24-7 Book Lending Machine

As American’s, we love instant gratification. Have you ever been frustrated by your local library’s hours? That may soon be a thing of the past.

EnvisionWare is doing a service for the public library system, similar to the service that OnDemand Books is providing for buying books with its Espresso Book Machine. The Espresso Book Machine is letting buyers have instant access to books that are not physically sold in a bookstore.

While EnvisionWare’s new book vending machine will not help independent authors and small publishers increase the distribution reach of their books (as the Espresso Book Machine does), it does provide an interesting and unique service.

Last month, the first 24-hour library vending machine in the United States opened. Built by EnvisionWare, this fully automated machine will be able to dispense more than 400 pieces of media (books/DVDs/audiobooks) and store more than 1000 returned items.

Check out how the machine works in this video created by the machine’s maker.

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Outdoor Libraries

Take a book, leave a book. In an effort to promote literacy and reading, “free-for-all” libraries are popping up in Germany. These small outdoor bookshelves, placed on street corners, city squares, and in supermarkets, are financed by donations and cared for by local volunteer groups.

In these free-for-all libraries, people can grab whatever they want to read, and leave behind books for others to read. There’s no need to register, no due date, and you can take or give as many as you want.

Most of these outdoor library bookshelves (they have glass doors to keep the books dry in inclement weather) in Germany hold around 200 books and it takes about six weeks for a complete turnover, with all the old titles replaced by new ones.

Interestingly, organizers of one free-for-all library shelf in Cologne, Germany, report that they have had few problems with vandalism or other kinds of abuse. The few they have experienced include a used-book seller scooping up every volume on a shelf to sell at a flea market and the shelves being stacked with material from a religious group.

I think these public library bookshelves are a fascinating idea. They are a wonderful way for sharing books. I would use one if there was one near my neighborhood. Would you?

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My eBook Experience: Part 2 of 2

Just how easy is it to pirate library-loaned ebooks? That was my question as I embarked on the journey of checking out an ebook from my local library.

At home, I headed online to the library’s ebook catalog and found out some interesting things.

The first thing I discovered was that the library system in my local city subscribes to three ebook service providers: Overdrive, Netlibrary, and MyiLibrary (Ingram Digital’s service).

Netlibrary and MyiLibrary allowed me to read ebooks on their website, but not download them to my computer. In other words, when I went to my library’s ebook page, I could choose which service I wanted to “check out” a book from. When I choose MyiLibrary or Netlibrary, I these sites only allowed me to access books directly on their website. Hence, I had to read the book on the Internet through my local library’s website. These sites also restricted copying or printing of their books to 10 pages at a time. So, in essence, I could only personally use portions of the books.

The third provider, Overdrive, was set up so that I could download ebooks directly onto my computer for a three-week period.

Overdrive stated that I could download a PDF version of the ebook to my computer. I did this, but discovered that this PDF version could not be read by my standard Adobe Acrobat Reader. Instead, I had to download a special Adobe Digital Reader from Overdrive. This Digital Reader allowed me to use the book on one computer, unless I registered the Adobe Digital Reader, then I could use it on multiple computers. So, while I could burn the ebook I checked out from my local library to a disk, I would need the special Adobe Digital Reader installed on a computer to read it.

I also discovered that the PDF ebook that I downloaded from Overdrive had a built in expiration date. The day after the due date, the book “expired” on my computer. The file showed up as “expired” and I could not open it.

What my experience showed me is that ebook loans from my local library are not as easy to pirate as I had suspected. It is comforting for me (a publisher) to know that Overdrive, Netlibrary, and MyiLibrary have all implemented systems to make pirating difficult; requiring a level of technological savvy beyond your average reader’s ability to accomplish.

My conclusion is that publishers should not overlook this avenue of book sales. As ebooks become more popular, libraries will increasingly spend more money on ebook purchases and ebook services. Don’t be left behind.

[P.S. Want to know what my experience with downloading an ebook reader for my “borrowed” ebook was like? Check out the cartoon over at http://www.bradcolbow.com/archive.php/?p=205, it depicts my experience to a tee.]

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