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Why the Public Library Beats Amazon 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the where-do-i-sign-up-for-library-Prime dept.
Nate the greatest writes: The launch of Kindle Unlimited last month has many questioning the value of public libraries, with one pundit on Forbes even going so far as to proclaim that the U.K. could save money by shuttering all its libraries and replacing them with Kindle Unlimited subscriptions. Luckily for libraries, they're safe for now because they still beat Kindle Unlimited and its competitors in at least one category: content you want to read. As several reviewers have noted, Kindle Unlimited is stocked almost entirely with indie titles, with a handful of major titles thrown in. Even Scribd and Oyster only have ebooks from two of the five major U.S. publishers, while U.S. public libraries can offer titles from all five. They might be expensive and you might have to get on a waiting list, but as the Wall Street Journal points out, public libraries are safe because they can still offer a better selection. That is true, but I think the WSJ missed a key point: public libraries beat Amazon because they offer services Amazon cannot, including in-person tech support, internet access, and other basic assistance. The fact of the matter is, you can't use KU, Scribd, or Oyster if you don't know how to use your device, and your local public library is the best place to learn.
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Why the Public Library Beats Amazon

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:01PM (#47666105)

    An actual place.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tepples (727027)
      An actual place requires actual staff during operating hours and requires actual bus drivers to get patrons there and back. Not everybody wants the limits inherent in that arrangement.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Where do you live that you are required to take a bus if you want to go to a library? That must be troublesome indeed - unless it's one of those buses with strippers on it.
        • by Trepidity (597)

          Yeah, I don't know why you'd take the bus when the metro is so much faster.

          • by tepples (727027)
            Taking the metro would obviously require moving to a city with one. The only subway here sells sandwiches.
      • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:35PM (#47666423) Journal
        Whereas Amazon has ample table space, quiet study areas, and you can browse through every part of every book in stock.
        • Whereas Amazon has ample table space, quiet study areas, and you can browse through every part of every book in stock.

          Surprise, Surprise, Surprise.
          I was told that Quebec public libraries do not support the Kindle. They do support other readers, as long as the software is open source and can read the e-books, held by the library system. Kindle is proprietary end hence is a no-no.

      • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:36PM (#47666435)
        But libraries already have floating e-book licenses you can check out for downloadable content (including off hours) in addition to everything else they offer.

        My daughter volunteered at the local library this summer teaching younger kids to read. In theory some semblance of this "could" be done over the Internet, but I just don't see it actually happening, and it wouldn't be the same.

        • Fuck that, I'm staying with Project Gutenburg for my books on my Kindle DX.

          It works perfectly for me, because I'm already behind on my reading list by life + 75 years.

        • by Applehu Akbar (2968043) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @09:35PM (#47667897)

          I've tried my library's e-book download service and I've tried Kindle Unlimited.

          And guess what? Neither of them carry the books I actually want to read. Back to one-at-a-time Kindle purchases for me.

        • But libraries already have floating e-book licenses you can check out for downloadable content (including off hours) in addition to everything else they offer.

          My daughter volunteered at the local library this summer teaching younger kids to read. In theory some semblance of this "could" be done over the Internet, but I just don't see it actually happening, and it wouldn't be the same.

          Just so. In fact, these days it seems like libraries are more about being community centers than a place to borrow books. Where I live now it's not quite as noticeable, but in my previous city there was always a line to get on the computers, but hardly anybody browsing the stacks.

          My library hosts story time for kids, book/movie/anime clubs, beginner PC classes (typing, office software), board game nights, arts and crafts for kids, arts and crafts for adults...all free. During tax time, they have all the

      • by plopez (54068)

        And virtual libraries require servers, networking, storage arrays, other ancillary gear, and an army of staff to maintain them. Virtual libraries also require readers and a network connection. And electricity. You can have a real library even without electricity.

    • by mendax (114116) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:17PM (#47666249)

      The fact that the public library is an actual place is important. Libraries are not just places to get information. They are sometimes positioned to be social centers of communities, places for those without Internet access to get that access, a quiet place to avoid the hustle and bustle of life, a place to meet friends, a place to hold a meeting, a place to do homework and study, and so on and so on. Libraries have long since been simply a place to get the latest novel or some old classic.

