Monday, March 26, 2012

Cloud Technology and Used Books

Last week a USA Today article by Marco R. della Cava got me thinking about how the cloud is affecting our video collection. In that same article, della Cava says that "e-books went from novelties to a billion-dollar market in a flash." I noticed that too. But I don't think it's just that eBooks were novelties and now they're not. As American Libraries columnist, Will Manley says, there is still the coolness factor (Feb. 2012), but it has to be more than cool to have lasting effects.

e-reader technology has gotten better, pricing models are approaching reasonable, licenses are becoming more understandable, and the market is stabilizing as much as technology markets do. Further, publishers and eBook vendors are working on playing well with libraries and their patrons, allowing borrowing in exchange for impulse buying options in the library catalogs (which libraries view with suspicion). And now the cloud is providing more flexibility for eBook owners to move their eBooks between their own devices.

Regardless of the reasons, I am interested in how this growing trend effects the library. As I was going through a donation of books last week I wondered how long it would be before the trickle down effect would reach us. When would people no longer have books to donate?

A couple of months ago, my husband bought an eBook from Amazon and downloaded it to the Kindle app on his iPad. He recommended that I read one of the chapters because he thought it was apropos to something we had been talking about. But how could I do that? I don't have a Kindle, an iPad, or an iPod Touch which would have allowed him to lend it to me temporarily.

We actually had to think about how I could borrow the book long enough to read a chapter.

Borrowing a device is not the same as borrowing a book. I would need some orientation to how to read a book on one. I didn't want to bother to learn a new interface just to read a chapter. But the more his eBook and cloud video collection grows, the less willing he will be to lend me his devices anyway.

Then I got to thinking... what is he going to do with it when he's done reading it? Can he give it to me (if I get my own iPad)? Can he donate it to the library or sell it? Where do old digital books go? (Thankfully, they don't take up space in our garage.)

Will there be a place for used eBooks? In one current library lending model primarily used in public libraries, patrons download eBooks to their own devices but they may only be circulated 26 times before they "go away." Needless to say, the library world is not happy with that idea.

The library will probably see fewer book donations before long and there will be fewer used book sellers such as the popular Archives Bookshop in Pasadena and Better World Books. Only collectors will be in the market for such "novelties."

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