E-Books and Libraries? A [Mostly] Good Idea

Loyal reader Dave pointed out this news item about the Sony reader being used for library books: People who have one of the readers and a library card will be able to “check out” a copy of the book and read it on their device. He wonders what I think about it.

My reaction: Great idea! Libraries are feeling the hit from the financial crisis. Indeed, they’re being hit with a double whammy: Their own budgets are being cut (because, for example, sales and property taxes used to fund libraries are down) even as the public flocks to libraries in record numbers (because they’re checking books and dvds instead of buying them).

So my guess is that this would allow libraries to provide a service at a low cost.

My question is this: at what point will e-books be inexpensive enough so that people will buy them instead of “borrowing” them from a library? As a writer, I hope that sweet spot shows up sooner rather than later: I only earn money from books when someone buys them. The more books people buy, the more money I earn. A library purchase, of course, is a one-time event: the library buys the book, and thousands read it for free.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a serious fan and supporter of libraries. Have been all my life.

But I gotta say that the British system sounds good to me: writers there earn a bit of money every time someone checks out their books.

BUT: the best part of this news item is that Sony would also partner with Google and make its collection of digitized books available as well. That’s GREAT news. As it stands now, the agreement Google has hammered out will provide for access to that digital collection at only one computer terminal per library. Not good. Not good at all. (I’m simplifying part of a very complex agreement, but that’s the gist of the relevant part of it.)

So: Sony, have at it. If this actually pans out, I’d even (finally) spend money on one of these e-readers, if only so I could get access to the Google books.

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