A few weeks ago, when Amazon announced a desire to start a “Netflix for books,” I opined that public libraries were doomed. So far, they’ve still been struggling along, but I have a feeling that in the end Amazon is going to get them one way or another.
Eventually, there might be no escape from Amazon, so libraries had better start getting used to it. You might have seen this story about Amazon signing up authors to publish directly through them instead of publishers.
If Amazon can get enough name-brand authors to abandon their traditional publishers, then the future of publishing – at least the sort of popular publishing public libraries buy – will be primarily in Amazon’s greedy but skillful hands.
I could understand the temptation to publish with Amazon. They gave Penny Marshall $800,000 to publish her memoirs. I think I should mention to Amazon that I’ll happily publish the Annoyed Librarian memoirs with them for a quarter of that.
After years of ignoring libraries, Amazon finally did a deal with Overdrive to allow libraries to lend books to Kindles. Librarians had been wanting this for years, but the deal offers a moral: be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.
From Amazon’s perspective, the deal is fantastic. From my perspective, it’s just amusing, because it looks like librarians got suckered one more time. Here are the instructions to “check out” a Kindle book, in case you haven’t seen them before:
- Visit the website of a U.S. library that offers digital services from OverDrive.
- Check out a Kindle book (library card required).
- Click on “Get for Kindle.” You will then be directed to Amazon.com to redeem your public library loan. You may be required to login to your Amazon.com account — or create a new account — if you’re not already logged in.
- Choose to read the book on your Kindle device, free reading app, or Kindle Cloud Reader.
Step three is the one that makes me chuckle. “You will then be directed to Amazon.com.” Of course you will! I can’t find any details about deal, but I hope Overdrive isn’t paying Amazon anything for this.
If they are, it gets even better. Libraries are paying Overdrive, and then Overdrive pays Amazon so that Amazon will allow Libraries and Overdrive to send library patrons to Amazon’s commercial website. Way to go!
Even if Amazon is paying Overdrive, it’s still a great deal. Kindle customers who think they might be evading Amazon by going to their library end up back at Amazon’s site anyway. Brilliant.
This is the way public libraries end: shilling for the company that’s going to put them out of business.