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The $139 Kindle and the Academic Library
July 29, 2010 - 9:06pm

"If we give up on having library collections (digital or otherwise) and outsource access to and preservation of knowledge to corporations, we will have neither access nor preservation."--Barbara Fister

Just wanted to start this blog post with Barbara's quote from our 7/29 discussion on libraries and Amazon, as her words continue to rattle around my head.

On to the new $139 Kindle.

Someone help me do the math on this one. At what point do we start to save money by buying Kindles and moving our second copy ordering to a Kindle e-book? I say 2nd copy, as I can see the wisdom of having one hardcover for circulation and preservation. No need for an Amazon e-book library lending model, although the lack of one drives me bonkers. Rather, an old-fashioned model where the library buys a bunch of Kindles, puts Kindle books only on that device, and then loans out the device.

For a long time I've thought that this device lending model made little sense. The library, I believed, should be lending the book (paper or digital), and letting people come with their own devices. But I wonder if the $139 Kindle and the lack of an e-book lending program drives us to a workable model of Kindle device loaning?

The questions are:

--Is the price difference between the Kindle version of a book and the hardcover version of a book big enough to reduce the medium run costs of acquisition when the $139 Kindle device purchase is factored in?

--How many Kindle e-books need to be purchased before the marginal cost of the next Kindle e-book is lower than the marginal cost of the next hardcover book?

--Is it possible to check out an e-book as opposed to checking out the whole Kindle on which the book resides (even though the patron takes the Kindle with them)? In other words, is there a way to avoid a book begin taken out of circulation with the check-out of the Kindle device, so that e-book can be put on another Kindle?

--Does this 2nd book idea make any sense? Perhaps the academic library is the wrong model for this, as public libraries are much more likely to order multiple copies of high-demand books.

All of these questions are really another way of asking at what price points for the Kindle device and the Kindle e-books do the fundamentals of library acquisitions and lending begin to change? How cheap do Kindle devices need to be, and what spread between the price of an e-book and a hardcover, will the Kindle (or other e-readers) begin save libraries money?

On the consumer side, the $139 Kindle I think is about doing it for me. I have waited to purchase my Kindle with my own money until the device matured and the price dropped, and I'm thinking that the new $139 Kindle is almost at that sweet spot (but I'm still debating a bit). I'm wondering if at $139 if it makes sense to get Kindle's for my kids, and if at that price point getting them a Kindle will be worth the money in order to encourage more reading?


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