Will Libraries Stop Amazon Dominating Ebooks?

Posted: June 17, 2015 in reflections
Tags: , , , ,
Stockport Central Library, how I love you

Stockport Central Library, how I love you

I recently started using the ebook lending section of my local libraries, and in doing so made an interesting discovery. Having downloaded a book file, I quickly realised that I couldn’t read it, because it was the wrong file format. I read ebooks on a Kindle Fire, which uses Amazon’s exclusive .mobi format, whereas the library books were in the .epub format used by all other e-readers.

In retrospect, it should have been obvious that the library would use epub files. After all, a publicly funded service wasn’t going to use a proprietary file format that only works with one brand of e-readers, even a brand that has two-thirds of the market share. In Britain at least, public services are still meant to be about accessibility and providing an even playing field for different suppliers. And in keeping with that ethos, there was a way around my file format problem, through a browser-based reader that works on my Kindle Fire.

To me, this is also a sign of the future of e-books. Using an exclusive file format has helped Amazon fence its readers in, keeping them using its e-readers with its e-books through its online store. But through this slightly grasping, territorial approach to its market, Amazon has excluded itself from a big public service chunk of the market. As library e-book collections grow, and people get used to using them, this is likely to become a more important part of the market, given that it’s as easy to borrow an e-book as to buy one, and often significantly less costly.

By using epub, libraries may provide a larger service than making ebooks more accessible – they may help to prevent Amazon building a monopoly.

  1. Yay libraries!
    Also, most devices do provide access to apps that can read materials meant for other devices — for example, I read Kindle files on my iPad with the Kindle app. One would hope the Kindle can access general e-reading apps….otherwise they really are restricting their users unreasonably.

  2. Reblogged this on Steven Lyle Jordan @Rightbrane and commented:
    Good point, Andrew… and worth looking into.

  3. […] Will Libraries Stop Amazon Dominating Ebooks? […]

  4. Phoghat says:

    There are programs to convert epub to mobi, that are free, and easy to use. I like Calibre.http://calibre-ebook.com/download_windows64

  5. amacd55 says:

    It has been a while, but the last book I got from the library was available in several formats, Kindle included. I did not have to convert anything.

  6. Ellen Hawley says:

    I wish the libraries were strong enough to undercut Amazon, but I’m not sure anything short of burning down the planet would do it at this point.

    Oh, we’re working on that, aren’t we?

    Sorry–didn’t mean to dump doom and gloom here. It’s a gray day. We’ll blame it on that.

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