From The Wall Street Journal:
A growing stack of companies would like you to pay a monthly fee to read e-books, just like you subscribe to Netflix to binge on movies and TV shows.
Don’t bother. Go sign up for a public library card instead.
Really, the public library? Amazon.com recently launched Kindle Unlimited, a $10-per-month service offering loans of 600,000 e-books. Startups called Oyster and Scribd offer something similar. It isn’t very often that a musty old institution can hold its own against tech disrupters.
But it turns out librarians haven’t just been sitting around shushing people while the Internet drove them into irrelevance. Over 90% of American public libraries have amassed e-book collections you can read on your iPad, and often even on a Kindle. You don’t have to walk into a branch or risk an overdue fine. And they’re totally free.
. . . .
To compare, I dug up best-seller lists, as well as best-of lists compiled by authors and critics. Then I searched for those e-books in Kindle Unlimited, Oyster and Scribd alongside my local San Francisco Public Library. To rule out big-city bias, I also checked the much smaller library where I grew up in Richland County, S.C.
Of the Journal’s 20 most recent best-selling e-books in fiction and nonfiction, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited has none—no “Fifty Shades of Grey,” no “The Fault in Our Stars.” Scribd and Oyster each have a paltry three. But the San Francisco library has 15, and my South Carolina library has 11.
From Amazon’s own top-20 Kindle best seller lists from 2013, 2012 and 2011, Kindle Unlimited has no more than five titles a year, while the San Francisco library has at least 16.
. . . .
Over at the library, the situation is different. All of the big five publishers sell their e-book collections for loans, usually on the same day they’re available for consumers to purchase. They haven’t always been so friendly with libraries, and still charge them a lot for e-books. Some library e-books are only allowed a set number of loans before “expiring.”
Publishers have come to see libraries not only as a source of income, but also as a marketing vehicle. Since the Internet has killed off so many bookstores, libraries have become de facto showrooms for discovering books.
Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)