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Are eBook Libraries The Future?

Written by Aaron Charlie – Wed 06 Feb 2013


eBooks are everywhere. If you don't have a kindle, iPad or some other brand of e-reader, I bet you know at least a few people who do.

As with all technology that becomes commercially successful; eBooks and eReaders are providing a service that makes the user's life easier - in this case, the ability to access millions of books without so much as peeling themselves away from the sofa.

In a previous post, we looked at why eBooks are so useful as a marketing tool for businesses. In this post we move away from the hard business and look at how eBooks are being used for public service with the expansion and development of both dedicated eBook libraries and the uptake of the eBook platform within traditional, print-based libraries.

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'e'Libraries

pile-of-booksAs simple (and often cheap) as it is to download an eBook onto any of the major devices, doing so on a frequent basis can be as cluttering as collecting their physical counterparts.

Now I'm not saying either is wrong (I personally can't wait for the day I have a whole room full of books!) but just that for many people, space can be an issue, both physically and virtually.

Could you really bring yourself to just delete a novel once it's read because you have limited storage space on your device?

If you've paid in the region of a fiver for something (repeatedly), having to just 'throw it away' seems wasteful.

In step 'e' libraries. Now, I'm defining these as libraries that have no 'concrete' presence and only deal with eBooks, as opposed to the traditional public buildings that have dealt in paper for centuries (we'll come to those later).

Dedicated online sites now exist wherein you are able to 'loan' an eBook under various conditions. You can try the World Public Library which has a pretty expansive collection of books particularly in the academic and classical areas.

Rather than a 'pay-as-you-go' style service, you pay a yearly membership of only $8.95 (about £5.60) that gives you free access to all of their books and collections.

The only real drawbacks of this service are that their contemporary section is quite limited and the site itself is somewhat clunky.

If the idea of mainly having access to classical and academic works isn't for you, then it may be time to look at 'old-school' bricks and mortar.

'Traditional' Libraries

Libraries throughout the UK and the world are beginning to realise the need to adapt to the growing demand for digital media.

Now whilst you can still travel to the libraries themselves and use their own computers to download eBooks, what has really transformed the potential market is the ability to log-in to the library sites remotely and download eBooks from the comfort of your home, only occasionally with a minimal membership fee.

In fact, from the Brighton and Hove Library site, you are able to borrow/download eBooks for free so long as you have a membership card (which is also free!) for 7, 14 or 21 days.

There are no issues about late fees - the book automatically 'returns' itself. You can even download audiobooks aswell.

Last Word

Unlike some high street stores, public libraries have recognised the importance of keeping up with new media. By offering online eBook lending, it may well keep them relevant and necessary into the future.

As yet 'E' Libraries are not a huge threat to traditional institutions but it surely won't be long until a site begins to offer eBook lending along the lines of a Spotify/Lovefilm business model and when that happens, who knows what libraries will have to look to next.

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