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Taoyuan International Airport now has a digital library

But you can’t check out ebooks, dammit.

Taiwan’s main airport has just launched a reading lounge. These lounges are stocked with around 2k paper books and about 30 gadgets you can read on, a mix of iPads and dedicated ereaders.In terms of formats, they had the good sense to limit themselves to only Epub and Zinio.

This story isn’t all that impressive, for a number of reasons. First, if someone lent me an iPad I’d play games or browse the web. I wouldn’t read on it. Second, you can’t actually borrow ebooks so it’s really more of a play toy area for adults.

The main reason I’m not all that impressed by this story can be explained by the picture at right. I took it on my way to CES back in January.

You’re looking at one of many kiosks where you can get free power and an internet connection. As I see it, anyone who is in an international airport very likely has a laptop,ereader, and/or smartphone.  It goes hand in hand with having enough money to take an international trip. They might want to play with a gasget, but if they want to work or read, they brought their laptop, tablet, or ereader with them.

But now that I’ve thought about it, I think there’s a market niche here, and it doesn’t look like anyone has pursued it yet. There are news stands and bookstores in airports. Heck, you can now buy a Sony Reader in most airports.

Why not rent ebooks?

Think about it. Anyone at an airport with an ereader has disposable income. If you use Overdrive’s technology, you can actually rent an ebook for a week and then have it expire. You don’t have to bother with returns, lost copies, or whatever.

I think airports might be the one place that people would be willing to rent, rather than buy, the ebook.

What do you think?

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