      • by ljw1004 (764174) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:31PM (#47666391)

        We take my 10-month old daughter to "Baby Story Time" at nearby libraries. Last week one of the libraries brought in some zoo animals for the kids to pet.

        My iPad and SurfacePro aren't as good at telling stories to baby. There's less social interaction and she gets too fixated on the screen. Also tries to eat it.

      • by timeOday (582209) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:14PM (#47666813)
        Libraries are also a haven from commercialism. Any privatized variation on the library, run by e.g. Amazon, will unavoidably slide into becoming a flea market and / or Cable TV, just as surely as the Internet did. There are deep inherent conflicts between the goals of spreading knowledge vs turning a buck.
      • by countach (534280)

        But those secondary reasons might not be a sufficiently compelling argument for spending public money on it.

      • by AthanasiusKircher (1333179) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @09:53PM (#47667979)

        The fact that the public library is an actual place is important.

        Another facet of having an actual place is that humans orient themselves around physical spaces in ways that just aren't the same electronically.

        One of the most important ones to me is the bookshelf, particularly for non-fiction books (which is mostly what I read aside from classic lit). No matter how good Amazon's "products like this one" or "products other people have purchased" lists get, they still generally don't offer the same kind of discovery sensation of browsing on shelves for me. Amazon is very good at showing me books that other people like me already know about. It is TERRIBLE at showing me more obscure or older related items that people like me don't tend to know about already, but which might be just as good resources (or even better). Even a relatively small public library will often have some intriguing random discoveries for me when I'm browsing in an area devoted to a particular subject. And a large university is often a revelation.

        Physical bookshelves make this sort of browsing possible quickly and efficiently. They also register an amazing sense of "location" that just doesn't happen on the web. I used to visit a small local public library every couple weeks when I was a kid and check out books (mostly from the science section). After a few years, I had exhausted many of the good books in that section, so I didn't go to that library much anymore. But I remember returning there maybe a decade later, and when I went back to those shelves, I saw many of my old favorite books, still in their same locations on the shelves, and I *remembered* where they were... it was actually a somewhat moving experience. Now, of course, I have plenty of my own bookshelves in my home, and I have a similar sense of location -- even though I have thousands of books, I know basically where everything is. Whereas if I forgot to rename a PDF file I downloaded and/or forgot to put it in the right folder on my computer, I could have a lot of difficulty finding it.

        It's also like the physical sense one often has of reading a physical book, which makes it very different from reading an ebook where the text can reflow on demand or when a font is resized or whatever. With a physical book, I can often find something I read again by thumbing through and thinking, "Yeah, it was about 1/3 of the way through the book, and I remember it was in the upper right corner of a page somewhere" and I can usually find it within a minute or two. Obviously a full-text search on an Ebook can often be just as efficient, but sometimes I don't remember enough unique words from the passage or sometimes it was a diagram or something... and I can find that instantly in a physical book.

        Spatial organization is really important to memory. There was a well-known memory technique used in medieval times to memorize long lists of things and even entire books, which often involved imagining a very large building with many floors, and on each floor were many rooms, and in each room were many pieces of furniture with many drawers (or other containers), and within each drawer was some imaginary physical item meant to be a mnemonic for the things to be recalled. By "constructing" this imaginary building in your mind and repeatedly "revisiting" it as you memorized something, it would cement the text in your mind.

        Nowadays this art of memory has been almost forgotten, but in a mostly oral culture where books were rare and manuscripts often could only be consulted in one place but copying was too expensive to take a copy with you, it was necessary for scholars to memorize large amounts of texts when doing research. There was a whole "craft of memory," and it mostly revolved around spatial metaphors.

        Our modern physical libraries and books are similarly navigable when they exist in real space in ways that electronic materials often aren't. That doesn't mean that we can't make the electronic materials better and often superior in some ways, but we lose something when the physical orientation around books goes away.

