April 21st, 2011

Amazon Launches Library Lending, But Who Owns the Books?

Business Week

Amazon said on Wednesday that it will roll out a Kindle Lending Library later this year, which will allow users of the popular e-reader to borrow books from more than 11,000 libraries throughout the U.S. While some interesting features are included in this program—such as the ability to keep the notes you make while reading a borrowed e-book and transfer them if you buy a copy—the offering also raises questions about who ultimately controls the content in those books and what happens if Amazon or its publishing partners change their minds about the terms of the arrangement.

The news release from Amazon doesn’t say anything about the details of the program—for instance, whether there is a limit on how long the books can be borrowed, and if so, what the limit is (maybe libraries get to set the terms?). And it also doesn’t say whether Amazon or the publishers involved will have limits on how many times a library can lend a book.

That’s an important point, because some publishers have already begun to place arbitrary limits on the books they allow libraries to lend. HarperCollins, for example, recently capped its lending program at 26 loans, a limit many libraries and librarians are incensed about.HarperCollins argued that lending books more often than that would hurt its sales and damage the “e-book ecosystem,” saying in a statement:

“We have serious concerns that our previous e-book policy, selling e-books to libraries in perpetuity, if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book eco-system, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors.”

Read more:  http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/apr2011/tc20110420_591257.htm

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