May 26, 2022

Mike Shatzkin: More Thoughts on Libraries and eBook Lending & a New Program from Recorded Books

Mike Shatzkin is a well-known and highly respected consultant and “thinker” in the publishing world. This new post on his idealog blog will be of interest to many of you. It’s important to be reading and listening to what people in the publishing industry are thinking.

First, a bit of news.

Shatzkin writes about a new project he’s working on with Recorded Books.

I’m very pleased to be working with Recorded Books on a new ebooks-for-libraries program that will give publishers enormous flexibility in how they structure the license for each book: with granular, title-by-title control of availability, price, a number of loan limit, or a time limit. This requires RB to also give libraries the information and dashboards necessary to manage their ebook collections in ways their print book collections never required. The flexibility will mean that publishers can experiment with a variety of models. The multiplicity of models will be a nuisance for libraries — although RB can do a lot to mitigate it — but it will make a lot more ebook titles available by giving each publisher the ability to control the risks as they see fit. Recorded Books expects to put the program in beta early in 2013 and roll it out by Q3.

The blog post shares plenty more ideas about ebooks and libraries.

Here’s one passage from Mike Shatzkin’s post:

It really isn’t hard to imagine that in a pretty short time, libraries and KOLL (and some fledglings like the recently-announced “maybe we’re the Spotify of ebooks, or maybe we’re not” Oyster subscription service or Spain-based 24 Symbols) have robust selections available for free (libraries), as part of a broader offering (KOLL), or for very cheap (Oyster’s and 24 Symbols’ aspiration). If that happened, how many customers could be drawn away from the ebook retailer sites and effectively removed from the market for title-by-title purchasing of new books?

How many? Well, we don’t know how many. That’s precisely the concern.

We will spend more time on this topic soon. Actually, it’s something we’ve have mentioned several times already.  What does the Kindle Online Lending Library (closing in 200,000 titles) and similar services like Oyster mean for public and other types of libraries in the long run? What happens when KOLL increases the number of titles a user can borrow per month?

Services offering an unlimited amount of content like Spotify (music), Netflix (films and video), and many others came along and the library world is adapting (or not?) after the fact? For infoDOCKET, the question is what can libraries do now before flat-rate, unlimited content services become widespread? How can we compete with these services? Moreover, should we compete in the first place. What can we offer that these services cannot or will not provider to users?

By the way, services offering an unlimited amount of content in a specific area/niche are also available. We will see more of them going forward. Examples? Safari for tech books and F+W for art books.

See Also: All The Ebooks You Can Read: A Netflix-Like Service For Ebooks Named Oyster Gets $3M Investment

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( 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, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.