        • My library's online catalog is scheduled to have a "browse" function--you will be able to see a row of covers in shelf order that you can swipe/scroll along for that kind of discovery. Unfortunately, it won't duplicate the rows above and below, as I would have liked for that shelf-jumping serendipity of discovery, but it will allow a combined browse of all 10 libraries in our user group as if all our books were shelved together.

          Of course, Sirsi-Dynix (the company providing the system) has been promising us

          • by Sarius64 (880298)
            Nothing replaces the giant reference books you find at public and university libraries. These books are thousands of dollars each and unlikely to ever be scanned in a searchable format. I'm not indicating that libraries cannot be improved or pulled into the new technologies. However, throwing away the functions and knowledgebase in current libraries is a terrible agenda.
            • by nbauman (624611)

              Right. I used to use Science Citation Index, which can answer questions like, "What are the most heavily-cited articles in Cell?"

              The New York Public Library used to get the paper edition. Now it's digital-only. The subscription model, based on university libraries, is to charge libraries based on the number of patrons. So there might be 10,000 users at Columbia University. But if the New York Public Library wanted to subscribe, they would charge them based on the entire population of New York City. It woul

              • by Sarius64 (880298)
                I agree with you. But digitizing the older books of this sort doesn't appear to be a reality, either.
                • by nbauman (624611)

                  I'm not sure what reference books you're thinking of. Google Books was scanning the entire collections of entire university libraries.

                  However, I was trying to find the song that was the source of the line, "A pint's a pound the world around, so damn all foreign measures," which was originally a British anti-metric tirade. I was pretty sure that I had seen it in a letter in Science magazine. Science is online in full text, and I subscribed, so I searched for it. I couldn't find it.

                  I went to the New York Publ

                  • by Sarius64 (880298)
                    Have you seen any illuminated books? There were many from different sources at all five college libraries I've attended four public). In many theatrical, geography, and historical references the books recording the facts are works of art in of their own merit. I've been to libraries in DC, NYC, and man other large cities where exploring the old reference sections can yield many treasures. Those libraries have inspired many people in all aspects of research. I'll look up the Google scanning you've indica
        • by nbauman (624611)

          You're exactly right. I've had the same experience.

          One of the best libraries in New York City was the Donnell library on 53rd St. and 5th Ave. It was originally designed as a collection for elementary and high school students, but it was the best place for an adult to learn about a new subject. It was staffed by some of the best librarians in the world. A good librarian knows the field, knows how to order good books, knows where everything is in the collection, and knows how to help people.

          They had 2 booksh

          • by wwphx (225607)
            I'm taking classes in library science right now, and this is a big problem. I remember using a reference online in class that listed all book stores in the world. It's revised every couple of years, I thought it would be pretty cool (dunno why) to own a copy. The new book is over $500 for a physical copy, you can buy the previous edition on Amazon, ex-libris, for $5 or so.

            I don't have a problem, per se, with companies wanting to make a profit. But there's a difference between making a profit and goug
        • by wwphx (225607)
          I had an amazingly weird college book store experience while taking a New Mexico State University class on a military base. I went to the store, on-base, to buy the book for the class. It was a window where you told the worker what class you were taking and they went and got your book. I thought it was maybe because they offered a small number of courses on-base, so they didn't have the room for a big bookstore. Then I take a class in Las Cruces at a large facility: same thing. Zero opportunity to brow
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That is for the general public and they have damn near everything or can get it. Music, movies, books, magazines, internet access and more. Anyone saying public libraries should go away is against society in general, IMO. Not everyone can afford the niceties from Amazon, let alone even having internet access at home (if they have one) to access Amazon and order their junk.

      Amazon will never replace libraries and if libraries every do go away, our society will be much worse off because of it. Libraries ar

    • Good point. Where on Amazon can I get fleas from a homeless guy?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Another thing libraries offer is protection from censorship. Each book exists physically in a library and most will resist government goons until forced to remove/replace a book by the courts, usually attracting media attention in the process. Amazon is a single point of attack and has already shown they will quietly "update" everyone to a censored version of a book, and no one will ever know unless they re-read a book they read in their youth (like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer).

