Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Concerned--and I just don't get the appeal of Kindle Unlimited

Amazon Unlimited
The disruption continues, and it’s hard not to see the announcement of the new Kindle Unlimited Service as a significant challenge to libraries.

Let’s review how things stand with libraries right now. Most public library budgets took a hit during the recession, meaning they had less money to provide new content. At the same time, some of our patrons developed a preference for ebooks over print. Meanwhile, the Big Five publishers and ebook distributors together jacked up the price of new ebooks by as much as nine times, or restricted their use in various ways, while still preserving the legacy model of one user at a time. That, in turn forces libraries to buy multiple copies, and forces patron to wait—often for months—for popular titles.

Bottom line: that’s a setup that strikes at the public libraries’ primary business—loaning new materials. Still, few libraries in the United States assess taxes of as much as $100 a year per household. So if you read a lot, a library still saves you money, even if most library checkout systems are not only expensive, but cumbersome to use.

I love my Kindle, I love Amazon, and I have Amazon Prime and enjoy the perks of that. But I see no reason to spend additional money for Kindle Unlimited when I don't have time to read enough to make it worth my while and even if I did, I have access to a public library that doesn't charge me to read books, both in regular and electronic format. What worries me is that Kindle Unlimited could interfere with my library's ability to provide those services.

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