A Kindle In Libraries Post

So, no doubt you’ve read this. You should if you haven’t but here’s the gist of it:

Amazon today announced Kindle Library Lending, a new feature launching later this year that will allow Kindle customers to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the United States. Kindle Library Lending will be available for all generations of Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps.

So much about this adds up to cool news for readers, even if in the medium to long-term it suggests that Amazon is getting a pretty monopolistic hold on the ebook market (something that might have been thought to be waning).

Mike Cane has an excellent post looking at the implications of it all here. He’s got some dynamite in there too.

4) Self-published writers in their right mind won’t give a damn about whether their book is available at the Sony Reader Store, Kobo Bookstore, or Barnes & Noble bookstore. They’re all just dead. While Kobo still has an international edge, as Amazon rolls out into other countries, they’ll just crush them.

5) No one cares what the hell the eBook format is. People just want to read. Only geeks care about whether the file format is Kindle or “universal” ePub (which isn’t universal since Barnes & Noble broke it!). ePub has now become a niche eBook format. The IDPF can take as long as they want with the ePub 3.0 spec. No one cares anymore. Except maybe Apple — who can now hijack the spec until they discard it.

Don’t read just self published authors there by the way. Think small independent publishers too when you see that.

A wise man or woman wouldn’t bet on this being the winning shot in the war for Libraries (though I have my doubts about their ability to survive the transition to digital distribution) but it sure gives Amazon a healthy advantage.

Mike’s a little keener then I am on the death of print, a technology I still have some affection for and suspect has greater reserves of use then is generally expected these days, though in a much less popular form than right now (except maybe for your mass, mass-market cheap titles!), but who knows, he could be right.

I’ll say this though, it is a stab in the heart of bookstores. Way to bring ebooks to the book loving crowds in an easy seductive fashion!

Beautiful April day!

9 thoughts on “A Kindle In Libraries Post

  1. I am intrigued as to your reasons why you believe we are heading for some kind of Amazon monopoly based on this. To me Cane’s article seems to almost comically exagerrate the power of libraries, an institution as threatened by ebooks as the bookstore. It would I guess be the first time a format war was decided by libraries!

    There is rather too much hysterical futurology going on these days. I’m reminded of Dante’s Inferno, where a special place in the Eighth Circle of Hell is reserved for Diviners or Prognosticators of the future (Canto XX: Circle Eight,
    Bolgia 4). Their punishment, for all eternity, is to have their heads permanently pivoted 180 degrees to the rear, so they are forced to walk backwards, unable even to see in front of them. . . .

    1. Agreed, Mike (in true Mike form) may carry the point a little too far.

      One point I’d defend though is the idea of libraries as important. Their influence is pretty pervasive in most western societies. If Kindle works well there, it’ll be a place where dedicated readers encounter digital books and reading for the first time, if they can expand beyond the US, it could be a winning proposition in the longer term!

      PS: See my other notes in response to David below!

  2. I wouldn’t necessarily hand the trophy to Amazon yet, and certainly not in Europe. Apple have made gains in Europe, and Kobo have huge plans for the summer (local language stores with local language content in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands – and the last two don’t even have Amazon sites). Plus, Google eBookstore is going to announce a second language soon – a toss-up between Spanish/German.

    If you live outside of Germany/UK, you have to order a Kindle from the US. And even in Germany, where they launched the Kindle today, it’s almost 50% more expensive than in the U.S. Amazon have been slow in Europe (with e-books/e-readers at least) which has left gaps for the competition to exploit.

    This race is far from over. It’s a global business (some say $80bn), and Kobo could be one to watch (there is talk of them partnering with a bricks and mortar chain in UK, maybe Waterstones?).

    1. To be fair, I did say:

      A wise man or woman wouldn’t bet on this being the winning shot in the war for Libraries (though I have my doubts about their ability to survive the transition to digital distribution) but it sure gives Amazon a healthy advantage.

      For sure this is far from over. But Amazon has a number of significant advantages and is playing this game very cleverly, both short term and longer term.

      I’d wager they’ll remain a fairly significant chunk of the market even as it grows, despite how it grows. Individual winners may well be number one in certain countries, but even if the are, Amazon will be right there behind them in 2nd or 3rd spot.