      • by wwphx (225607)
        Remember the kid who was taking AP English and writing a paper on 1984? Amazon yanked the book because they screwed up their licensing, and the kid lost all his notes that were on his Kindle.

        And considering the strong-arming that Amazon is attempting to do with Hachette and did with Time-Warner Video, they definitely ain't no saints.
  • And now... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Reason58 (775044) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:09PM (#47666175)
    Let me tell you why the apple beats the orange.
    • The wall street journal thought it was important enough to write an article about, so go yell at them.

      And some dude named Nate Hoffelder thought it was important enough to write some web page about so yell at him.

      Then Nate shoveled it into the Slashdot Word Salad Shooter (tm), and Soulskill shat out this garbage. Go yell at it.

      Even worse, Reason58 felt the need to post a statement which boiled down to "I don't want to have to think about difficult things like how different sub-populations utilise different

  • The author has missed the point in the forbes article where the author was looking at the UK.

    we in the UK already operate our libraries in that fashion. We have something called Public Lending Right

    With some small changes they could force the publishers onto UK Kindle unlimited under this model. This would put all the books you want to read on the platform. Of course none of these changes likely have political support to actually happen. No pol is going propose shutting down libraries and sending the money to a foriegn company.

    • by Frankie70 (803801)

      I went through the wikipedia article of Public Lending Right - I can't make head nor tail of it.

      A Public Lending Right (PLR) programme, is a programme intended to either compensate authors for the potential loss of sales from their works being available in public libraries, or as a governmental support of the arts, through support of works available in public libraries, such as books, music and artwork.

      They are already being compensated right - i.e. the library buys the books. Isn't that compensation alread

  • by weeboo0104 (644849) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:11PM (#47666199) Journal

    Not everybody can afford a Kindle.

    My library card didn't cost me a thing to request and I can check out as many books as I can read for free as long as they are returned on time. Heck, I can even check out CD's, DVDs and puzzles for my kid.

    Public libraries are great sources for local history, in-person social networking, and meetings on how to become more involved in the local community and volunteering.

  • The fact of the matter is, you can't use KU, Scribd, or Oyster if you don't know how to use your device, and your local public library is the best place to learn.

    Roped into doing Amazon's job for them, because they want to encourage people to read, even if it's not through a hard-bound book they check out.

  • My local library (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:12PM (#47666211)

    My local library doesn't just have books.

    It has:

    Books (well yeah)
    Magazines
    Newspapers
    Audio Books
    DVDs
    Meeting Rooms
    Events
    Internet Access
    Printers
    Photocopiers

    In general it is trying to position itself as a local community resource

    Somehow I can't see all of that being replaced by a Kindle, and thats without even going into what limited selection of titles the Kindle will have.

    • Mod parent up.

      Plus the ability to borrow books and loan them to family members.

    • Amazon covers quite a bit of that. Books - Yes
      Magazines - Yes
      Newspapers - Yes/No (maybe not your local paper)
      Audio Books - Yes Amazon owns Audible.com
      DVDs - Yes Amazon does Movie/TV Streams
      Meeting Rooms - No
      Events - No
      Internet Access - No
      Printers - Go paperless already
      Photocopiers - Stop waisting paper

      Somethings you missed
      Research Help
      Free Day Care (people leave their kids unattended at libraries)
      Curated Childrens Section
      Table and chairs for studying.
      • by praxis (19962)

        Amazon covers quite a bit of that.
        Books - Yes

        Very few books are available under Kindle Unlimited. Those that are not are very expensive.

        Magazines - Yes

        I do not think any magazine are available under Kindle Unlimited.

        Newspapers - Yes/No (maybe not your local paper)

        I could not find any newspapers available under Kindle Unlimited

        Audio Books - Yes Amazon owns Audible.com

        Again, nothing I could find under Kindle Unlimited

        DVDs - Yes Amazon does Movie/TV Streams

        Again, nothing I could find under Kindle Unlimited

        Meeting Rooms - No
        Events - No
        Internet Access - No
        Printers - Go paperless already
        Photocopiers - Stop waisting paper

        Not all photocopies are a waste of paper.

