Monday, February 02, 2009

What is the Impact of Digitising Public Libraries?

Today we read of the surge in library demand and the obvious return to free public libraries when money is tight.

Last month we wrote about the Cleveland Public Library and CLEVNET member libraries offering downloads of epub eBooks from the library's website onto the Sony reader via digital aggregator Overdrive’s service.

This month we read OCLC’s NetLibrary response, offering ebook collections which can be once again read on the Sony reader. NetLibrary’s service includes a Sony PRS 5056 reader and once again a service for the librarian to download files to the reader. Libraries with ‘Mobile Collections’ will be able to let members check out Readers for onsite or offsite use. However the device appears to be tethered to the collections acquired by the library and the licence.

Thousands of public libraries in the US offer online collections to members. Members simply need a valid library card and a PC with an Internet connection in order to start borrowing and enjoying eBooks. Borrowed eBooks automatically expire after the lending period.

So we return to the question no one wants to answer. Where does the free ebook from a library stop and the bought ebook from a retailer start? What is the impact if libraries lend out readers as part of the service? In a physical world libraries demanded attendance and a return journey but in the online world you don’t have to leave the house. In a digital world libraries can pay on a lend basis and shelf space is no longer a constraint. Just to top the offer Google is planning to put a PC into a library. Once content is perceived to be ‘free’ putting it back in the box is not easy.

No comments: