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Shunned by Publishers, One UK Librarian Proposes an Alliance with Amazon

4377283450_6b89af0bed_z[1]Eeee-vil Amazon might just have a new friend in Great Britain. There’s a new blog post up this morning on the site of Cilip, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.

Inspired in part by the launch of Kindle Unlimited last month, the blog post notes that libraries in the UK face a couple serious hurdles that Amazon might help solve:

The first is that you can’t read library e-books on a Kindle. Amazon doesn’t release sales figures, but Ofcom reports that nearly a quarter of all households own an internet–enabled e-reader. It’s quite clear – from talking to our customers – that the vast majority of these are Kindles.

Our second problem is that 80% of bestseller ebooks are unavailable to UK public libraries. In the US all of the Big Five publishers “sell” to library suppliers; here in the UK, three release a small number of titles. We’re pinning our hopes to the “Sieghart” pilots in four library authorities, in which all five are participating and which are taking place as I write.

Neither problem is directly the fault of Amazon (although you could them for not expanding their partnership with OverDrive outside the US in the 4 years since it launched), but the post isn’t wrong in suggesting that Amazon might help solve the problems.

Amazon is widely believed to dominate the ebook market in the UK (for example, Amazon accounts for 78% of Hachette UK’s ebook sales), and with that market under their thumb it would make sense to develop new markets – like library ebooks, for example.  This would both boost Amazon’s digital revenues and give Amazon more opportunities to recruit new customers and boost their overall revenues in the UK.

There are technical and legal issues which might preclude such a partnership, but it’s not a bad idea.

I can see how both sides could benefit, but on the other hand I can also see how libraries could end up getting hurt. As you might recall the launch of Kindle Unlimited  inspired several willfully uninformed pundits to proclaim that it had made libraries redundant. These folks were either unaware or indifferent to the reality of the many services  offered by libraries which KU can’t replace, and I would expect that a close partnership between UK libraries and Amazon would lead some to ask why libraries were receiving public funds if Amazon was doing all the work. (Yes, I know that sounds stupid but so were the suggestions that Kindle Unlimited could replace libraries.)

What do you think?

image  by David Avoura King

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Felipe Adan Lerma September 23, 2014 um 8:18 am

It’s almost like UK has been targeted by circumstances to see what would happen to libraries if they were eliminated. Like, how could businesses profit. How would people react. Very sad overall.

I wasn’t even aware OverDrive and Amazon had a disagreement re distributing in the UK. And why aren’t the big publishers more on board there (vs here in the US)?

Very weird.

There’s something much more going on here, but no idea what. Or afraid to think what those things might be. Yes, very sad.

Nate Hoffelder September 23, 2014 um 9:14 am

The Amazon-OD deal ends at the US border.

Simon & Schuster Expands Library eBook Loans to the UK ⋆ The Digital Reader December 22, 2014 um 7:45 pm

[…] few months ago I wrote about one UK librarian who proposed that UK libraries should partner with Amazon in order to gain access to the ebooks which publishers won't sell directly. Given the problems they […]

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