February 17, 2018

Ebooks/Kindles: Yes or No

The other day I was talking with a marketing director from another library, sharing common struggles and insights. She asked me a question that I offered to throw out here, and get your reaction.

Her library circulates Kindles and other types of e-books. The library pays for the downloads of about 20 titles per Kindle as well. 

The librarian perspective: the public is asking after them and, in order to address customer demand, they are now available to check out.

The marketing perspective: 1) it is a significant investment at a time when they just failed to pass a bond issue and they are trying to demonstrate need to the public. 2) most customers borrow the e-books to sample  — in order to determine whether or not they wish to purchase one for themselves. She feels very alone in her library with this point of view.

My perspective: I understand the desire for libraries to meet the requests of customers. I also understand the desire to be technologically relevant. Both are important. However, timing is everything. In an economic climate when budgets are slashed, spending several thousands of dollars for a transitional technology doesn’t make sense to me. It’s hard to convince people to vote to support the library when that same library is buying technologies that the regular customer can’t afford.

What is your perspective? Let me know and I’ll share your thoughts with her.

Alison Circle About Alison Circle

Alison Circle is director of marketing communications for Columbus Metropolitan Library. Previously she was an Account Director at Jack Morton Worldwide, a global branding agency, and her primary client was Target Stores. Prior to that she was the National Marketing Director for Minnesota Public Radio and "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor." She has advanced degrees in English and Fine Arts, and is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant.



  1. SonyaSunny says:

    Hi, http://www.libraryjournal.com – da best. Keep it going!

  2. “that same library is buying technologies that the regular customer can’t afford.”
    Isn’t this the point of a library? We buy all kinds of things that people can’t afford: Reference sets, databases, computers… If they could afford it on their own, they wouldn’t need us.

  3. Philip van Zijl says:

    I would say yes (if we could) Kindle downloads are not possible outside the US, at this point. I have contacted Amazon on this matter. There seems to be uncertainty about the legality of downloading and lending the Kindle, judging from some communication over the last few months.
    Philip – in New Zealand

  4. love4libraries says:

    Historically, libraries have provided access to items that the general public can not afford. Even in the current rapidly changing technological environment this should not change. However, library budgets and acquisition departments should keep in mind the economic climate. If the average person can not purchase books or audiobooks at current retail prices, allocations for advanced technology should be limited.

  5. Barbara Beardsley says:

    Our Columbus Metropolitan Library customers really like the idea of the downloadable books, which have been integrated into our catalog. A customer yesterday told me that he liked the idea that he can borrow a downloadable book for 14 days, and it is returned with no effort on his part. I do not think that our public library customers want to be responsible for an expensive piece of Kindle type equipment that would have to be replaced if it is stolen/broken/lost.

  6. “spending several thousands of dollars for a transitional technology doesn’t make sense to me”????

    All technology is transitional! This argument is over used and is just an archaic excuse for not wanting to change. Sorry I don’t buy it.

    Libraries need to stay relevant in order to meet the ever-changing needs of their users. Not offering something because you consider it “transitional” is a lame excuse for not meeting your customers needs.