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How Can We Support Our Academic Library's Digital Book Capacity?
January 22, 2013 - 9:00pm

This week I wrote about how much money I sent to Amazon in 2012 to support my digital book (audio and e-book) habit. The grand total was just shy of a thousand bucks.

KMDL wrote a great comment, one that I'm hoping to amplify and leverage as a jumping off point for more discussion.

I encourage you to read KMDL's full comment, and the discussion around the issue, but I'd like focus on one point that was made:

"While the library may not always be the best choice for you, you might be better served in supporting your library's capacity to meet your needs."

This comment was in response to my noting that, "Nor do I make much use of my academic or public library for e-books or audiobooks. I would rather purchase the exact digital book that I want today, rather than have to either choose amongst the limited selection of library digital books or wait for a digital book to become available for borrowing."

KMDL did not specify academic libraries in the comment, but given our InsideHigherEd community I thought perhaps we could focus on this segment.

How would you answer KMDL's comment?   

How can people like myself, academics that do not control the larger budgeting of our institutions, take steps to support our "library's capacity" around digital books?

Should the fans of our academic libraries (I'm sort of a library and librarian groupie) actively curtail or digital Amazon book purchases?  Is this sort of the equivalent of buying locally?

Let me stipulate that I'd love nothing more than to be able to borrow e-books and audiobooks from the library.  Once I read a book I have no desire to hold on to it.  I don't re-read books, and I don't mark them up.   

I'll take this a step further. If I could donate all my e-books and audiobooks to the library I'd do so in a flash. As long as I could borrow digital books that other people donated I'd be more than happy to contribute to the collection.

I have no doubt that academic libraries would, if they were able, offer borrowers a full range of digital books. 

Amazon does seem to have a public library program,  but I have no idea how Amazon would work with academic libraries or what the pricing model is.   I can't find anything about Audible and academic libraries.  

From what I understand, the licensing terms and costs from the vendors in this space for making e-books and audiobooks available for borrowers are prohibitively onerous and expensive.  Digital books are much more expensive to license than physical books, and long-term ownership and DRM is a challenge.  (Can someone provide more details on this?)

What is the path forward?

How can leadership from academic libraries convince publishers that the failure to provide a viable alternative to Amazon for digital books will hurt them in the long run?  

Readers are created, not born, and shutting out a new generation of book buyers by failing to get them hooked on reading in college (when a digital book reading habit could take hold), will have potentially disastrous long-term consequences for future demand. 

Books that are widely circulated in libraries are the same books that are widely purchased.  Library lending drives, rather than inhibits, book purchasing.

Today's college digital book borrower is tomorrow's digital book purchaser.

Of course this same argument could be made to Amazon.   Amazon has an opportunity with academic libraries to bring the next generation of digital book buying, Kindle purchasing and Audible subscribing, customers into its ecosystem.   A generous deal from Amazon for academic libraries would lay the foundation for a lifetime of Amazon digital book purchasing.

Are academic library leaders making these sorts of arguments to publishers and Amazon?   

How can we help?

 

 

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