[Web4lib] Kindle lending

Laura Krier laura.krier at gmail.com
Mon Nov 8 11:42:25 EST 2010

Tim asks what form libraries' advocacy for better ebook models would
look like. I think the answer is in his very next paragraph: Libraries
used to be able to buy something at the same rate as everyone else and
lend to different people until it falls apart. And I think we need to
fight, legally, socially, and morally, for that same right with

One way into that fight, I think, is to follow Google's lead. I think
we should start digitizing the books in our collections, and begin to
create regional, consortial digital libraries. We can't wait for
permission from publishers, we have to start the work and figure out
the details. We can perhaps create a collective, national fund to pay
publishers a "second-copy fee" for each book we digitize, and create
"lending" models for these digital copies that mimic existing models.
I think libraries do have some solid ground to stand in in a legal
fight, but we won't get anything if we don't start working for it. If
publishers won't create it for us, we create it ourselves.

I agree, if libraries are going to start influencing the ebook market,
we need to start doing it soon, instead of sitting here having the
same debates about ebooks over and over again on listservs and at

I also agree that libraries should stop lending Kindles and Nooks. I
don't think that's the way forward, because it's not the devices we
need to be focusing on, but the content, and the formats. I recently
read about some software that allows any ebook format to be read on a
Kindle (Calibre ebook management: http://calibre-ebook.com/). We
should be teaching workshops on using that software, and other things
like it, to open up devices to more open formats. We should be pushing
ebook reader manufacturers to use open formats like epub. I actually
really love Tim's idea for a "library friendly" logo, and a movement
to push open formats and lending ability socially. Make it a moral
issue: That can have a huge effect on a market.

I guess my only point is that while we sit around complaining about
the loss of library rights in the move to digital publishing, we're
letting our role shrink and shrink, instead of trying to think of ways
to keep ourselves relevant, and trying to envision a workable future
in an ebook environment. We can continue to emphasize print, but I
don't think that's going to help us, not really. I think we need to
stop talking and worrying and start doing something, and I continue to
think that our best way forward is to start digitizing our own

But that's just my $0.02 and I can't really just start going out into
our stacks and doing this on my own. We need directors and consortium
boards and councils to start these projects. Or we need to accept that
our role is going to be completely different once ebook readers are
more widely held and used among our patrons. Because they will be.


On Sat, Nov 6, 2010 at 9:29 PM, Tim Spalding <tim at librarything.com> wrote:
> What form will pushing and advocacy take, exactly? ....
> The simple fact is that libraries used to be able to buy something at
> the same rate as everyone else, and then lend it out to different
> people until it fell apart. They didn't need to push for that right.
> It was implicit in notions of physical ownership under common law and
> codified in the Fair Use doctrine. Publishers have never liked it, but
> it didn't matter what they thought about it.
> Now it does matter. As I calculated in a blog post, the average public
> library is "spending" something like $0.50 per read today(1). That's
> not a number publishers are ever going to be happy with. And it will
> certainly be publishers--not libraries--who make the law here. eBooks
> are in their infancy, but the ebook market (about 7%) is already twice
> as large as the entire library market (3-4%). If libraries are going
> to influence the debate, they better do it soon!
> Of course, there will be exceptions. Publishers will be glad to sell
> libraries titles that consumers won't buy on their own, or that don't
> get a lot of reads per copy. That means much of what academic
> libraries buy is safe--to the extent continuing to pay $200 for some
> Brill monograph is safe. They will also be relatively more willing to
> cut deals if libraries make the experience difficult--as the UK
> Publishers are now advocating--foisting opportunity cost on the reader
> and therefore reaching people unwilling to pay ebook prices. (The same
> principle is why coupons work. The extra work involved gives the
> sellers a way to price discriminate.)
> But public libraries are not going to be able to do what they do
> now—serve as a magical value-creation engine that takes a $10 or $20
> book and turns it into hundreds of dollars of effective value. Costs
> will rise. And when libraries stop offering a true value multiplier,
> and become a mere subsidy, they will lose support.
> So, I ask, what will the adaptation look like? What advocacy or
> refocusing can libraries engage in—or what external force—will change
> the basic economic dynamics of ebook lending? Believe me, I want to
> figure that out as much as anyone.
> My answer:
> * Emphasize paper; it embeds a model that works.
> * Stop advocating for library-hostile systems among your patrons; for
> example, stop lending Nooks and Kindles when their very terms of
> service prohibit a library from lending them!
> * A "buying consortium" is a pipe dream, but I could see a pledge to
> buy only ebooks of certain sorts.
> I imagine a logo that goes on the paper book, webpage or ebook.
> Instead of saying "Organic" or whatever it says "Library Friendly." It
> indicates that the author and publisher have agreed to a certain slate
> of lending rights. Moral suasion of this sort can be very
> effective--especially if the notion spreads early, before everyone
> takes it for granted that the publisher sets all the terms.
> Best,
> Tim
> 1. Counting only materials, not buildings, staff etc. http://bit.ly/c4dbMI
> On Tue, Nov 2, 2010 at 2:22 PM, Laura Krier <laura.krier at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I completely agree: If libraries disappear it will be because we
>> didn't adapt to the changes that ebooks require. But I also think
>> there's a big difference between adapting and trying to make our
>> services work with ebook models as they are currently being put
>> forward by vendors, and pushing for models that work better for us (or
>> creating them ourselves).
>> I do think that libraries who are trying to make current models work,
>> by lending out ereaders themselves or trying to work with overdrive
>> and other similar vendors, and doing good things, as long as they are
>> aware that these should be stopgap efforts only, while we advocate for
>> library lending models of digital materials that actually work.
>> And I'm not willing to give up on the notion of creating our own
>> digital libraries, especially of unique local materials. I think the
>> legal battle is worth it, to establish our right to digitize content
>> and allow it to be distributed on a non-profit basis, in the same way
>> libraries have operated for hundreds of years.
>> Laura Krier
>> On Tue, Nov 2, 2010 at 11:10 AM, Jesse Ephraim
>> <jephraim at roanoketexas.com> wrote:
>>> I agree with Bill.  As a profession, we tend to spend far too much time fretting about whether a new technology or trend will threaten the existence of libraries.  If libraries disappear, it will be because we didn't adapt to the changes and revise our services accordingly.  When it comes to technology, we are our own worst enemies.
>> --
>> Laura Krier
>> http://www.lauraek.net
>> http://kitchenilliterate.wordpress.com
>> _______________________________________________
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> --
> Check out my library at http://www.librarything.com/profile/timspalding

Laura Krier


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