>I’m not sure just how sustainable e-lending e-books is going to be for public libraries. Three points made in yesterday’s Times article about the practice moved my eyebrows higher and higher until they were indistinguishable from my hair:
“’People still think of libraries as old dusty books on shelves, and it’s a perception we’re always trying to fight,’ said Michael Colford, director of information technology at the Boston Public Library. ‘If we don’t provide this material for them, they are just going to stop using the library altogether.’”
Okay, so people don’t care about books in libraries, but if we can give them something they don’t even need to leave their bedrooms to obtain, that’s going to keep the lights on?
“. . . with few exceptions, e-books in libraries cannot be read on Amazon’s Kindle, the best-selling electronic reader, or on Apple’s iPhone, which has rapidly become a popular device for reading e-books. Most library editions are compatible with the Sony Reader, computers and a handful of other mobile devices.”
Who wants to read a novel on a computer?
“Most digital books in libraries are treated like printed ones: only one borrower can check out an e-book at a time, and for popular titles, patrons must wait in line just as they do for physical books. After two to three weeks, the e-book automatically expires from a reader’s account.”
Who wants to wait in line to read a novel on a computer?
I understand that libraries are doing the best they can, faced with restrictions from publishers (several of whom, big ones, will not license their ebooks to libraries) and the mercurial nature of electronic files. But I wonder if libraries are trying too hard to fit ebooks into a circulation model designed for physical media. While the reasons for borrowing a physical book from the library are several–it’s free, you don’t have to provide storage for something you’ll only read once, browsing the shelves provides serendipitous discoveries–right now, anyway, the only reason to get an ebook from a library website is that it is free, albeit hampered by considerable restrictions. Are there enough people willing to wait in line for a digital copy of The Lost Symbol that they will have to read on their desk- or laptop or Sony Reader, when they can buy it for around ten bucks (digital edition) or fifteen (widely discounted hardcover)? This does not sound like a situation upon which to build a future.