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Why the Public Library Beats Amazon

Soulskill posted about 2 months ago | from the where-do-i-sign-up-for-library-Prime dept.

Books 165

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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Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666105)

An actual place.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about 2 months ago | (#47666191)

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:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666419)

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.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 months ago | (#47666725)

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

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 months ago | (#47666423)

Whereas Amazon has ample table space, quiet study areas, and you can browse through every part of every book in stock.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 2 months ago | (#47667559)

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.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (3, Interesting)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666457)

not every one is ok living perpetually in their mom's basement.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (2)

plopez (54068) | about 2 months ago | (#47666741)

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.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (5, Insightful)

mendax (114116) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (4, Interesting)

ljw1004 (764174) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666469)

And you need a multi-million dollar library for that? Seems rather inefficient.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (2)

0bject (758316) | about 2 months ago | (#47666635)

I'm sure most parents would be totally OK with the much more efficient "Toothless Joe's Baby Story Time" hosted at his white panel van in the alley behind the gas station. Kids could pet exotic animals like wild rats and racoons. It would be a hoot.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666875)

I'm sure most parents would be totally OK with the much more efficient "Toothless Joe's Baby Story Time" hosted at his white panel van in the alley behind the gas station. Kids could pet exotic animals like wild rats and racoons. It would be a hoot.

For a moment I thought about Billy the Exterminator [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_the_Exterminator ]. LOL

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (1)

countach (534280) | about 2 months ago | (#47667795)

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

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (4, Interesting)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (1)

darnkitten (1533263) | about 2 months ago | (#47668219)

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 this new version for, what, three years now? .

"Sometime this year, my arse...".

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (1)

Jason Goatcher (3498937) | about 2 months ago | (#47668795)

Some Kindles give Internet acess for free. The experience sounds ultra-shitty to me, but it is offered. And it's a cellular connection, so you could technically be homeless and use it, though recharging might be a problem.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666341)

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 are a necessary part of our educated society, but if we're headed for Idiocracy, then it won't really matter. There is no other place that someone can get access for free to all of the resources that libraries offer. The only way this will happen is if Amazon becomes a publicly funded "company" via "global tax dollars" and opens physical locations themselves and offer "memberships" for free, to ALL.

Re: Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47667271)

++
Anyone who think libraries should just go away can piss the hell off. A well run Library is a huge boon for a community both from a social and learning standpoint. God forbid when we finally go ebook only and people stop visiting Libraries. That would be sad indeed.

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 2 months ago | (#47667905)

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

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47667965)

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).

Re:Libraries are one thing Amazon is not (0)

ayesnymous (3665205) | about 2 months ago | (#47668839)

An actual place.

An actual place that you might NEVER use, but still have to pay for.

Didn't Amazon already "fix" the support issue? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666137)

They built on-demand live personal support into the device. If you have a problem, you push a button, and someone is there. Sure, you have to know how to push a button, but you also have to know how to open a book.

Re:Didn't Amazon already "fix" the support issue? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 months ago | (#47666181)

Ob. youtube [youtube.com] .

And now... (2, Insightful)

Reason58 (775044) | about 2 months ago | (#47666175)

Let me tell you why the apple beats the orange.

Re:And now... (1)

Bite The Pillow (3087109) | about 2 months ago | (#47667699)

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 resources and what kind of impact, or lack thereof, that might have on business and economy." So go yell at yourself.

I'm just stating the obvious, and I won't be back round in the morrow to see you fail to defend yourself, so again feel free to yell at yourself.

Public Lending Right (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 2 months ago | (#47666187)

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.

Re:Public Lending Right (1)

Frankie70 (803801) | about 2 months ago | (#47668439)

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 already?

Support (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 months ago | (#47666193)

> Including in-person tech support.

"I'm sorry, sir. I cannot unstick the pages because you let the barf dry."

The #1 reason public libraries are better (5, Informative)

weeboo0104 (644849) | about 2 months ago | (#47666199)

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.

Re:The #1 reason public libraries are better (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666289)

Maybe they could afford one if the government didn't take their money and spend on things like, you know, public libraries and bombing people.

Re:The #1 reason public libraries are better (0, Troll)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 2 months ago | (#47666373)

Not exactly true and kind of misses the point.