  3. I don’t believe this changes anything as regards Amazon’s position in the eBook retail market. It is true that Amazon has the largest proportion of eBooks sales but the market is so huge and the state of the market is so young and undeveloped that it is far too early to talk about monopolies.
    I don’t believe Libraries are important anyway. There has been a ‘relative’ surge in users seeking eBooks from libraries in the US but it is a tiny fraction of the market. Elsewhere it looks to me mostly like media hype. In my view physical Libraries have no future beyond the next 5 years or so. The instant download model and inevitable rapid drop in eReader pricing will ensure that. If they linger it will be more as a museum of paper books than anything else and a victory for the librarian unions campaign for their own interests.
    The whole of the Western world is in recession. Some places a lot deeper than others. Money is short. Luxuries are low. The users of eReaders are still the techy first adopter types, ‘on the whole’. In the next couple of years or so, as the eBook market matures and the technology of eReaders matures, I am certain there will be a surge of eBook alternatives to the Kindle and incorporating of lending etc into them will not be a difficult thing.
    I also see lending itself as a practice that will become even more marginal than before. eBook prices for all but the big publishers are becoming far more affordable. When the cheap eReaders appear I believe the ‘poor’ will access much of their reading from the torrent cloud.
    I don’t believe Cane has a handle on the public desires or the market development. The suggestion that all other eRetailers other than Amazon are ‘dead’ is just pathetic nonsense. And his perception of file formats is also naive. Readers may not care when they buy their first eReader. But when they decide to change models or lose or break their device, or want to buy from other eRetailers etc. They will realise the format matters and Amazon’s rigidity will remain an issue imho.

    1. Howard,

      Sure Mike exaggerates somewhat, but I think he has actually got a point. I’m not perhaps convinced that everyone else is dead, but as Amazon keeps rolling out features and lures for readers and encouraging publishers and self publishers, their position becomes harder and harder to assail.

      A few things here.
      1) demand in libraries may be relative but is still pronounced. As evidenced by the scale of demand in places like South Dublin (not a hot spot of techy-ness).

      2) I think libraries are important precisely because they ARE bastions of print. If even THEY succumb (as they will/must) then how can print resist?

      3) Asda is already selling kindle alternatives for sub 50 STG in the UK. I remain unconvinced that the reader who reads 2-5 titles a year will ever swap print for digital (I’m willing to be convinced though) thus I see the cheap paperback market through supermarkets persisting for major MASS market authors and titles.

      4) Libraries will persist in some form, though perhaps not with so many branches though as for that their role is now so much more then books….

      5) While I don’t think it will ever be a monopoly, Amazon’s position within the ebook market is pretty strong and has several advantages not easily duplicable.


  4. Hi Eoin. Hey who knows ! LOL

    a) The issue is about Libraries survival mid to long term (not in 2012) and the impact of eBooks. In Ireland there is little impact of eBooks yet due to the economy and the way Amazon treats the Irish market. So I see the Irish experience as more or less irrelevant.
    b) Bastions of Print ? I agree. That relegates them to museum levels and as such they will linger. However I wonder if the Gov will be prepared to pour huge amounts of money into them when that comes about.
    3) There is little argument and only opinion in this comment 🙂 The market is incredibly embryonic and although Asda are indeed selling such a model, it is clear that the awareness of the eBook market has not penetrated much beyond the wider early adopter group. You suggestion that 5 books a year people won’t change over is likely correct. But what percentage of the market is this going to be ? and what will they do when the prices of paper books steadily increases and becomes significant in 5 – 8 years ? ‘Cheap paperbacks’ cannot continue much longer than another 5 – 8 years if the eBook market continues to grow as it is doing. As you yourself have written – as print runs are forced down in number the prices will inevitably rise. Sure the BIG titles will persevere longest, but so what. The bulk of the market will be going going going digital or print on demand.

    The issue is also not of ‘death’ of paper or ‘death’ of libraries. That is just a silly notion. I, and many more knowledgable people than I, have agreed that paper will continue for 50 years. The issue is at what level. The level of vinyl albums ? I believe it will be at a higher level of vinyl because of the power of the paper book. I believe print on demand will keep it alive at 5% of the market for even more than 50 years.

    1. Howard,

      I think the thing is that for some titles print may well remain a large market of say 30-40% EVEN if as a whole print is like 10-20% of the market.

      According to BML 60% of consumers buy 5 books or less a year. In terms of what % of the overall market that’s hard to gauge, but it is surely enough to help the mass market paperback persist as sold through supermarkets. of course that also means far fewer authors will get published in that format and thus being in print as a mass market author will become a much bigger sign of success.

      It’s interesting that you mention vinyl. I expect a paralell to emerge at the top end of the print market with more beautiful books selling in smaller but high priced numbers.

      The pod end of things will I think ultimately persist but will surely be more then 90% be replaced by digital over time.


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