The Failure of E-book Devices

A librarian shares her views about the current failure of e-books (especially in a library scenario)

The failure is how the e-book reader companies do not consider libraries as a viable customer.

If you read the FAQs or Terms of Service for Amazon, Sony, Mobipocket, and Ebooks, there is a clear indication that you cannot lend an e-book to anyone. Ok, that’s not entirely true, since Sony indicates that you can lend an eBook to a friend (gasp!) so long as they are an authorized user of your account (Awww!). Sure, you can authorize a friend, but if you are someone who passes around books to all your friends and family, this becomes an onerous exercise in authorizing and de-authorizing just to share a reading gem. Also, it makes the lending of a Sony Reader with eBooks a circulation nightmare for a library under those ‘guidelines’.

Mobipocket stakes dangerous territory by saying that you cannot lend an eBook but you can lend the device.

The current Amazon stance is the equivalent of a wink and a nod that you could lend one, but it’s against the terms of service. While my first reaction was admiration of shrewdness, it has since evolved into insult. Did Amazon really think that a libraries would not be interested in offering this device to their patrons? Either they are terribly short sighted as to their market or just plain inconsiderate that the well established institution of the library would love to offer a new medium for people to borrow materials.

So, all you e-book reader industry people out there, here’s a couple of ideas for you from this librarian.

(2) With your army of lawyers (Amazon, Sony, etc.), write a service contract in which you provide us with devices and materials which we can then lend to patrons. (Leave it to us as to how we make them financially responsible to borrowing the readers; we are better in the lost or damage item debt collection field than you are.)

We are in the intellectual enhancement business, no matter the medium. Libraries are the allies of the e-book reader devices. Start treating us like it.

Read the entire article and all the valid points that this librarian makes.

Image Source: maury.mccown!– @page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } –>



  1. Wendy May 26, 2009

    Perhaps libraries should utilize digital books such as MobiStoies that can be viewed on ANY digital device with a screen, thus eliminating the need for using budgetary resources for hardware and avoiding the entire issue of proprietary readers. Services such as http://www.overdrive.com are geared towards multiple downloads that a library would offer. Take the equipment out of the equation and deliver the information.

  2. Maya May 27, 2009

    @Wendy : I think the librarian’s point is not about the content. It is about the device that delivers the content. If these devices are being embraced by the public, it changes the way people read and libraries should thus cater to this change too. But if the devices make it so difficult, what are the problems faced by libraries and their patrons?

  3. E-book Reader Device May 29, 2009

    Really interesting idea. I think the gesture area could be a nice compromise between the touch screen and the prehistoric Kindle joystick. Seems pointless to favor touch screen over readability in a device like this.


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