You say not everybody can afford Kindles? The point was to close down all of the libraries, and used the money saved to buy everybody a Kindle or some other type of e-book. If e-books and libraries were equivalent than society would win. E-books and libraries are not equivalent yet, at least the book lending portion. However, my local library does allow me to check out e-books and audiobooks via the internet so we are getting close.

Taxes could be cut, libraries could be redeployed to something more useful - like coffee shops that could be used for networking. I say the last bit half in jest. If you are interested in networking, community meetings, etc. then we should figure out the best way to delivery that. Maybe generic community centers could do better? Other people have mentioned internet access and tech support. Maybe free city wide wifi would be a better choice?

I love libraries, but let's not try to justify their existence with a bunch of ad hoc ad ons in ex post facto rationalization of logic.

Re:The #1 reason public libraries are better (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666427)

and used the money saved to buy everybody a Kindle or some other type of e-book.

and then the media empires will have won with drm infested books and media, and the shredding of fair use principles (whats left of them anyway). no thank you

Re:The #1 reason public libraries are better (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 2 months ago | (#47666739)

Then I would suggest, and I do in fact encourage, reform of the copyright laws.

Clinging to yesterday's 19th century inefficient technology with some ill-defined nostalgia for the past is probably not the best way to ensure liberty in the 20th century. As a case in point, my library immediately deletes all borrowing history the moment a book is returned or the e-book lending period expires. Not exactly on point to what you are saying, but pointing out the type of things we should be doing. That being said, even if all libraries go DRM, there is nothing stopping you from walking into a bookstore and buying a hardback with a $20 bill.

It's the twenty-first century (2)

jabberw0k (62554) | about 2 months ago | (#47666807)

You and Joe Biden [weeklystandard.com] ought to check your calendars; it's been the 21st century for well over a decade now.

Also, real libraries have old and out-of-print books, rare books, maps, art collections, local publications and artifacts, and plenty of things that are highly unlikely ever to be digitized, or which history -- and historians! -- demand be kept for the public good. In this information age, we need librarians more than ever. Get rid of libraries and you scrap civilization itself.

Re:It's the twenty-first century (2)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 2 months ago | (#47666941)

You got me on the date thing – I am showing my age.

On to your point, I would agree that we need librarians and archivist. However you are off point. The topic at hand is about lending libraries and the most efficient way to lend out books, music, movies, etc. Almost everything you point out is in the domain of research, archive, and other special collection libraries. These libraries tend not to lend stuff out. Does it matter if a library or a historical society holds these archives? I can't think of one.

Re:The #1 reason public libraries are better (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666503)

Not everybody can afford a Kindle. My library card didn't cost me a thing to request

Ah, brilliant logic. It didn't cost YOU anything, therefore it is free. Hate to break this to you, but libraries are expensive. Now, I support libraries, but they are not these free resources that just sprout out of the ground. They cost a lot and the money comes from somewhere.

Re:The #1 reason public libraries are better (3, Interesting)

weeboo0104 (644849) | about 2 months ago | (#47668199)

Not everybody can afford a Kindle. My library card didn't cost me a thing to request

Ah, brilliant logic. It didn't cost YOU anything, therefore it is free. Hate to break this to you, but libraries are expensive. Now, I support libraries, but they are not these free resources that just sprout out of the ground. They cost a lot and the money comes from somewhere.

Yeah, the funny thing is my property tax statement itemizes how the taxes I pay each year are divided up.
This past year, my tax statement says that $174.20 of my taxes went toward the library. I saw a 6" Kindle on Amazon for $69. Wi-fi only. So even if I purchased or say my property taxes paid for that Kindle, I'd still have to buy Wi-Fi to use it. That's just so I can use it personally. There's no ability to share that Kindle with anybody. And there is nowhere to physically meet the other people in the community.

Now if you think paying $174.20 is expensive for a library, I paid $2,143 to the local school district. I don't have any kids in school, but I still have to pay for the schools. If you wanted to save money so badly, maybe we should stop paying for public schools and use the money to pay for Kindles instead so kids can learn from those.

Poor librarians! (1)

SeaFox (739806) | about 2 months ago | (#47666201)

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.

