Monday, March 31, 2008

Future library

After writing the blog on Kindle, I was thinking up ideas on how to make eBooks an attractive proposition to the market. Here is an idea that popped into my head:

Imagine becoming a member of a new library, and the library issues a eBook Reader, say Kindle, instead of a library card. The library would have hooked up with a service provider who would have created a database of all the books that the library owns. The Kindle would be used as a library catalog. You would browse the library catalog at the comfort of your home, and pick a book to borrow. If that book is currently available, the system will allow you to download it into your Kindle. If the library owns only one copy of the book, this book would then be unavailable to anyone else. When the due data arrives, you let go of your copy of the book, releasing the license to the book to someone else.

With this idea, you don't need to go to a physical library. You can access all the books that a library and its associated libraries have to offer irrespective of geographical location.

Of course, this is still a dream until all the available books are available in digital versions, and all periodicals and publications are also digitized. But, the rate at which books and periodicals are being digitized, this could become reality in the very near future.

This brings up an interesting question:

Why should eBooks be treated as traditional paper books?

eBooks don't get torn, or wet, or age. It is just bits in computer memory. Distributing multiple copies of an eBook cost next to nothing. Sharing eBooks is as simple as emailing the bits over. So, a library could theoretically have millions of copies of every periodical/book. Wouldn't that be wonderful! No more need to 'place books on hold'.

"Hold your thought right there" the author in you says. How will I get paid for all my hard work? How will I be rewarded if my book is a blockbuster and millions of people read it? This is where we have to fall back on the physical book economics. The eBooks still need to be priced per copy sold/downloaded in order to reward the author/publisher. Or, this is where we need to break today's boundaries and come up with innovative ideas on satisfying both creators and consumers.