Who Kindled My Library?

Amy Gahran recently wrote a piece for CNN entitled “Why Amazon Would Be Smart to Give Away the Kindle.  Her logic makes perfect sense. Similar forms of this business model have already been proven.

The wireless industry has been giving away free equipment with subscriber commitments for years now. For those who remember “book of the month” clubs or those unrelenting CD clubs that so amply stocked our bookshelves with 12-for-the-price-of-1 CD’s, this is no different: customer loyalty and commitment rewarded with favorable pricing and/or free equipment.

Gahran’s piece got me thinking about another opportunity for the Kindle: “What if this magical little device was to replace what we now know as the public library?”

Albeit a radical thought, if one were to compare the cost of operating a public library vs. that of creating a KIOSK that dispensed an electronic reading device to customers – who in turn would download the book(s) they were “checking out” via a public library website – the cost-savings could be dramatic.  Facility leases, mortgages, library personnel, grounds and facility maintenance expenses, electricity and other utility costs, plus the proceeds from selling a building and land which was government-owned, would far offset the cost of purchasing a KIOSK, maintaining it and buying an arsenal of Kindles. Library customers would not be charged for the Kindle, but would post a refundable deposit. The Kindle would contain no data until the customer logged onto their personal account with the public library system, at which time the book would be downloaded into the device. If the patron already owns a reader, there would be no need to check out the Kindle in addition to the book.

Granted, much would need to be worked out. For example, what of patrons who have no credit card? Collection efforts and costs associated with unreturned units? What of the technology to have an issued book “expire” after some period of time? A shelf-life, so to speak (pun intended).

Envision a day when the world’s entire body of written material is digitized and available to us all. Instead of your average small town library having a limited number of books on-hand for viewing, the town can now provide any book to a patron. No more ordering it from another library or waiting for the previous customer to return it.

Back in the 80’s when The Buggles released their hit song “Video Killed The Radio Star”, few saw the dramatic implications televised video was going to have on radio. Yet, the MTV generation was born and the music industry was forever changed. Whether that is good or bad is another discussion…

While not as revolutionary as Gutenberg’s invention, the implications could be astonishing…

Dave WilsonOnPR, Seattle

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