A place of knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666203)

Public libraries around here are starting to expand their offering by adding maker spaces and hosting information sessions on the equipment contained within... I believe this to be a great way for the libraries to remain relevent in the information age.

My local library (5, Insightful)

OzPeter (195038) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:My local library (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 2 months ago | (#47666305)

Mod parent up.

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

Re:My local library (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 2 months ago | (#47666347)

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.

Re:My local library (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666583)

Public libraries are paid for by local taxes. A lot of Amazon's stuff is for the kids with sufficiently rich parents.

Re:My local library (2)

praxis (19962) | about 2 months ago | (#47666989)

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 comparison.

Re:My local library (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 2 months ago | (#47667145)

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 (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:My local library (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 2 months ago | (#47667809)

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 asked if Kindle Unlimited made libraries obsolete. Even if the physical books, DVDs, meeting spaces, Internet access, etc didn't push libraries above Kindle Unlimited, borrowing Kindle books from the library/Amazon would. By no stretch of the imagination does Kindle Unlimited mean we can shutter all libraries.

Re:My local library (1)

darnkitten (1533263) | about 2 months ago | (#47668351)

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 software installed. The publishers don't trust libraries enough to allow us to check e-books out to you directly or without DRM.

Death rattle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666215)

So, what's saving the library is the fundamentally unnecessary limitation of digital copies?

GOODBYE, LIBRARIES.

They should become specialists in archival services.

Re:Death rattle (3, Informative)

plopez (54068) | about 2 months ago | (#47666803)

"They should become specialists in archival services."

They are. And good luck reading your book in 10 or so years when your favorite electronic publishing house shutdown, gets bought out, or just stops offering the format your electronic book is written in.

Complaining about lack of titles misses the point (1)

adturner (6453) | about 2 months ago | (#47666219)

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/titles), but it will improve over time.

title (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666227)

misleading.

selection (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 2 months ago | (#47666235)

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.

Re:selection (1)

ilparatzo (3627897) | about 2 months ago | (#47666417)

That's funny, because recently I've found the opposite to be true. I find an obscure history title or psychological study I want to read on Amazon and then search all the local libraries (City and County) and come up empty. In fact, at least in my area, it seems like the large libraries primarily carry popular titles or oft-read items like magazines, romance novels, recent biographies, etc. In fact, the closer that your book seems to get to being considered a "textbook" the less likely you are to find it in the library.

I always thought of the library as this great storehouse of knowledge and insight. In reality, it seems to be more of a provider of services. As evidence, the county library in my neighborhood is going through a remodel and they've relocated to a small spot in a strip mall close by. There are two shelves of books, with the same amount of space being reserved to magazines. At least 1/2 of the entire space is consumed by public computers. And while every computer is taken, there is typically just one person looking down the aisle of books. Now certainly the lack of people is in large part due to the small number of books, but it strikes me as a view into what the library is evolving into.

Re:selection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666591)

As evidence, the county library in my neighborhood is going through a remodel and they've relocated to a small spot in a strip mall close by. There are two shelves of books, with the same amount of space being reserved to magazines.

How big is their interlibrary loan selection?

It sounds like they're doing the Redbox thing: warehouse the books wherever land is cheap and put a kiosk in every neighborhood so neighborhoods without libraries can still have a library presence. That doesn't sound like such a bad idea.

Re:selection (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666649)

Not all obscure titles are textbooks. Some are out-of-print popular books. Or popular books that have not yet been presented in eBook form. I was looking for example, for one of CH Cherryh's classics that fall under that limitation just yesterday. I'm not too sure about a lot of Gene Wolfe's classics, either. The worst offenders are probably books published between about 1965 (give or take 3 decades) and 5 years ago.

No, there are limits to just how technical I expect books in the public library to be. Of course, the local centers for higher learning also have libraries, and the more technical stuff can often be found there.

Besides technical documents generally don't render very well on a 7-inch e-reader. So when all else fails, grit your teeth and buy the horribly-priced dead tree edition.