        Somethings you missed
        Research Help
        Free Day Care (people leave their kids unattended at libraries)
        Curated Childrens Section
        Table and chairs for studying.

        Or did you mean to compare items you can *purchase* on Amazon and its affiliates with items you can loan from the local library. That would be a silly

        • by mythosaz (572040)

          More importantly, any good library has back issues of those periodicals, and your main public library has them going back for decades...

    • Re:My local library (Score:4, Informative)

      by Trepidity (597) <.delirium-slashdot. .at. .hackish.org.> on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @06:13PM (#47666797)

      You can get academic journal articles in many libraries, which can help independent researchers, autodidacts, or even just particularly interested people. Obviously a local branch serving primarily non-researchers won't have a huge selection of journals on the shelves, but many do have access to academic library material via partnerships, if you want those materials. For individual articles, sometimes they'll even just get you a PDF scan (if local policy/law permits).

      Depends on the library systems of course, but I've used two systems that are like that. The Danish public libraries have access to the entire national university system's holdings via loans and scans, and it works very nicely. Now you might think that's something that only happens in Socialist Scandinavia, but another place that does that is, oddly enough, Texas: through the TexShare [wikipedia.org] program, anyone holding a public library card can visit most academic libraries in-person, or access electronic databases remotely.

    • My local library has all of that plus, through an agreement with Amazon, it has Kindle versions of books that you can borrow. The books download onto your Kindle (or phone/tablet/computer with the Kindle app) and can be read until the load period expires at which time they are deleted. (In fact, since I'm a New York State resident, I can take eBooks out of my local library and from the New York Public Library. The latter has a bigger selection but can sometimes have a longer wait.)

      The original article as

      • More likely, your library provides e-books through Overdrive or a similar service, but because you have a Kindle or are downloading a Kindle-format book, Amazon requires your library checkouts to go through the Amazon site before you can download, so they can serve you a few ads and offer you the "opportunity" to purchase the book instead of checking it out. Other brands of e-readers may do something similar, or may allow you to check out through the Overdrive site and read if you have the appropriate DRM s
    • by modi123 (750470)

      You forgot one of the more important archival facets - microfiche! Where's your microfiche back log there Amazon?
      Oh, yeah, you don't!

      Viva la Microfiche!

  • Yeah, the number and variety of titles is lacking with Amazon KU. But this is typical Amazon (and business 101 actually). You start small and grow over time. Amazon negotiated the deals it could bring KU to market and no doubt plans to grow their titles/publishers over time. Remember when Amazon used to _only_ sell books? Or what about few titles were available Amazon Instant Video a year ago vs now? Sure, it won't happen over night (not so much Amazon's fault, they'd love to include more publishers/t

  • My perception is that libraries carry books because they are books, and not for trendy or financial reasons. If I can't find an obscure title online, (admittedly, this happens less and less often) I can often find it at the library.

    • Libraries do carry books for "financial reasons", in the sense that library space is a cost and libraries don't have unlimited money. They do try to get the most bang out of their buck to server their "customers". Libraries routinely cull their collections. Most libraries have book sales where they get rid of their excess inventory, making room for new books.

      That being said, most libraries tend to take a long and deep view. What was trendy yesterday and obscure today is the stuff of historical research tomo

  • by dane23 (135106) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:21PM (#47666285) Homepage
    You can have my librarians when you pry them from my cold dead grasp.
  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:21PM (#47666287)

    Libraries were created for the common good. That is why they are free to the public (and paid for through taxes). Instead of replacing the library with a corporation like Amazon.com, maybe what is needed, for the common good, is a public library version of something like Amazon. Already many local libraries allow one to check out e-books.

    E-readers and public libraries aren't mutually exclusive. Maybe sometime in the 21st century, there won't be as many physical libraries, but the public library will still exist through through the checking out of free e-books. There is no reason why libraries and book stores could coexist and not e-libraries and Amazon.

