Amazon in competition with libraries?

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Is Amazon in competition with Libraries or are Libraries in competition with Amazon?

In the Publib post Amazon in competition with libraries?Randall Yelverton of the Washington District Library directed our attention to this Publishers Weekly blog story:

    Funding remains steady in many systems for now, but we will be, and should already be, fighting against perceived irrelevance that will increase as digital subscription services allow people to curate massive personal media and information collections with great ease.
Library Books

Library Books

Book stores, large or small, aren’t analogous to libraries because you pay for every single purchase from a store. Subscription services are far more similar to a library because for a fee, just as you pay taxes to support the library, you can quickly access a media library, and there’s likely not waiting for the must-have title.

To which the Publib chorus responded ~

  • That said, pay-fer services, like that described here or Netflix or even big book stores, are no threat to libraries. They certainly haven’t caused reduced funding for libraries. ~ DARRELL COOK – Richardson (TX) Public Library
  • Publishers are going to be pushing back hard on this. Customers may find that their selection from the Amazon lending library will be pretty meager. Still, we shouldn’t be complacent. : http://www.pcworld.com/article/239859/amazon_kindle_ebook_lending_program_what_it_needs_to_succeed.html  ~ Sharon Foster
  • The fact remains that libraries must evolve. We must change the perception that, once people can easily check out books, audio books, and find information quickly and easily using their smart devices, that libraries will no longer be needed. What will or what are libraries morphing into? What will be our new/revised role in community when it is no longer “reading advisor”? How will City Councils and State Legislatures begin to view us as “essential” and not as a place to begin cutbacks? ~ Beth Carlberg -Lubbock Public Libraries
  • This very topic was the subject of the Infopeople webinar, “Libraries in a Post-Print World,” held yesterday, September 13.   I recognized several PubLibbers’ names among the attendees.  The webinar archive is here:   http://infopeople.org/training/libraries-post-print-world  ~ Nann Hilyard the library in Zion, Illinois

Amazon is a singular corporate entity. Libraries are at best an aggregate of like-minded interests loosely, yet passionately bound together by a system of professional ethics.  Like politics, all Libraries are local.  So, can we really say that Amazon is competing with any individual Library or are Libraries collectively poised to compete with Amazon?

The month of September 2011 marked some major changes in Amazon:

  • On September 21st -  Amazon Kindle kicked into Overdrive – making Kindle Books available at over 11,000 local libraries.
  • On September 26th – Amazon announced its digital licensing agreement with Twentieth Century Fox.
  • On September 28th – Amazon announced the availability of four new Kindle models including:
    • a pocket sized $79 version
    • a Kindle Touch version for $99
    • a Kindle Touch 3G for $149
    • and Kindle Fire for $199 that will play Video, MP3 and offer books

The financial markets responded well to these announcements:  http://www.google.com/finance?client=ob&q=NASDAQ:AMZN#

Each of these announced changes impact the aggregate of Libraries and individual libraries. 

- Amazon Kindle kicked into Overdrive – increases demand for Kindle titles and pressure on collection development budgets: 
  • I know that it takes a bit for new programs to work the glitches out but we have some pretty avid readers who have been waiting and watching for the Kindle app to appear.  I want to make sure I can help them when they appear on our doorstep. ~ Jan Cole – Duncan Public Library
  • Would anyone be willing to share the percentage of your annual materials budget that you allocate for e-books, or just the amount you budget for
    e-books? What is your population? – Diane Greenwald -Warwick Public Library (Ocean State Libraries)
His and Her Kindles

His and Her Kindles

As a proud owner of His and Her Kindles, I reviewed the Ocean State Libraries
 consortium offerings for Kindle.  The number of titles currently available for the 600,000+ card holders is: 4,046.  There is essentially no depth to the collection at this time nor any real value in searching it.  In contrast - using the no-contract free 3G access built into the Kindles, I can browse and sample over 1 million titles.

- The deal with Twentieth Century Fox means additional video titles are now available for Amazon to stream to all sorts of device – providing an on-demand library of over 100,000 titles. 

How many libraries can say they are able to provide the equivalent access?

-The new price point for Kindles – as low as $79 dollars with WiFi or $149 with free 3G means many, many more people will be able to afford Kindles. 

Amazon Prime is $79 a year. So, for a total investment of about $150, you have WiFi, and thousand of books and videos available – represent a big price drop from just a few months ago. And, the new Kindle Fire may potentially become the dominant streaming media device.

Publib contributors are not without ethical concerns over these changes  -

  • … that kind of seamless integration across your Amazon account has interesting (i.e. potentially alarming) implications about just how much Amazon is keeping track of its customers’ relationships with their public libraries. I’m not sure what I think about that yet. Does anyone have a read
    on that yet? ~ Will Porter – Dennis Memorial Library
  • … but I did note yesterday that your library books are listed in your Kindle account information, just like books you purchase, and can be sent to any device you own from there. Several of our patrons have already commented on the service on our FB page – one or two even praised how easy it is, so that’s a nice change… ;) ~ Robin Hastings – Missouri River Regional Library
  • So they’re definitely paying attention to what patrons are checking out and using that information for marketing. I wouldn’t be too surprised if they shared that information with others. Part of me wants to make a big point of letting patrons know that their Kindle checkouts aren’t anonymous, but I don’t really know that patrons care about that as much as I do. I know that while my librarian self finds it worrying my patron/customer self just doesn’t care.   ~ Andrew Fuerste-Henry Dubuque, IA

 But is Amazon competing with Libraries or are Libraries competing with Amazon?

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