Friday, November 30, 2007

Amazon Kindle - Will Your Library Buy it for Patrons?

Amazon has recently announced the release of their Kindle portable reader. It looks very revolutionary.

Here is Amazon's description of the product, "Amazon Kindle is a revolutionary portable reader that wirelessly downloads books, newspapers, magazines and blogs to a crisp, high-resolution electronic paper display that looks and reads like real paper, even in bright sunlight. Kindle customers, no matter where they are in the U.S., can wirelessly shop the Kindle Store and download new content — all without a PC or a WiFi hot spot. Amazon pays for Kindle’s wireless connectivity so there are no monthly wireless bills and no service commitments for customers. The Kindle Store contains over 90,000 books that can be purchased and delivered wirelessly to Kindle, each in less than a minute. Customers can choose from hundreds of top newspapers, magazines and blogs and have their subscriptions auto-delivered wirelessly. All New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases are $9.99, unless marked otherwise. At 10.3 ounces, Kindle is lighter and thinner than a paperback book, carries two hundred books, and includes built-in access to The New Oxford American Dictionary and wireless access to the Earth’s biggest encyclopedia,"

I wish that this product gave wireless access to the Encyclopedia Britannica instead of Wikipedia. However, I am sure Britannica wants paid for their product while Wikipedia is free so I realize that is not going to happen. Despite this, Amazon Kindle appears to be a very nice product. You can read a lot of books, periodicals, news feeds, blogs, etc. in lots of locations. And the reader looks easy to use and carry.

So, are any libraries planning on buying Amazon Kindle and allowing patrons to check-it out either for use in the library or to take it home? If this works as promised, this would be a great boon for many patrons who can not afford the current price tag. Should we as librarians strive to make this available to our patrons?

I am not sure if this is something that I am willing to do yet. However, I have no doubt some libraries (particularly public ones) are already considering this. I guess I want to see how this goes with other libraries first.


The.Effing.Librarian said...

You know in a month some library will publish how their Kindle program is a great success, and all you other libraries suck because you don't have one. So the libraries that purchase and loan to patrons will do what with their privacy policies? Libraries delete patron borrowing records when books are returned and borrowing records are private and often protected by State statutes. And the Kindle libraries will turn those privacy policies over to Amazon. Why don't you just burn down your libraries right now because "freedom to read" and "access for all" mean nothing. If the federal government wanted this kind of access to patron reading habits, we would fight all the way to the Supreme Court, but if a public company wants the same access, we say, "wow. that's really convenient." We need to draw the line somewhere: if you buy this for your library patrons, you suck.

Ref_Librarian said...

I see one problem with loaning out Kindles. Anyone who borrows the Kindle can click on a button and order a book from Amazon. There is nothing to stop a patron from ordering a lot of books. For libraries to be able to loan them out, this feature would have to be disabled - and I don't know if that would be possible.
-Isabelle Fetherston

Rachel said...

If a variety of books were uploaded, chosen by the librarians based on their patrons' interests and best-seller lists, that would diminish the privacy impact. Also, Amazon may know which books are ordered, and maybe even read, but it won't know the name of the patron who borrowed it from the library. That would be under the patron's check-out record, which would be deleted, according to the library's custom.

If the ordering function can be disabled, the only problem remaining, that I can see, is the vulnerability of the item itself. At $399, plus the cost of the items loaded onto the device, can any library afford to have a patron drop this, steal it, lose it, have it stollen, spill coffee on it, etc? How would a library recoup the money should this happen? Many patrons couldn't afford to replace it, libraries can't afford to absorb the cost, and who wants a legal headache?

Neither would I have it for in-house use, since patrons can use the online resources and print materials available, and the convenience doesn't seem worth the cost. However, as the technology improves, and comes down in price, I wouldn't be averse to reconsidering my stance on all points.

SPLogger said...

We are a library that is offering Kindles to our patrons url.
We checked with Amazon and they were surprised to hear our question concerning disabling the order feature on the unit because they didn't see its use other than for individuals.

So we've circumvented the problem this way: patrons may select one title to add to the unit, and may purchase other title BUT they will be billed for the purchase. They are aware of this restriction when they borrow the device. Very simple!