May 4, 2011
Some Thoughts on the Kindle Library Lending Announcement
The news that Amazon is partnering with OverDrive to bring library lending is being hailed as a positive move. CrunchGear says, for example, "Who says Amazon is trying to kill the local library? The company’s latest venture brings the power of the Kindle to public and educational libraries through a partnership with OverDrive. That sounds like love, not hate." The idea that libraries will be able to borrow books to a Kindle device or app (do I owe any money to Apple for using the term app?) is positive. But love? I don't think so.
Rather than love, I think, Amazon sees this as another method to market books using library clientele. Kindle borrowers can take notes that will stay with the book and only reappear if the book is re-borrowed or ultimately purchased, from Amazon, of course. Then again, if one has a Kindle, from where else is the book going to come? I see the program more as a try before you buy approach to marketing that uses libraries as the middleman. The best part is, for Amazon and the publishers at least, is that the libraries will have to pay for the product, excuse me, the license to loan. OverDrive has noted that the company will enforce any publisher restrictions on a title, such as the 26 check-out limit HarperCollins imposed on eBook lending.
I understand the value of devices such as the Kindle, Nook, etc. One can carry a whole bookshelf of titles on a device lighter than a paperback. I think that's a great idea for disposable reading. More permament access still requires a leap of faith that the terms of license will not change in the future, or that technology will not further fragment incompatible file formats and devices. Take one look at the OverDrive Device Resource Center and look at the list of compatible and incompatible devices. The later is simple. These don't work. The former, however, lists eight different popular file formats (audio and text) with or without varying degrees of Digital Rights Management against a host of devices from maufacturers. Some stuff works and some stuff doesn't. Be advised.
I appreciate the courtesy, especially because I would want to consult it before I bought a device if I wanted to ensure borrowing from an OverDrive powered library. My point is not that the list is overly complex and hard to decipher. Far from it. Rather it is that the list reminds me of just where the control on my ereading is centered. That would be with the publishers, the marketers, and device makers. A recent article in by Margaret King called Closing the Book on Ownership quotes one industry professional who suggests that DRM is less concerned with protecting intellectual property than it is used for securing market share. As one commenter to the Kindle story in Information Today notes, the Kindle Library Lending feature is very Kindle branded. The appearing and disappearing annotations come to mind again.
I can appreciate the convenience of these reading devices. I see people with them more and more. I don't question their utility, but I do question what I'm getting for my money. I want to see a track record on the part of marketers before I invest time and intellect (and money!) on limited use content. Otherwise I'll pay extra and actually buy the book. I guess I'm still in that mindset where I value my ability to control over convenience. [MG]