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      E-readers and public libraries aren't mutually exclusive.

      That's the reason why this current comparison is silly. Let's instead compare the similar functions and similar sources. That would be ebooks and all retailers, not just Amazon.

      The one misleading statement the summary contains is that "libraries can have a greater selection". Technically, true. They CAN. But do they?

      I've found that my public library's selection of ebooks is VERY much smaller than I can find in online retailers. I can find lots of fluff reading at the library, which is stuff that the comm

      • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

        Public/uni libraries, even prior to ebooks had less selection that what was commercially available. Whether paper or ebook, they still have to purchase the book with limited funds, so they are more likely to purchase something on the best seller list than something of a technical nature. It's just basic supply and demand and the format of the book doesn't change that.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Public/uni libraries, even prior to ebooks had less selection that what was commercially available.

          They do, however, have more older things available, so the proper word for the paper stuff would be "different", not specifically "less".

  • by fivepan (572611) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:33PM (#47666405)
    I realize my tech nerd status may be jeopardized with this statement, but I have zero interest in e-books and magazines. I've tried them...I really, really have. The reader I bought specifically for this purpose now sits somewhere in my kid's room after I gave it to him. Other than for a quick look at recent news or sports scores, I don't read on my phone or tablet. I want the paper versions I can hold in my hand or pluck from the shelf and skim through. As others have mentioned here, public libraries are so much more than just a repository for books but even the books alone is enough for me to never want to give up my library card.
  • Amazon (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tailhook (98486) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:34PM (#47666421)

    I've been purchasing used books on history, politics and science from Amazon for almost the cost of shipping, which is close to or less than the cost of the fuel it would have taken for the two round trips to the library, and it takes a lot less of my time. Funny thing is, about half of these have library card sleeves. These books sat unread in libraries (you know, the places that supposedly have "content you want to read") for decades almost untouched (based on the condition I find them and the empty cards I find in said sleeves) until the libraries sell them off to make room for more new books almost no one will read. Here are a few from 2013;

    (shipping included with these prices.)
    Nuclear disaster in the Urals, Zhores A Medvedev, $6.98
    The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin's Russia, hardcover, Tim Tzouliadis, $6.78
    Red Atom: Russia's Nuclear Power Program from Stalin to Today, Paul Josephson, $4.94
    The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress, Virginia Postrel, $4.00
    Behind the Facade of Stalin's Command Economy: Evidence from the Soviet State and Party Archives, Paul R. Gregory, $5.36
    The Legacy of Chernobyl, Zhores A Medvedev, $4.49. (got 2x for some reason; gave one to a co-worker.)

    I could go on all day as I've been reading this sort of stuff from Amazon for going on ten years now. Most of these are hard covers in excellent condition.

    The truth is libraries are dead to me as a source of reading material. I can't afford the time or fuel it takes to frequent them, and they simply can't host the selection I demand, which is why they purge themselves of their stock using Amazon. Right or wrong that's how it is.

    • by turp182 (1020263)

      I hope you have a wife and two kids (minimum on both fronts), because that reading list is NUCLEAR. For the most part.

    • Oddly enough, as a small rural librarian, (small library, that is--I am over 6' and overweight :) ), I also purchase obscure ex-library books on Amazon or half.com, for myself, for patrons who can't-or-won't-use-the-internet, and for my library's collection. I can't say I've had any interest in your reading list locally (though it sounds fascinating), but we've purchased reprints of obscure pre-colonial religious texts, archaeological texts on the Vikings, the Kievan Rus, and prehistoric Britain, German-la

    • by _Ludwig (86077)

      Just because they have the old sleeves and cards doesn’t mean they were still being used. You don’t know how often they were checked out via barcode after the old handstamp system was retired.

      (Paul Josephson was one of my professors! For a seminar class on Appropriate Technology. Good teacher.)

  • the fact that a public library is better than a private corporation is pretty much a fact of life.

