Amazon and the Future of Public Libraries

Amazon and the Future of Public Libraries

September 22, 2011


The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Amazon is hoping to create a Netflix like service for eBooks. Members would pay a flat fee and could read “borrowed” eBooks on their Kindles. I was originally going to discuss this news in my post about book piracy, but I figured that post was long enough as it was.

I’ve read some thoughts on this topic and it seems that folks on blogs ranging from the Guardian to the Annoyed Librarian think that public libraries are effectively doomed. It may be possible to borrow eBooks from the library for free, but also possible that the book you want might not be available. The thing is, though, if you want eBooks, there’s a good chance you own an eReader or at least a computer. If you can afford an eReader, you can probably afford a service like this one.

Public libraries in the United States (and quite possibly elsewhere) have been having financial problems for a while now. Public libraries may well be doomed, for a bunch of reasons.

What concerns me, though, is how low income people who can’t afford things like eReaders or computers, let along a service like the one Amazon is currently working on are going to be affected if and when we see and end of public libraries. I think that education (along with things like health care) is a basic human right and that libraries fall into the category of tools that can be used to further one’s education.

Yes, I realize that Amazon is a business and they want to make money. I also realize that the economy sucks right now and I’m sure there are a lot of people who are relying on services provided to them by the library.

So I’ll throw some questions out there to the folks reading this:

  1. If/when Amazon’s book rental service comes to fruition, do you think it will affect public libraries? How so?
  2. Do you use the library? Will Amazon’s service have an effect on whether or not you go to the library?

Further Reading
Amazon as a ‘Netflix for Books’? How Reading Changes

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