January 19th, 2011
Here’s another sign that there’s more Kindle owners and ebook readers in the world. A Chicago newspaper reports that the public libraries in western Cook County have been “deluged” with phone calls about ebooks. “The surge in interest in ebooks has library officials re-examining their policies regarding downloadable books and working to keep up with the demand for information about the newest publishing phenomenon.”
In fact, a survey was conducted last March of the whole North Suburban Library system (encompassing four different counties) — and nine different libraries reported they’d already purchased a Kindle for their patrons! Some were just making it available within the library, so people in the community could try the technology. But at the River Forest Public Library, for example, there’s even an Amazon Kindle with pre-loaded content that the patrons can check out (as well as a Sony Reader). And at the Glencoe Public Library, you can even request that the librarians download a specific ebook to the Kindle before you check it out!
It seems to be happening everywhere. In Groton, Massachusetts, the public library’s endowment purchased two Kindles (and two Nooks), which can be checked out for three weeks — and even renewed — “as long as no one else is waiting for them.” (There is, however, a special check-out agreement which warns users not to return the Kindle in the library’s book drop!) Their late fee is a hefty $5.00 a day, but it’s a sign that public libraries are already adapting to the world of digital ebooks. A quick Google search reveals that in nearby Wisconsin, there’s a River Falls public library which is doing the same thing, and has four pre-loaded Kindles. A copyright specialist at the American Library Association even predicts that someday, libraries will offer local reviews about the library’s ebooks and comments from the people who’ve checked it out!
It’s fun to compare the different policies that the libraries have for their Kindles. (At the Arlington Heights Memorial Library, you can check out a Kindle for one week, and the late fine is $1.00 a day, while at the Barrington Libary it’s a two-week checkout, but the Kindles can’t be renewed…) The Des Plaines Library loans their Kindles for two months, and reports that “we purposely have tried to interest patrons with visual impairment who would greatly benefit by the large type feature.”
It’s a very interesting development, because Amazon currently isn’t supporting the file formats which would allow customers to check out ebooks directly from the public library. I’d always wondered if that was going to leave Amazon at a competitive advantage, and I still think that Amazon will eventually adopt that capability. But it looks like in the mean time, the libraries have come up with the perfect work-around.
Instead of loaning you some ebooks, the libraries will loan you an entire Kindle!