Last week Amazon and Overdrive rolled out the new support for Kindle library ebooks. In the space of 5 days, we went from having no library support to being able to checkout ebooks from any of thousands of libraries in the US.
There’s an interesting twist in how Amazon and OverDrive pulled off the technical details. OverDrive’s partner libraries are offering Kindle support but they didn’t have to buy any new ebooks. Instead, they are able to lend titles that they had already purchased as Epub and PDF. If a library bought a title and if Amazon have that title in their store then the library’s patrons can check out the ebook and read it on a Kindle.
Did you catch that second condition? I’m pointing it out because it is critically important to the library ebook market. That could be how Amazon will affect the market.
A library can only lend a Kindle ebook if Amazon already sell it.
Put yourself in the place of a librarian who is looking to buy more ebooks. If you had to choose between 2 titles, and only one was available for the Kindle, which would you choose? I would think for economic reasons alone that a librarian would chose the title that could be read on the Kindle over one that could not. It’s a better value for the library to support as many readers as possible.
I suspect that as time goes on that we will see Kindle availability having an effect on library ebook sales. That might not be important now, but imagine what will happen when ebooks grow to be a larger part of the overall market. A title that is not available on the Kindle won’t get the same exposure in a library as one that is available. Readers won’t find it, so they won’t read it. That means they won’t be as likely to talk about the title and they won’t be as likely to buy their own copy.
And if they’re not buying that title then they’re not buying that title. Some other book is being purchased, possibly one that is available on the Kindle. I might be overstating the effect, but I know that I will try a book at my library before I run the risk of buying it. I think the same is true for a lot of people.
What effect do you think Amazon will have on library ebooks? I’d particularly want to hear what librarians have to say about my idea.
image by Super Furry Librarian