Re:selection (1)

darnkitten (1533263) | about 2 months ago | (#47668465)

You might check if your library is considering joining a lending group or partnership. My library is currently a member of a 10-library lending group spread over three counties. We have a volunteer courier system that moves books between libraries fairly efficiently and a shared catalog that allows you to order or borrow from any library in the group. This allows us to specialize in some of the less popular or more obscure materials instead of all having to carry the "popular titles or oft-read items like magazines, romance novels, recent biographies, etc" and to tailor our collections in more interesting ways. My small rural library library has started collecting fiction and non-fiction books published in the UK and Australia, films based on books, and obscure mystery and sci-fi series, while another library in the group collects all the popular political books, thus sparing the rest of us that expense. This last month, almost a fifth of my library's physical checkouts were ordered from other libraries and and we loaned out about two-thirds of that total to other libraries (mostly from the obscure series). It works well enough we are negotiating to join a nearby 7-library system and another 90-something-library system, though that might require us to pay for courier services.

In addition, we offer interlibrary loan services, and have borrowed from as far away as Alaska and Florida. We have ordered academic materials in support of local patrons pursuing graduate degrees and for homeschooling families (we help to cover costs for academic .interlibrary requests, but request return postage for other requests beyond a certain amount). Additionally, many journal articles, some textbook chapters, and similar materials can be provided free as electronic copies through ILL.

I would ask your librarian directly, though. For some inexplicable reason, some libraries don't publicize the the many fine services they offer.

Re:selection (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 2 months ago | (#47666631)

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 tomorrow. This is particularly true for research and archival libraries. That being said, digital storage of media is getting cheaper and better every day.

We can't get rid of libraries (1)

tyggna (1405643) | about 2 months ago | (#47666245)

Where will my Sims go to live after I burn their house down?

Re:We can't get rid of libraries (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666333)

The local gym is better because it has showers.

The Dewey Decimal System (2)

TheRealSteveDallas (2505582) | about 2 months ago | (#47666259)

Suck it Bezos!

Librarians (2)

dane23 (135106) | about 2 months ago | (#47666285)

You can have my librarians when you pry them from my cold dead grasp.

Re:Librarians (1)

JoeRandomHacker (983775) | about 2 months ago | (#47667925)

Why is there no "+1 Disturbing"?

Re:Librarians (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47668003)

You can have my librarians when you pry them from my cold dead grasp.

Security!

Instead of replacing the library... (3, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Instead of replacing the library... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 months ago | (#47666515)

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 common public wants. For more technical or limited demand things the online retailers are much more likely to have copies. And one of the "limited demand" criteria for my public library happens to be politically based.

Fortunately, the university library also does ebooks, and their technical selection is excellent.

The major advantage to the public/uni libraries is that access to the ebooks is free. Selection is less, and I don't believe it will ever become equivalent because it would simply cost too much to cater to everyone.

Re:Instead of replacing the library... (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 2 months ago | (#47666949)

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.

Re:Instead of replacing the library... (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 months ago | (#47667139)

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".

Kindle isn't a public service (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666345)

Why are we even comparing Kindle to a public service that is free by design?

If the idea is to privatize public libraries, then I want nothing to do with it.

Bums (-1, Flamebait)

digitalPhant0m (1424687) | about 2 months ago | (#47666359)

The local library is also a great place to contract a communicable disease and be accosted by scores of pan-handlers.

I want physical books and magazines (3, Informative)

fivepan (572611) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:I want physical books and magazines (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47667595)

You don't sound like someone who actually reads books, as in literature etc. So, yeah, the e-readers where definitely not made for you. For us bookworms the Kindle has revolutionized our reading (I carry with me all my books at 200g of weight, I go on vacation and I don't even need a PC to get new content etc).

Re:I want physical books and magazines (0)

countach (534280) | about 2 months ago | (#47667775)

Then buy them yourself. Your idiosyncrasies are not a reason to not push ahead with e-libraries.

Amazon (3, Insightful)

Tailhook (98486) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:Amazon (1)

turp182 (1020263) | about 2 months ago | (#47667631)

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

Re:Amazon (2)

darnkitten (1533263) | about 2 months ago | (#47668547)

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-language texts on the period of WWII, and a variety of sociological texts (sociology of American military base design, anyone?). most of these have been at the request of patrons.

Ask--you might well have a local librarian who can justify purchasing interesting reading material from Amazon so that others in your community can enjoy them as well.

BTW, have you thought of thought of joining an online book-lending program? You could be someone else's lending library and someone else could be yours, as well...

