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Thad Mcilroy, in his The Future of Publishing blog, takes a look at the relationship between Amazon and libraries.  Here’s part of the post which discusses books in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.  He starts by looking at the books Amazon said does the best:

…Amazon doesn’t tell us the names of all 16 books, but reveals 10 books by 8 authors, and highlights an additional 5 ’Select’ scribes. I call them “The Amazon 13.” (Three volumes of Michael Wallace’s Righteous series were included on Amazon’s 16, but I counted him once.)

I couldn’t survey every public library, so I choose a representative library system from middle America – the Kansas Public Library. I logged into the main catalog in Kansas City and checked each title, first for print holdings, then for ebook holdings (via the OverDrive portal).

Only 2 of the titles from The Amazon 13 can be borrowed from the Kansas Public Library in any form: Easily Amused by Karen McQuestion (in paperback) and of course Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (in paperback, hardcover or audiobook). A total of 8 of the 13 titles are available for purchase in print, but not available in the public library system (3 of the titles are the shorter Kindle Singles).

What about the ebooks, I sense you wondering. Amazon makes its Kindle ebooks available to 11,000 public libraries (including Kansas) via OverDrive. Nope, not The Amazon 13. Not a single title was listed.  Not even the mega-bestselling Stephen Covey book.  The only member of The Amazon 13 with any titles on OverDrive is the late Kurt Vonnegut, and then only three of his books, The Sirens of TitanCat’s Cradle and Slaughter-House Five. Surely they offer Player Piano, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater or Breakfast of Champions? Nope.

I’ve been critical of Amazon’s deal with OverDrive for precisely this reason: OverDrive, no matter how well-intentioned, is failing to make ebooks accessible via the public library system. Period.

And what does Amazon have to say to public libraries and their patrons? I asked Amazon. The ever-loquacious Amazon PR folks had no comment. I think we already know what Amazon is telling us: Buy a Kindle. That costs $99 (with no sales tax in 45 states). Buy Amazon Prime: $79/year. The books are then free to borrow; cheap to buy (and probably even cheaper once the Department of Justice metes out justice).

As Amazon 13 author T.R. Ragan says in the press release: “I can’t wait to see what Amazon will think of next!”


  1. Where to begin:

    Amazon does not “make its Kindle ebooks available to 11,000 public libraries (including Kansas) via OverDrive.” Amazon merely hosts the OverDrive eBooks that publishers allow to be delivered to Kindle.

    Apparently self-published authors don’t want their stuff circulated by public libraries, because that’s who’s stopping it, not OverDrive. Anyway, is the world going to end if the latest 99 cent trashy novel isn’t “accessible via the public library system?”

    Thad seems upset about something.

  2. Is there a mechanism wherebye self-pubbed authors can join Overdrive? Is the cost prohibitive for single authors?

    Many 99c ebooks are well-written and enjoyable/useful. Our libraries would benefit from them.

  3. Eyeballing the Vonnegut ebooks available at the King Country Library (outside Seattle), I counted roughly twenty plus titles available for Kindle, including short stories. Maybe the library in Kansas just didn’t buy the licenses for Vonnegut.

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