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Libraries of the Future Lend Kindle Titles and Devices

Library Journal posted an article about the mixed response from Amazon over whether a library can lend a Kindle device with books loaded onto it.  An Amazon sales rep said “yes,” Amazon officials said “no,” but the law may say otherwise.

The first sale doctrine is a copyright defense, codified in 17 USC 109, which basically allows an owner of a lawfully made copy or phonorecord (and other tangible media) to sell or otherwise dispose of it, as well as display it to the public.   This allows purchasers of a video game, DVD, or other medium to sell it on e-Bay or to a GameStop.  Software companies (and others) try to circumvent this defense by describing the purchase of their products as a “license” rather than a “sale” issuing license agreements and terms of use (“LATU”) to prevent resale of an item, but courts have disagreed with their enforceability.

In Amazon’s LATU there are explicit terms about the digital content on the device, but not the physical device itself.  The language from Section 3, Digital Content reads as follows (emphasis added):

Use of Digital Content. Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.

This language speaks to the digital content – not the device.  Amazon understands that the first-sale doctrine clearly prevents them from restricting transfer of the device, but that the gray area of the license agreements allows them some latitude here.  When drafted, Amazon likely sought to prevent a Napster situation, with users trading titles and diluting the market for content.

Now the idea of public libraries owning and lending Kindle devices is a great one.  It has the potential to create a revolution in e-Books and catapult Kindle to the status of an iPod – it can very well be the paradigm shift Amazon is banking on.  In fact, it seems like a win/win for Amazon: more public exposure to Kindle = more sales of device and content, and by putting the devices in libraries Amazon breaks through the tek-elite barrier.  I have yet to purchase or play with a Kindle b/c of the high price point and unavailability despite being an early adopter (when I have the cash for it).

But take it a step further: what if there were ways to ensure that a library could “lend” a Kindle file and then have it “returned” by the borrower?

Amazon would sell catalogs of titles to the 123,000 libraries in the United States (mix of public, school, governmental, etc.).  Those libraries would have tables of Kindle devices set up for public use (more device sales for Amazon).  They would offer file borrowing via library websites or even in the physical building (beaming or loading via docking station).  The file would have copy prevention and device tracking enabled.  It could also work like digital download rentals, which expire after a certain period of time.  If a person wanted to prevent expiration they could request an extra period of time with it, but longer than that they pay a small fee (digital late fees).  A user who likes the book so much can click to purchase from the library.  The library would make money (via the first sale doctrine) on that legally purchased copy, and can automatically order another copy from Amazon to keep their “stock” current.  Not to mention, this would allow Amazon to target users for direct sales based on their borrowing habits. This could be the future – much like the ELF’s idea for “collecting societies” of digital recordings.

Amazon, think about it – do you want to clutch to an old-world model, or do you want to build something better than iTunes?

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The Very Hungry Book Worm … (after he ate the iPhone he felt MUCH better)

“Honey,” Wonder Woman asked, “do you want me to pack your shaver?”

“Hmm?  … Yeah,” I said, half looking up from the books in my hand.  As she continued to pack the essentials for my business trip to Boston: toothbrush, underwear, socks, etc., I was stuck on deciding whether to pack an unread, hardcover copy of American Shaolin, which belongs to my brother-in-law, along with the almost read copy of Emotional Intelligence, on top of another, yet-unread-selection of mine, The Audacity of Hope.  The decision of what book to carry, how many books to carry, and whether I would have time to even read them all on the 4-hour train ride and between sessions at the Associated Criminal Justice Sciences conference had me baffled.  I wished I could take them all, but the time crunch and heavy carry-on factor militated against that.  Then there was the reasonableness factor: this would be my first two-days away since the Gilad was born 2-months ago and a prime opportunity to get more work done on the third draft of my novel (as well as blog).  The ability to take all three with me and decide when the time came would have been key,but alas, I have no iPhone, Kindle, or Sony reader.  What is a hungry bookworm like myself to do?

Ever since the Kindle first came out I have been intrigued.  The idea of an e-Reader that is easy on the eyes, pretty portable, and can be updated with new titles via wireless online has it’s appeal.  But the system looks kind of clunky, does not seem to support that much functionality, and it’s another device to lug around along with everything else (see laptop, phone, wallet, car keys, etc.).  Also, the $10 per book, while a nice discount from retail titles, turned me off a bit (I am not a Kindle expert, but I believe it is a closed system, with no ability to read non-Amazon approved PDF or e-Content – someone correct me if I am wrong).

While in Boston, I checked out the Sony e-Reader.  Again, the issue here is another device I have to lug around with all my other petloch (Yiddush for stuff).  Also, Sony has it’s own version of the Amazon bookstore where you pay for their titles.  The guy at the Sony store didn’t seem to know if it could read regular PDF files also, although I hope for $400 it can match the capabilities of my first laptop back in 1999 (a 500MB Compaq).  Regardless, the design of the device, a thin sheet about the sice of a medium paperback seemed okay, but the lack of touch-based commands (it boasts page turning and a few others, but still interfaces with a lot of buttons) did not win me over.

Then there is the crown jewel of portable devices.  That single piece of tech that I have wanted ever since I first saw it demoed two years ago: the iPhone.  Now a word about phones in our family: both Wonder Woman and I have cheap, $10 AT&T go phones that we bought after getting frustrated with our Motorolla Razors over two years ago (we were still under contract and did not have an upgrade option that looked worth it).  We learned from an store clerk at the AT&T store (who we shall just call Earnest), that you could remove the sim card from the Razor, pop it into a $10 Go Phone and wait for the contract to expire so we could get a good deal on new phones.  Taking Earnest’s advice we went over to Walmart, picked up our junky phones, and they have lasted ever since.  Now, as we stand on the brink of getting new contracts, my thoughts turn back to the excaliber (the iPhone).

In this video, I see all my dreams realized.  Watch and convince me why I would ever need another e-reading device besides an iPhone with the Kindle app …

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more about “Amazon Kindle App For iPhone & iPod T…“, posted with vodpod

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