I love my local public library network (1)

Kevoco (64263) | about 2 months ago | (#47666425)

I don't mean their LAN, I mean the network of libraries with a shared online card catalog and the ability to reserve a book and then receive an email when it has arrived.
My local library is part of BCCLS - bccls.org - 75 Public Libraries in NJ's Bergen, Essex, Hudson, and Passaic Counties

With so many libraries contributing to the inventory, I rarely find myself needing to purchase a book from Amazon. I am an Amazon Prime member, I buy lots of other stuff for sure.

not sure how this is news. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about 2 months ago | (#47666429)

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

Re:not sure how this is news. (1)

anmre (2956771) | about 2 months ago | (#47667451)

What's better: municipal parks or the NFL?

KDP Select (2, Insightful)

ysth (1368415) | about 2 months ago | (#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] .

Re:KDP Select (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 months ago | (#47666881)

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.

Re:KDP Select (1)

ysth (1368415) | about 2 months ago | (#47666925)

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

Re:KDP Select (1)

0123456 (636235) | about 2 months ago | (#47667107)

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

Old books, and getting rare books (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666443)

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)

Forgot something... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666545)

They both forgot the most important thing libraries have that amazon doesn't, swathes of fucking filthy homeless hanging around getting their diseases everywhere.

The WSJ doesn't really miss the point (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47666683)

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 libraries house archives that will likely never be digitized, historical records, and the like. I mean, I have access to two major university research libraries and the Boston Public Library, which by itself holds something like 9 million items.

Missing the point (1)

William Baric (256345) | about 2 months ago | (#47666937)

The only reason for local libraries is copyright laws.

Here's a crazy idea (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 months ago | (#47666961)

Why not have both?

Evil Library (0)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 2 months ago | (#47667213)

Take a hard core right wing idiot like Florida Governor Rick Scott, who is one of the sickest republicans alive and give him power over libraries. Guess what he did!!!!! The poor often don't have net access or computers of any kind nor know how to use them. So you make all social benefits by computer only forcing the poor to go to the libraries. That may be quite expensive as our libraries can be far from the bushes in which the poor sleep around here. Then when they get to the library they will often find a two or three hour wait before it is their turn. And it just keeps getting better. They have no mail addresses or stoves or refrigerators so food stamps are out. And the state will chop off any benefit which they might be entitled to simply because they can't get mail. Knowing that the state sends out numerous mails requiring a time demand answer. Then we have the next treat. The public library is open to all which means the poor and alcoholics and dope addicts try to stay inside the library for many hours during the hot days in Florida. But even in the various fugues and trances caused by untreated mental illness, addiction, malnutrition and a host of nasty diseases these folks get a slice of revenge. Between the isles in the stacks they urinate, take a dump if they are not leaking directly into the chairs and sofas. I guess Rick Scott has figured out that they save on water bills if the poor don't use the toilets but use the floors instead. So what the right wing has created is what used to be a jewel of civilization called the library and made it into a stinking useless joke filled with the lowest classes of people who do not read a thing while they are there.

Public libraries buy ebooks from Amazon (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 2 months ago | (#47667367)

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 in video form, but she raises issues about state laws on keeping lending info private, and most library's policies of not endorsing companies). It's possible that it's changed; I refuse to check out ebooks from my local library, as it's using Overdrive.

No shortage of Arrogance (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 2 months ago | (#47667471)

"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 public libraries and our own bookshelves can all happily coexist. It is not a matter of either-or. We can have it all.

There's another reason to stay with print books. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47667533)

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.

It alway comes back around... (2)

Sir Holo (531007) | about 2 months ago | (#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.)

Where (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47667791)

And where will the homeless go and stay all day to get out of the weather?

Kindle Unlimited Library (1)

James Kissel (2831453) | about 2 months ago | (#47668013)

There are many books available at my local library that will never be available via Kindle.

Digital Access versus Digital Restriction (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 2 months ago | (#47668201)

Digital public libraries could be OK if they didn't make you use a certain OS and certain software to view the books. PDF downloads for everyone, searchable. The crap our local library has is worse than useless, because I spent lots of time trying to get it to work but it's clear it does not want it to be easy.
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