Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The e-book revolution

E-books were surprisingly slow to catch on initially, but now with a range of e-readers out there, they are relatively widespread. Various libraries circulate the devices. MA prep school Cushing Academy got rid of its print collection in favor of e-sources.

I wonder about public vs. academic libraries regarding this issue. It does make more sense for an academic library to go that route than it does a public library.

Public libraries serve children and the elderly, both groups less likely to use e-readers. I believe that public libraries will adapt, albeit a bit slower than consumer culture. But that's because public libraries have a number of considerations: what is the purpose of circulating a Kindle or like product? Is it for people to try it out or to read a couple of publications? What content should be loaded onto it? What should be the loaning period? What quantity should be purchased? Seems like a guessing game at this point.

Of course there is also the option of offering e-books to library members without the e-readers. The books can then be read either on the computer or on the person's own e-reader, similar to a downloadable audiobook service which many people use with ease. And the Publishers Weekly "Outlook 2010" (Jan. 4, 2010) points out the uncertainty of "whether consumers will continue to go for dedicated reading devices. Already, more and more consumers are choosing to read using apps designed for smart phones, like the iPhone/iPod Touch and the new Android OS phones."


  1. Excellent questions. I've been wondering about this myself, being on the fence about whether to try an e-reader. I agree that the elderly are less likely to try e-readers, but maybe children (who are "computer natives") would welcome them ... ?

  2. I agree that many older children would welcome them. I was thinking of the storytime crowd.

  3. Well, I'm reading your blog from my iPhone, and the convenience factor is great! I do think that smartphones will outlast e-readers because of their array of features. Apple's new iPad will be a hit for sure, though I think that devices like Amazon's Kindle will die out because of a lack of features. What I dislike about the e-reader revolution is that you pay for a digital format. I prefer a hard copy. It would be smart for publishing houses to offer a digital copy of books for your e-reader along with the physical purchase of a book -- that way you could read from a hard copy at home and have a digital copy on the go! An e-reader rental service for public libraries is an interesting idea -- I do believe these devices are geared toward academics, but it would be a great way to introduce them to crowds of a broader spectrum.