertips. The information is top quality.
Hart’s ebook idea began when he typed up a copy of the Declaration of Independence on his computer and sent it to others in the network at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. This was barely after the internet was created.
Hart’s literary impact was profound because through ebooks, he opened up literature to the global audience. Project Gutenberg currently has ebooks available in 60 languages. It is also a huge asset to libraries and research. The longevity of this project proves that it the ability to adapt right along with the rapid changes in technology.
E-book readers such as the Kindle, Nook and Kobo are just part of the progression towards better literacy. They add portability and easy access to millions of ebooks. The Kindle has made life much easier for people who can’t read small print through its font size adjustments feature.
One of Michael Hart’s goals was to reach out to children. This goal is being realized as more children’s books are being added to ebook collections, and as Kindles and other e-book readers are being introduced in the schools. The lure of cool gadgets are enticing children who normally do not like reading, to consider it.
It always amazes me when I read about how long some technologies have really been around. I have only thought of ebooks being a new, twenty-first century invention. But, in fact, they have a rather long, rich history. Project Gutenberg dates all the way back to 1971, before computers really became a household item. E-books were around 36 years before the Kindle was even invented!
So, a big thank you goes out to Michael Hart for being such a champion for literacy, and for making information accessible to a much greater, and more diverse audience.
Over the past few months, comments have been made repeatedly about the potential for the Kindle‘s lack of library compatibility being a deal breaker when it came time to make the purchase of your new eReader. Well, apparently Amazon has been listening to you too. In a press release this morning, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has announced that they have been working with Overdrive to integrate the Kindle into a library lending friendly system and will be rolling out the product of these efforts later this year.
In terms of basic features, there shouldn’t be too many surprises. Expect all the basic Overdrive Library functionality and book selection, given the interaction between Amazon and Overdrive. You should even be able to grab all your borrowed books via the WiFi. What makes this a unique addition to the eBook library lending situation, to the best of my knowledge and aside from the fact that it brings in the largest eReader owner base on the market, is the annotation feature. Users can expect to be able to annotate, highlight, and generally personalize their reading experience as they always have with any purchased book and, while these alterations will not pass on to the next borrower, all this will be preserved should the book be borrowed again or purchased at any point in the future.
This new feature, if you want to call accessibility of this sort a feature, will be available to every user of the Kindle platform, not just owners of the Kindle eReader. This means that pretty much anybody who owns a device with a screen should be able to borrow themselves an eBook now, and that reading borrowed eBooks has become practically uncoupled from device concerns. While I doubt that the end goal of this was to empower libraries as players in the digital marketplace, I would guess that it suddenly got a lot more important for publishers to avoid boycotts like those that HarperCollins has managed to stir up.
For those who might be unfamiliar with the Overdrive book lending system, it is essentially to institutionalized eBook lending what the Kindle is to eBook reading. Sure there are probably other options, but in general it sets the standard. I have yet to come across a decent implementation of another type of eBook library software, in fact. The way it works at present involves downloading a book to your computer as a step in the process, but it sounds like Amazon is planning to do away with that given their mention of WiFi book downloading in conjunction with the service. Maybe this is what took so long to get working? Other than that step, I have never been inconvenienced by a borrowed eBook, though the waiting lists can get a bit long at times. The only question that remains to be answered, for me, is whether or not this extends to downloadable audiobooks. While I’m aware that these aren’t a big thing at all libraries, it would be great to see that sort of thing be possible for Kindle users. Let’s hope, given how long this has all taken, that every possible option is left open for readers.
Kindle 3 vs Barnes and Noble Nook side by side
The moment we have all been waiting for has finally arrived. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has finally announced plans to allow Kindle book sharing among Kindle users. Like the Nook, the Kindle book can only be shared one time, and will have a 14 day lending period. The book will not be available on your Kindle while it is on loan to another person. This feature should be available by the end of this year.
I will admit, as much as I love my Kindle, the fact that I couldn’t share books with people was a real disappointment for me. Part of what makes reading so enjoyable is the ability to share and discuss books with people close to you. I bought The Help, a bestseller by Kathryn Stockett, and knowing that several others wanted to read it, I had to buy the hardback version.
This new development is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t quite allow the lending freedom we’ve all hoped for. Lending rights will be up to the publishers, or whoever holds the rights to the particular book. Considering the war over e-book prices, it will be interesting to see how strict publishers are about allowing lending capabilities.
Speaking of lending books, I would like to see more headway in allowing Kindle e-books to be checked out in libraries. Contrary to popular belief, libraries are at the forefront of emerging technology and digitization trends. Many libraries are purchasing Kindles to loan to their patrons to use, and that system has shown signs of success. As of now, since the Kindle has its own copyrighted e-book format, it cannot be used. Other e-readers have open book formats that allow their e-books to work in libraries.
If Kindle books were available to check out in libraries, I think that would boost sales of the device itself. It would also reach out to an even wider variety of readers who may not have had the opportunity to learn or explore the idea of using an e-reader.