  • KDP Select (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ysth (1368415) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @05:35PM (#47666433)

    There are so many indie books because, AIUI, you cannot choose to have a book included in Kindle Unlimited unless you are providing it to Amazon under the KDP Select program. This program gets you higher percentages and free marketing and promotional tools. The tradeoff is that whatever books you have in the program be available exclusively from Amazon. This is a tradeoff that is going to make sense for many authors, but is just horrible for readers. And in the long run, the lock-in this inspires is bad for the authors too.

    See Chris Wright's rant [eviscerati.org].

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      Actually, it's because Amazon pay maybe $2 every time an ebook is borrowed, which is fine by most indie authors selling their ebooks for $4.99 or less, but not by trade publishers trying to sell their ebooks at $14.99.

      • by ysth (1368415)

        So, you think the trade publishers would be fine with exclusivity and their only beef is the money? I think differently.

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          You do realize that trade publishers (at least the Big Five) don't use KDP, and all have their own contracts with Amazon, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can see two advantages to my local library: 1) They have a collection of valuable books, some of them out of print for decades, and 2) if their collection does not include the book, they have the connections to get it for me. I have been able to get hold of a rare book, long since out of print, just by telling the librarian that I really wanted to see it. In the end it came from the far side of the world, Australia (as seen from Denmark)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The point, for the WSJ, is just different from what you think it is. Which is to say, any time you can replace a public service with a private one, that is a good thing from the WSJ's point of view. Getting rid of all the public things--libraries, schools, parks, art, streets, radio, etc.--brings us closer to the ideal of total control by the oligarchy. Open spaces are replaced by controlled spaces, spaces ruled by corporate will.

    Not only does Amazon not have what libraries have, but they never will--many l

  • Why not have both?

  • There's actually been a bit of discussion among the library community -- most libraries who offer ebooks get them via Overdrive [overdrive.com], which has some major ties (is owned by?) Amazon.

    But most libraries have privacy policies, but there's now a third party that can track their citizen's reading habits. There's also complaints about how Amazon sends e-mails to people who have 'checked out' ebooks that tells them to buy the book when it's about to 'expire'.

    See, for example, the comments from Librarian Black [librarianinblack.net]. (it's

  • "Kindle Unlimited is stocked almost entirely with indie titles, with a handful of major titles thrown in."

    My, my, your arrogance is showing. The big publishing houses have no monopoly on good literature. "Indie Titles" represent a tremendous amount of really great reading. Broaden your mind.

    Besides, the public library is way the heck in town. That's a long drive for many of us in rural areas and those public libraries that are that mere long drive are not very big.

    Fortunately, the web, iBooks, Kindle and pu

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It will never be practical to corrupt or destroy all the copies of any widely-printed title. But once people rely overwhelmingly on electronic libraries, it will not be long before such an event is discovered - that some political or religious group or foreign government had released a worm that alters specific works, and no one had noticed it for months or years. With e-books, something like the Ministry of Truth becomes very practical, erasing and rewriting the past to suit the agenda of the present.

  • by Sir Holo (531007) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @08:37PM (#47667661)
    Best Buy was frequently called the "Showroom for Amazon."

    What goes around comes around. Eaxmple:

    Amazon is my "Showroom for the local library." (Also for books, before go buy them elsewhere – used – many ex-library copies.)
  • by the_arrow (171557) on Thursday August 14, 2014 @03:01AM (#47668963) Homepage

    One thing that libraries are very good for, is to just walk around aimlessly along the shelves and see what's there. You still can't do that online.

    For example, I was at a library just the other day, and didn't really know what book I wanted, so I just wandered around, picking up a book here, a book there, putting back a book when I found something more interesting. Left the library with The Complete Conan Saga, and Gaimans The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

    • by nbauman (624611)

      One thing that libraries are very good for, is to just walk around aimlessly along the shelves and see what's there. You still can't do that online.

      For example, I was at a library just the other day, and didn't really know what book I wanted, so I just wandered around, picking up a book here, a book there, putting back a book when I found something more interesting. Left the library with The Complete Conan Saga, and Gaimans The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

      Good point. Librarians know that. They know their patrons, and put together an interesting collection for them. So I used to go to the science and math section, the 500s and 600s, and find a good small collection of science and math books. I could pull out a book like The World of Mathematics. When I go to a big open-shelf university collection, the 500s might go on for ten shelves, but most of them will be specialized books, like, a 1995 conference proceedings.

