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How libraries are to become cool again September 2, 2009

Posted by mbdavenport in Uncategorized.
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Recently Sony announced the Daily Edition, their new entry in to the burgeoning e-reader market. Due for a stateside release in December it represents Sony’s most convincing competitor to Amazon’s Kindle and Kindle DX.

The device will feature a 7-inch touchscreen e-ink display, free 3G data connection and support for the ePUB format. This last feature will allow users to download, sideload and then read some 30,000 books from Project Gutenberg. This won’t be the only way to get free reading material on the device, however. Sony has also announced a partnership with Overdrive.com that will allow users to download, on temporary license, copies of books from their local library.

Of all things it’s this that excites me the most. It’s brilliant. A completely genius way to pull our ageing libraries in to the 21st century. You surf to a website, search for your local library and download a book from them – including new releases.

There is one problem with this: each library only has a limited number of licenses per book. In the same way that a library will only have one or two copies of a particular book to lend, so they shall only have one or two licences that people can borrow.

Currently, if you want to join the waiting queue for a book that’s currently on loan you have to go out of your way to go to the library and register your interest. This requisite effort controls the length of the queue for that book. After all, most people would prefer to order a book from Amazon than travel to the library after work. If people are able to join a queue for a book by checking a box on their e-reader would the queues increase to length resulting in month-long waits for books? Such delays could effectively cripple the service completely in relation to new or popular books. 

There is still the option of buying a book rather than waiting in a e-library queue and I’m sure that it’s an option that many users would exercise given the choice, directing any unmet demand to Sony’s own online book store.

Admittedly how cool this turns out to be will depend entirely on the content made available through the partnership with Overdrive.com and, more importantly, how this will be implemented over here in the UK should the Daily Edition ever reach our shores (no word on price or availability at time of writing). But something tells me that this could be the extremely viable future for our libraries.

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