Ongoing library e-book frustrations

We’ve had a Kindle here for a few years now, and while it has been useful in some respects, it still isn’t a perfect solution for us as a library. A recent blog post about Amazon’s reluctance to work cooperatively with libraries has reminded me of some of the frustrations that I’ve been sharing about e-books for years now, and the situation doesn’t seem to be resolving itself.

Iron Door ©Brian Farrell

Libraries need the ability to have their patrons access e-books on a variety of devices. Any readers that support the ePub format (such as the Sony Reader, the Nook, and the Kobo) already do this, but the selection of titles available to libraries from providers such as NetLibrary and Overdrive are still quite limited. Traditional suppliers like Follett have attempted to launch e-books, but by not making their titles accessbile on portable devices, they have very limited useability. Worse still, many of these e-book providers muddy the distinction between e-books and audio books, while these are clearly very different.

Buying titles from Amazon works as a solution in terms of allowing us access to a larger range of works, but their rights management protection limits how we can share titles. I also have moral qualms about supporting a supplier like Amazon that has been so vehement in their lack of library support to date. As an added challenge, this model really means that the library has to own the e-reader devices and then loan them out to patrons, as there’s no practical way to have students upload from one account to another. This last challenge is workable, but many e-book readers already have their own devices, and loaning out expensive (albeit coming down in price every day) e-readers to students can be problematic.

An ideal library e-book solution then would be:

  • Downloadable to a variety of devices (e-Pub does this)
  • Have a wide selection of available titles (Amazon is currently best for this)
  • A mix of (primarily) student-owned devices and (supplemental) library-owned devices

Am I missing something? Is someone already providing a solution that ticks these boxes?

One thought on “Ongoing library e-book frustrations

  1. Brian, you are so right and like audio books (which were my frustration a couple of years ago) I keep hoping that the publishers and retailers will start to deliver what we need. My frustration with audible books and there lack of willingness to play ball with audiobooks was also at this level. We need to somehow apply enough leverage for them to do what we need them to do.


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