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Baker & Taylor Launches New Ebook Library in Amazon’s Backyard

The ebook and book distributors Baker & Taylor announced this morning that their ebook platform is finally going into a private beta. They’ve named their first partner, and it will be King County Library System, an urban system that covers Seattle, WA.

B&T hasn’t released much in the way of details about their platform, but I have discerned a few tidbits. Axis360, which was first announced at the ALA conference this summer, appears to be built around Blio. This is an enhanced ebook format that Baker & Taylor launched last fall. While it’s not clear how much commercial success B&T  has had with Blio, they have had some luck with signing publishers. Blio currently offers titles from most of the major publishers as well as a quite a few specialty and indies.

KCLS was a good choice for a partner. It’s one of the biggest library systems in the US, and it supports a population of over a million residents. That population was also why KCLS was chosen as a beta test by OverDrive and Amazon when the Kindle got library ebooks back in September.

So this new system is based on Blio, and that’s both good and bad. The good part is that B&T has already released Blio apps for Windows, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7. And they offer  over 95 thousand titles.

But the bad news is that Blio has never lived up to the hype. B&T promoted it as having excellent text to speech abilities, and they still haven’t shipped that feature. Blio was also promoted as being user-friendly for the visually impaired, and so far as I know B&T still hasn’t released enabled versions of their apps.

But there is still some value to the format. Blio supports richer features than is usually found in Epub, and that means Axis 360 will offer ebooks with enhanced digital content, more interactive features, and a generally richer appearance. Axis 360 isn’t quite a direct competitor to OverDrive, the leading library ebook vendor.  That might actually be its strength. It offers content that OverDrive does not, and it might appeal to libraries who had  decided against signing with OverDrive.

On the other hand, Blio still comes with some hindrances. It doesn’t support Epub in any of its current DRMs. Instead Blio uses its own DRMed ebook format. There are no ereaders that support Blio, and that would certainly limit my interest as a library patron. It will also make it more difficult for libraries who have already invested in ereaders and ebooks to switch to Axis 360.

All in all, it’s a mixed bag.

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Sherri December 22, 2011 um 4:16 pm

I am a KCLS patron, but it doesn’t sound like these books will be available to read on anything I’d want to read on for very long. I don’t like to read anything longer than a magazine article on my Fire or my iPhone, and I don’t even like to read things that long on my laptop.

Nate Hoffelder December 25, 2011 um 4:53 pm

I understand how you feel. I at least like to have the option of moving the content over to my e-reader.

I was a little surprised by the limitations of Axis 360. I was expecting a direct competitor to OverDrive, but instead it offers support for fewer devices and apps.

Matt December 23, 2011 um 12:04 pm

Might want to check your comments around titles from all the big six publishers. I imagine that eAudiobooks are available from all the big 6 but not eBooks. We all know that S&S and MacMillan do not allow eBook lending for library.

Nate Hoffelder December 23, 2011 um 12:28 pm

Thanks. I should have caught that.

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[…] makes it the red-headed stepchild of the ebook world. And yet it keeps sticking around. Between Axis360, the Blio compatible library ebook platform, and now the DB50, this format has lasted much longer […]

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[…] choice of checking out ebooks in Epub as well as the current Blio format.Axis360 was launched in December of 2011 as a move  to capitalize on Blio, the new rich ebook format which B&T lunched in late 2010. […]

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