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The End of Libraries, Part IX: A Glimmer of Hope

Jan 25, 2012
In Part II of this series, I laid out a plan for public libraries that would provide what I thought was an appropriate eBook lending model. I called it AmPLE, for the American Public Library Enterprise. Something like it has recently come to my attention and I want to describe it.

Library Ideas, Inc., is offering public libraries a product called Freading (meaning, I suppose, “Free Reading”). It matches Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) in its essential feature: multiple patrons of a public library can have the same title checked out at the same time—no waiting lists.

As I suggested for the AmPLE model, Freading works on a pay-per-checkout basis. Libraries are charged $2.00 for checkouts of new books (published any time from today to 6 months ago); $1.00 for older books (7-24 months); and 50 cents for books published more than 24 months ago. Checkout periods are for two weeks, with one renewal allowed. Renewals of the newest books are $1.00 and are free for the older ones.

Freading enables libraries to limit the number of items any patron may have checked out at one time. Libraries allocate virtual weekly “tokens” to their patrons. One token is worth 50 cents, though patrons don’t necessarily know (or need to know) this. A very new book (a $2.00 checkout) requires four tokens. If a library allocates its patrons four tokens a week, then a patron can check out one very new book, two newer books, or four older books each week. This helps libraries control their eBook budgets.

Library Ideas reports current agreements with about 50 publishers (and 20,000 titles), including none of the Big Six, which are still holding out in the fear they may lose a nickel in sales while ignoring the millions they can earn in loans. Their authors know what they are missing, however, and they must be champing at the bit to get in on royalty payments for eBook lending as well as sales.

Library Ideas displays a blind spot in their plans by having no titles from self-published authors in their collection—and no current plans to add them! They are aware of the 90,000 titles, largely from self-published authors, currently being offered by Amazon’s KOLL (an add-on to their Prime service); however, the fact that 295,000 of those titles were checked out by 295,000 separate Prime subscribers in December does not seem to have registered with them. In time, of course, and probably in a short time, the ranks of those self-published authors will be swelled by the addition of “mainstream” authors who will tire of their publishers’ foot dragging on the lending issue. Library Ideas: Take note!

For now, Amazon’s KOLL serves primarily self-published authors and Freading serves small publishers. The day will come, however, and in the not-too-distant future, I predict, when the full-fledged AmPLE vision will be here: Every book, on publication, will be available for lending to all readers on any eReading device, at a reasonable cost and under reasonable terms regarding numbers of simultaneous checkouts. Freading is helping to blaze that trail, and I wish them well.
tags: Books and Libraries

The End of Libraries, Part VIII: Rebirth

Jan 12, 2012
So the latest blockbuster was published a while back and I immediately went onto my public library web site and, with a few clicks, borrowed it for my iPad. AmPLE (American Public Library Enterprise), the nonprofit company that manages eBook lending for every public library in the country, announced the next day that 2,516,241 others had also borrowed the same book on the first day of its publication. This resulted in gross receipts for the public library loans of that title of $1,258,120.50. AmPLE took 3% for administrative costs and, at midnight on that first day, electronically transferred the other 97% to the publisher’s bank account. (Note that if that blockbuster had happened to be self-published, that entire amount would have gone into the author’s bank account.)

I was only about halfway through the book by the end of my two-week checkout period, so I went back online to my public library web site and, with a few clicks, I bought it for $20.00, the price set by the publisher (or self-published author). AmPLE’s periodic statistical reports revealed that over three million others had also purchased this blockbuster through their public library “store” during those two weeks, for an additional $60 million in income, $58.2 million of which had already been distributed to the publishers or author of this one book.

When I finished the book a few days later, since I now owned it, I loaned it to my wife to read on her Kindle. This also took only a half dozen clicks and minimum input on my public library web site. The book continued to appear on my eBookshelf, though it was no longer available to my iPad, and would not be, until my wife either returned it or the loan period I had specified ran out. When that happened, it “disappeared” from her device and was re-enabled on mine, automatically.

When it was re-enabled, I decided to resell it and I let AmPLE do it. Of course, the sale price was still $20.00 (there is no such thing as a “used” eBook). Once sold, AmPLE took 3%, sent 10% each to the publisher and author (or 20% to the self-published author), and deposited the remaining $15.40 in my account. I could have asked for a check but, instead, I decided to donate the $15.40 to my library’s eBook account, and did so with a few clicks at my library web site. The donation is tax-deductible, and provides my library with an additional 30 eBook checkouts via AmPLE.

Okay, this is my fantasy, but it is not a fantastic notion. This could happen. This should happen. And this can happen—now. The alternative? I don’t even want to think about it.
tags: Books and Libraries

Noted with Interest, January 2012

Jan 11, 2012

The Global War Against Baby Girls
By Nicholas Eberstadt. The ultimate expression of misogyny, ultimately suicidal. From The New Atlantis, No. 33, Fall 2011. Accessed Jan 12, 2012.

How Would You Like to Be in a Military Prison...Forever?
By Michael R. Hicks. The National Defense Authorization Act (signed by Obama on Dec 31) essentially sets aside constitutional protections for U.S.citizens. Accessed Jan 8, 2012.

Iowa: The Meaningless Sideshow Begins
by Matt Taibbi: “It’s the same old ritual, but I just don’t think it’s going to fly the same way this time around.” Let us hope not. From RollingStone Politics, Jan 3, 2012. Accessed Jan 3, 2012.

tags: Noted with Interest

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