Friday, September 16, 2011

Amazon's Big Ass Library

News: Amazon copies the Public Library business model. And adds fees. The story is that Amazon is going to lend ebooks. And everyone says this is bad for libraries.

I don't know why Amazon didn't do this sooner. Here's what could have happened at any time: Let's say Amazon creates the Amazon Lending division and the Lending division buys ebooks from the Amazon Bookseller division. Amazon could lend those ebooks for $2 a week and make... $2 a week minus $10 cost per ebook, is $94 a year. Or given the short lifespan of a book, $47 for six months. So Amazon can make $47 dollars on each ebook it buys from itself.

And since Amazon the Bookseller creates the demand for the books in the first place by pushing them to the front page, it can target the most profitable books to purchase for its Lending division and not waste money on dogs. But given how the web page works, it can buy and rent pretty much anything at any time. "Buy Now for $9.99 or Rent Now for $2.00 a week." I don't think publishers would even be able to keep track of the bookkeeping.

Publishers could have complained. But since Amazon sells more of their books than any other outlet, they wouldn't complain for too long after Amazon gently, but purposefully, squeezed their balls.

What's funny is that libraries have been doing this for years. But without the $2 a week. The only thing Amazon adds to the Library plan is the rental fee. And Amazon's massive global presence. And the ball-squeezing thing.

Amazon's Subscription-based Lending Library vs. the Public Library.

Amazon: Thems that can join is thems that can pay.

Library: All are welcome. Even you.

Amazon: As quickly as possible, regardless of cost.

Library: As cheaply as possible, no matter the delay.

Amazon: We track every word you read. And we can tell which ones you don't understand. Don't you know what spurious means by now? God, my kid knows that.

Library: We couldn't give two fucks whether you borrow Catcher in the Rye. Or if you read, What's Up with Down There? (a guide to your lady parts) and it's companion, What's Wrong with my Dong? (a guide to dude stuff).

Well, actually that last two have wifi keyloggers that gather your Facebook profile if you keep the anywhere near a computer or smartphone. But that's just something I did. For research, not for spying. But I won't tell anyone that you checked them out. Except in my library school thesis. You know, for research.

Whenever our library would bring up charging for services in the past, the plan would always get shot down. The purpose of the library is to provide free services, was always the reason. It didn't matter that ALL real world examples had a cost. Book and movie rentals, computer use, instructional programs, research, all incur some cost in the real world.

So in the middle of a fucking recession, with this Amazon new, libraries are being told that people would rather pay than wait.

So watching TV, I see that most people still have $70/mo for a phone. And $8/mo for Netflix. And $6/mo. for Amazon Prime. But no one seems to have fucking dime for libraries.

Everyone says that libraries have become obsolete because people only want to pay for the things they want; there is no longer a common good. And I've also heard that people shouldn't be forced to pay for something that a private company could supply. Like private roads? Private armies? Because I'm sure you could find some company willing to keep the road in front of your house in good shape if you cough up $5 a day. And if you don't cough loud enough, I'm sure a good ball-squeeze is on the menu.

So you have librarians all shouting how library lending is dead because Amazon is willing to sell the same product that libraries could provide for free if only everyone would shut the fuck up and just pay their $8/mo. in library fees so that we can continue providing books to everyone. Oh, wait, and for that same $8 you get children's programs and online newspapers and computer classes and yoga and reading clubs and meeting space and internet access and music and SO MUCH OTHER SHIT it's not possible to calculate it all. If only you fuckers would just pay your fucking taxes.

But what these librarians are saying is that the book lending model for libraries is dead. Much like how the VHS and DVD lending model perished years ago when Blockbuster and then Netflix and then Redbox appeared. What? That part of library lending is stronger than ever? In fact, Redbox is only $1 and Blockbuster has repeatedly lowered prices AND Netflix users are quitting the service because prices increased?

So what is it about Amazon's model that will kill libraries? Is it the Kindle? So a business model that requires members to spend $114 upfront (for the cheapest Kindle) and then keep a valid credit card on record AND continue to pay $8 to $30 a month is going to beat out a FREE service?

What it will most likely do is allow libraries to get the same deal as Amazon and allow us to lease ebooks from publishers. So then the library will be able to lease 200 ebook copies of Stieg Larsson's ghost-written but based on his notes, second series of novels to fill demand. And then six months later, return them all and buy something else. And when libraries get the power to lease ebooks for one-fifth the cost of purchasing them, then we'll have the power to deliver content to our patrons and near-Kindle immediacy but without the added cost.

I'll say this again; if libraries could only manage to pool all the money, would could get publishers to give us what we want. Because this is tens of millions of dollars. Or even hundreds of millions. I don't have a calculator, but it's a lot. We could offer any book or movie or song to anyone at any time in any format.

Amazon isn't big because they're better. They're big because of that name: Amazon. It's a big damn river. It's the biggest river on Earth. So we'll need to come up with a bigger name for our combined national library. How about Library Planet? Or The Big Fucking Library? I'll leave the naming up to you.

But The Big Fucking Library would look great on borrower cards.

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