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E-Reader Lending: A Few Thoughts

February 2, 2012

When I first heard of libraries lending e-readers, I was understandably and to some small degree excited by the concept.  Libraries embracing new technology and helping to put it in the hands of their eager service population?  Rock on, say I!

But as I read more and think more, the flaws in this idea start to sparkle to the point where they become almost blinding in the same way that once you notice an imperfection, that’s all you can see.

If an e-reader is pre-loaded with material, how do you determine what material goes onto the reader?  Do you have to go back through, after each return, and remove items the patron downloaded? Can you/do you prohibit downloading?  More importantly, doesn’t this defeat the purpose of libraries to help as opposed to do?  What does the patron take-away if the the downloading element of the experience is removed?

Whether the reader is a blank slate or not upon check-out, I can’t help but wonder if this concept will go the way of video rental stores and VCRs/game systems.  Given, I haven’t walked into a video rental franchise in some time, but I can’t remember seeing a VCR or gaming console available for rent since I was in middle school.  That’s what, fourteen years ago?  Libraries are of course different from retail enterprises, so I present the  Playaway as an example.  I’d be interested to see the circulation of Playaway titles in libraries versus those of downloadable and traditional books on CD.  What’s the return on investment?

I don’t have answers.  I only have questions.  And interest.  That last part is just as important these days.


One Comment leave one →
  1. Scott permalink
    February 3, 2012 4:43 pm

    The main advantage to lending ereaders that I can see is it lets the patron try before buying. It’s a chance to handle the device and see some of its capabilities before committing to purchase ($79 for a kindle is still north of my impulse-buy limit).

    But, as you say, it does take away a lot of advantages of ebooks. And if the library is pre-loading the material, all you’ve done is taken the traditional book and put it in a smaller package.

    If I put on my fortune-telling hat, I don’t expect lending of e-readers to last even as long as lending of game systems went on. But, it is good that the libraries are trying to get the patrons up on the mountain, and when this doesn’t work, I hope they try something else.

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