In a long-expected move, Amazon on July 18 announced the launch of Kindle Unlimited, a new subscription service that will give users unlimited access to a selection of 600,000 ebooks and more than 2,000 audiobooks on Amazon Kindle devices and any device with a Kindle app for $9.99 per month. The online retailer’s financial resources, marketing clout, and massive base of Kindle users alter the competitive landscape for all providers of ebooks, including libraries.
Library ebook transactions remain too lengthy and complicated for patrons, especially in comparison with consumer ebook transactions, James English, product manager for the Library Simplified project at the New York Public Library (NYPL) said during his “EPUB: Walled Gardens and the Readium Foundation” presentation at the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) Book Industry Study Group (BISG) Eighth Annual Forum, held June 27 in conjunction with the American Library Association (ALA) 2014 Annual Conference. The group is working to make an open, commercial-grade ereader for libraries that would greatly simplify this process.
The U.S. Navy General Library Program (NGLP) last month announced the release of its new Navy e-Reader Device (NeRD), which comes preloaded with 300 titles including popular fiction, recent bestsellers, and content from the Chief of Naval Operations Professional Reading Program. The new e-ink readers were designed by preloaded digital content provider Findaway World (perhaps best known in the library world for its Playaway) and are the first devices to feature Findaway’s new “Lock” ereader security solution.
When ebooks or other digital materials are not readily available in libraries, publishers “are missing a key conduit to a market that [they] can’t tap any other way,” Rebecca T. Miller, editorial director for Library Journal and School Library Journal, stated in her opening remarks for the “The Untapped Retail Channel: Public Libraries” panel on Friday, May 30 at the 2014 BookExpo America (BEA) conference in New York. Leaders from top library ebook and streaming media companies weighed in on this issue during an hour-long discussion.
Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks, on May 20 announced a new partnership with OverDrive that will make more than 200,000 ebooks from 80,000 self-published authors and independent presses available to libraries and their patrons via the OverDrive platform. All titles will be sold as perpetual, non-expiring licenses with no loan caps, and will be made available to patrons under a one ebook, one user model.
In recognition of National Library Week, Total Boox, the “pay-as-you-read” metered ebook platform, will make its entire collection of more than 20,000 titles free to read from April 13 through April 20. The week-long promotion will allow anyone with an Android, Apple iOS, or Kindle Fire tablet to download the free Total Boox ereader app at www.totalboox.com/freereading and access fiction and nonfiction ebooks.
Librarians continue to cite the lack of access to ebook best sellers and other “in-demand” titles as the number one problem preventing patrons from checking out more ebooks, but usability issues are a close second, according to “Ebook Usage in U.S. Public Libraries 2013,” a survey of 553 public libraries conducted by LJ and sponsored by Freading.
Finding and downloading ebooks from libraries can still be “complicated and cumbersome, involving many steps that do not always work,” but several key vendors have taken steps to streamline and simplify ebook access in recent months, according to the long-anticipated “ReadersFirst Guide to Library Ebook Vendors,” which was released in January.