      Small libraries can be better than big librari

  • At least in UK orwell book will not be removed from public library anytime soon. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07... [nytimes.com]
  • I'd live to give my kids a copy of "That's not my ___" (http://www.usborne.com/catalogue/subject/1~b~bbtnm/thats-not-my.aspx) with it's touch and feel areas on Kindle. I'm sure they'd find a way to get some touch and feel sensation out of it, by maybe chewing the corners, dribbling on it it generally trying to use it in ways the manufacturer doesn't advise.

    Closing libraries in preference to kindle (or any other e-book reader) is quite probably the stupidest idea I've heard on the subject. It's great for the

  • Sniping Commentary (Score:4, Informative)

    by Frightened_Turtle (592418) on Thursday August 14, 2014 @09:47AM (#47670151)

    "Luckily for libraries, they're safe for now because they still beat Kindle Unlimited and its competitors in at least one category: content you want to read.

    There is so much wrong with that backhanded insult that there is no "content you want to read" among self-published books.

    Currently, the top bestsellers lists contain more self-published authors than authors represented by publishing houses. Self-publishing authors are outselling traditionally published authors and are . [authorearnings.com]

    The OP's comment comes from the misnomer that self-publishing is the last bastion of a writer whose writing was so bad, he couldn't get it accepted. The reality is the cartel of the Big-5 [about.com] publishing companies have been artificially keeping the number of authors on the market artificially small so they could better control the markets in terms of product availability and price controls.

    The advent of digital publishing has given authors a way to get around the market controls of big-industry publishing. Even traditionally published authors such as Barry Eisler [barryeisler.com] and H.M. Ward [sexyawesomebooks.com] have walked away from the publishing houses and turned to self-publishing. The work coming out of self-published authors is incredible. Hugh Howey [hughhowey.com]'s dystopian science fiction Wool would probably have never seen the light of day if not for self-publishing and his books have sold millions of copies. There are other yet-to-be discovered authors such as William D. Richards Aggadeh Chronicles Book 1: Nobody [williamdrichards.com] or Michael Patrick Hicks Convergence [michaelpatrickhicks.com] who are turning out real page turners with gripping stories and excellent writing.

    Yeah, there is some crap out there [amazon.com] (published as a joke; read the description; the author, Phronk, is a satirist and pretty damned funny). If you are unsure about a book by a self-published author, just download the free sample of their work and see how it reads before you buy. Many authors with a series of books offer the first book free—if you don't like it, you aren't out any money. If you do, then you've got a whole series to buy.

    Many independent writers take their craft very seriously. They employ a team of editors, proof readers, and a cover artist or two to ensure that the reader is going to get the best reading experience possible. If they weren't putting so much work into assuring the quality of their work was there, the self-publishing movement would have collapsed years ago. Instead, because of the commitment to quality by the authors, the self-publishing movement has been growing in strength, variety, and quality. Self-published authors gain no support from advance payments, no corporate backing, and no financial assistance. They are not subsidized by monies from other authors (as is a practice in traditional publishing). Instead, they make 100% of their incomes from direct sales to readers. If they weren't doing the proper Q.A. on their books, their livelihoods would be unsustainable.

    So, don't go listening to big-publishing shills trying to shoot down the first real competition they've ever faced. There is plenty of excellent reading to be found among self-publising writers, contrary to what the O.P. alludes. And as far as public libraries are concerned, independent writers are huge supporters of libraries, unlike big-industry publishers who try to milk money from municipalities by over-charging libraries for books and ebooks.

    • I don't think GP was saying that there was nothing good on KU. I think GP was saying the library was better at it.

      There's stuff I like to read that was published by the big publishing companies, and so I doubt it's on KU. I can get it at the library (although there may be a wait).

      If something's not on KU, I'm SOL. If something is not in the library, but was published in paper, I can almost certainly get it through interlibrary loan.

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