December 20, 2014

Harry Potter Titles Coming to Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and What This Should Mean For Libraries

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That’s right folks, Amazon.com is announcing that in a few weeks all seven Harry Potter e-Books will be available from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL), a service that’s part of a subscription to Amazon Prime that also includes two day shipping, streaming video, etc.

From the News Release:

With traditional library lending, the library buys a certain number of eBook copies of a particular title. If all of those are checked out, readers have to get on a waiting list. For popular titles like Harry Potter, the wait can sometimes be months. With the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, there are no due dates, books can be borrowed as frequently as once a month, and there are no limits on how many people can simultaneously borrow the same title—so readers never have to wait in line for the book they want.

Sure, not everyone has a Kindle and uses Amazon Prime. Plus, users are limited to the number of titles you can borrow (this will likely change). Nevertheless, a lot of people use Kindle devices and Amazon Prime continues to add services.

As we said when KLL went live last November, it’s yet more competition (sorry to use this word but we think it’s the correct one) for libraries both in terms of content and perhaps more importantly mindshare. Today’s news reinforces this point.

When the service launched last November about 5,000 titles were available.  Currently, more than 145,000 titles are accessible via the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library including more than 100 Current and Former NYT Bestsellers. We wouldn’t be suprised to see 500,000 or more titles by the 2012 holiday season.

Here’s a bit of what we had to say last November when KOLL launched. We think it still applies today.

…if this initial launch of the KLL is successful things can and will likely change so it’s important (no, essential) for the library community to not only watch developments closely but to also consider future scenarios and discuss how we can respond and how to convey what we offer and will offer vs. Amazon (and other services) to both current and potential users. In fact, a lot of this is already underway when it comes to non-book material. For example, we now have several ways to access free or low cost music libraries (e.g. Spotify) and when it comes to streaming video there is both Netflix and Amazon.com’s service offering free streaming video content (again, only for Prime customers).

Some don’t like the word competition in the library world. However, we have it. We might not be competing for revenue but we continue to compete for mindshare and overall awareness of not only what we offer but also our skills in getting accurate and timely answers, navigating the electronic world, advocating on privacy issues, preservation and digitization of content, and so much more. We have to ask how good of a job the library community has done to explain this to our current users but also to non-users. Are they even considering us and if not, why not?

Finally, mindshare and a clear understanding is also critical because in many situations relates directly to funding for current and future services. More and more often we’re going to hear, why do we need to pay for x, we can get all sorts of material for free and that’s more than good enough?

It’s one thing to offer great resources but unless we explain and demonstrate it’s value to the specific user and/or  group of users, faculty members, students, etc. the results are likely not going to be very good. We’ve gone beyond simply announcing we have something and to take a look.

The library world in the U.S. continues to be all consumed with e-books. Have we failed to factor in the fact that other services like KOLL would grow, get a lot of attention, and offer features library’s don’t (like no waiting list). What are we going to do as Amazon.com expands both content and features?

Is ALL of the attention we’re giving to ebooks and libraries coming at the expense of other services, skills, and  we provide to end users? Where do budgets fit in? We can only afford so much. The library world needs to look at the services, resources, skills, education, and knowledge that make what we provide to end users most valuable. What can we do and offer that others can’t provide?

Of course, financial issues also come into play and we need to ask are we spending money on services people will get elsewhere especially if we don’t market them properly, if at all. Yes, ebooks are important and worthy of discussion but they’re not the only topic. Let’s not forget this and/or we need to remember.

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.