I've touched on ebrary once or twice in this blog, but never really discussed them in depth. Let me give you the $0.10 tour before covering today's news.
Ebrary is a distributor of a wide variety of digital content to public libraries, corporations, and other institutions. They have nearly half a million titles spread across a dozen or more different content areas. Ebrary offers a number of different purchase options for their institutional customers, including patron driven, subscriptions, purchase, and more.
Up until a month ago, the content was only available online so you couldn't take it with you. But now that's changed. In late October Ebrary launched a new service that allowed registered users to download complete articles and transfer them to various devices. The ebooks are DRMed, and you'll need Adobe DE (or NookStudy) to open them and transfer the files to your ereader. The files are only available in PDF, which isn't such a great thing. But at least now a user won't have to have an active internet connection.
And then today ebrary started offering individual subscriptions, which I find very interesting. They're being handled via Local Knowledge Online, a startup launched by a former ebrary VP.
Right now the subscriptions are only available for a selection of titles from ebrary's general business collection, which it doesn't appeal to me. The subscription covers 1700 titles offered with an annual cost of $240.
What we have here is a Netflix style subscription for an individual, not a institution. This means that publishers are going to get a recurring payment that will increase as more people sign up. This is exactly what I wanted to find when I started this series.
I wanted a program that would be useful to the library patron and make publishers happy. I think this individual subscription could do the trick.
But it also raises an interesting question. If and when ebrary offers a subscription plan for their public library content, they're going to be caught up in the same legal tangle that Amazon is in with the Amazon Prime Ebooks. Ebrary does have fiction titles in their public library collection, so they will have to deal with the same contract issues that Amazon is currently facing. Of course, those legal tangles might prevent ebrary from offering this particular service, so I'm really curious how they'll pull it off.
Fun times ahead.
Local Knowledge Online