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The Future of Libraries as Ebookstores

31 December 2013

From Digital Book World:

As the New Year approaches, I have a vision of the future that brings bookstores to every town and invigorates libraries. In this vision, libraries of the future are our local bookstores. I see a future where libraries let people borrow digital books—or buy them.

. . . .

Buying ebooks through public libraries gives every town a local bookstore. In 2013, we continued to watch independent bookstores (as well as large corporate bookstores) slip away from our communities. Online stores that offer ebooks continue to grow as more and more people acquire ereaders and tablets. But human interaction and the advice of knowing readers are vital to vibrant reading communities. So why not let our libraries become our in-person digital bookstores?

Almost all libraries in the United States have an electronic catalog and offers ebooks in addition to their paper collections. Allowing people to buy digital books through public library catalogs should be possible with a bit of software development and a few new publisher contractual agreements.

. . . .

Jamie LaRue, Director Douglas County Libraries in Colorado understands this vision. In fact, he may be the one who planted this idea in my brain. LaRue and his team have developed their own independent ebook distribution platform that’s part of their overall library catalog.

One of the features of this system is that some ebooks are available for purchase. If patrons at Douglas County Libraries can’t find the books they want, no problem. They can purchase them directly from the catalog via Bilbary. The ebooks are available for sale in EPUB form, which is a start. The vision is there.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Ebooks, Libraries

9 Comments to “The Future of Libraries as Ebookstores”

  1. If patrons at Douglas County Libraries can’t find the books they want, no problem. They can purchase them directly from the catalog via Bilbary.

    If patrons at Douglas County Libraries can’t find the books they want on the library shelves, no problem. They can purchase them directly from Amazon or BN or Kobo or iBooks, directly from their devices, most likely for less than what the library is charging.

    There. I fixed it for you.

    I love libraries. I stop by my library often and blow it kisses when I drive by on my way to somewhere else. (Seriously, I do that.) But this idea seems to be duplicating a service that is already available to everyone with an ereader, but it’s duplicating it in a less convenient way. I hope I’m wrong and there is a secret in here that I’m missing, but as it’s written, I don’t see how it will work.

  2. Most public libraries already have a bookstore: a room where they sell remaindered books, surplus and donated books. I already buy a lot of used books from the neighborhood branch of my county library. I also donate my extra books to them and expect to see them in the bookstore.

    • I think it would be beneficial to have library bookstores offer cheap/used/refurbished ebook readers. Then the patron could borrow or buy as many ebooks as they want. I know many libraries now offer ereaders for borrowing, and this would another option for those who have a little money to spend.

      Oh, and people could donate their old Kindles, Nooks, etc to the library the same way they donate books.

      • Are there used e-books for sale? What’s the difference between it and the original?

        • I meant borrow ebooks from the library, buy from wherever.

          Regarding the article, I don’t get why you would need to buy ebooks from the library. You might use the internet connection to get to the various retailers, but I don’t see a benefit to buying through the library system. Unless there’s some kind of deal/discount? Or maybe something like the Amazon Affiliate program, where buying through the library gives a little kickback to the library. I suppose I could see that, patrons using the system to get the ebooks they want while helping the library a bit. ‘Buy though our system and the county library will receive x% of your purchase’.

  3. Do these people not know how the internet works? If you have an internet connection you already have a number of bookstores, not just in your town, but in your hand! Libraries need a way to lend ebooks that works for them and their patrons. I tried it once and gave up. I like Devin’s idea of refurbishing readers/tablets for folk to check out.

  4. It’s a nice dream, but it would never fly. 99% of libraries are 100% dependent on third-party vendors for electronic content. Public libraries get popular titles from Overdrive at the state or county level; academic libraries get journal articles from Ebsco/Gale/ProQuest/etc; and almost all libraries get their catalog and management systems from a corporation like Innovative Interfaces, Ex Libris, SirsiDynix, or Polaris. Negotiating with publishers to sell their e-books and wrangling the infrastructure to support it on an individual library basis would be an absolute nightmare–especially since most libraries, even large ones, have maybe one staff member with IT skills who handles all of the web and systems development.

    And even if libraries sank the time, money, and effort into pulling it off, people wouldn’t use it. Why go through the effort of using the local library catalog to buy books through an unknown system when you can open Amazon in a new tab, click the buy button, send to your device, and have it in hand in mere seconds?

    • Bingo. This makes me think of a couple of pedestrians foot-slogging across a big city, sore and weary, and after a few miles one says to the other:

      ‘You know, we’ll get there a lot quicker if we get on that bus that went by an hour ago.’

      If Amazon and its competitors didn’t already exist, there would be a real demand for a service like this, and libraries might be in a position to fulfil it (if they had the technical knowhow to run such a thing, and if their political overseers allowed them to do something so unorthodox with the budget). But they do, and there isn’t, and they aren’t.

  5. Most libraries are connected to Overdrive or one of the other ebook/audiobook borrowing services. The ebook/audiobook borrowing services provide links for people wanting to buy the book.

    So basically, this guy doesn’t go to the library webpage much, but he wants to tell libraries what to put on their library webpage.

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