Thursday, March 3, 2011

What would the Kindle equivalent of the Library be?

There have been several people who say the Kindle is the new library so I decided to follow that line of reasoning to its conclusion, the first and most important part of the argument assumes libraries are only about books-both now and in the future. The 1000+ visitors who come here every day and many of those who use computers, ask reference questions, get homework help, use back issues of magazines and newspapers, go to Storytime, Love on a Leash, the Lego club, book discussions or adult programs might suggest we are more than books- however for the sake of argument let’s look at the math for the Kindle book model.

In Carson City 30,000 plus people have and use a library card- that is they have had some activity in the last two years but to be conservative let’s say only 20,000 people will need or want a Kindle or perhaps 10,000 people already have one- so to supply that device would cost $2,780,000 dollars about twice the annual budget of the library- but a onetime investment right? The kindle has a one-year warranty, two years is an additional cost to purchase so you might suppose that with reasonable care they will last five years- so every five years you would need to replace them and of course provide them for new residents- and perhaps find some way to get them back from people who move…hmm …would require some logistics- wasn’t this supposed to be easier, cheaper and better...and eliminate the public library?

Carson City Library checks out 400,000 books per year the average cost of books from Amazon for the Kindle is about $9.00 but again let’s assume that those prices continue to fall- and yes some are free-so 400,000 books at $5.00 each is 2 million bucks- wow that’s way more than the whole yearly budget of the library.

Amazon does not sell their e-books to libraries they do not have a multiple use model in fact any sharing must be set up when the Kindle is first purchased- so the library model simply doesn’t work- the popular books would be purchased over and over again by the library, rather than the single purchase used over and over again in the present public library model.

So you’re saying why do we have to buy Kindles and books for Carson City residents anyway? And the answer is of course we don’t. We could eliminate public libraries-not a mandated service- save that money for other City services and those that can afford books and information can have them and those that can’t well they should just work harder to earn the money to do so.

So if you think there is no value to providing reading materials and information without a cost in a democratic society then it is correct that the Kindle is the next library- but not the next public library- the Kindle Library is a return to the private subscription library of the 19th century- information for the wealthy and the privileged- the masses can just read and learn from what is provided to them free or they can trade and scavenge information for themselves…not the society I want to live in- not the America of my choice- is it yours?