How eBooks plan to save libraries, newspapers and make us read
Sony's announcement both sides of the Atlantic of its new ebook Readers isn't just about the latest gadget to say you own, it's actually about saving a number of industries that could, without a little help, die a fast and lonely death within the next decade.
The "Media" loves to talk about the death of the newspaper industry, how news is moving online (you're reading this right now for example), and how newspaper publishers will have to erect "Paywalls" and the like to survive.
However, no one talks about the library, it is certainly valuable, it is just it doesn't have a big website with a voice to shout at the top of the mountain from.
Libraries are quiet places remember.
So when Sony announced that its latest readers will offer users the chance to download books for free from their local library, we have to admit, we got rather giddy.
After all if you could get an electronic version of the latest novels, textbooks or periodicals for 21 days without having to pay for it, you would sign up to that pretty fast wouldn't you?
If you class yourself as a bookworm, you no doubt buy books, read lots of them, and then leave them to clutter up your house. I bet you've got a spare room of them that haven't been touched for years. I also bet you can't be bothered to go to the library either. If you could get them for free (from a library that our taxes pay for) you'd be well happy wouldn't you.
That's the plan.
But how easy it is going to be? It's early days unfortunately, but currently around 9,000 libraries offer a digital loans service around the globe. Admittedly most of them are in the US, but you can find local libraries dotted around the world in places like Australia, Ireland and the UK.
So far just three library authorities have signed up for the scheme in the UK (disappointing we know), but it's a start. If you live in Essex, Croydon, or Dorset you're in luck. Buy a digital reader that supports the EPUB ebook standard and you'll be able to get digital books for free for up to 21 days depending on what the publisher has set.
Better still you won't have to visit your local library to get said free books meaning if getting to your local library is a real pain - they are always in strange places aren't they? You don't have to. You'll be able to jump online whether you are down the road or on the other side of the planet, something that will no doubt appeal to the disabled and house bound as long as you are a member of the library in question.
Could DRM actually be a good thing here? Think about it. The publisher still gets its cash, the reader (that's you) gets to read a book for free that you've borrowed, and the book self-destructs (ie become unreadable) after 21 days so there is no point in copying it.
We never thought we would say this, but here DRM is a good thing.
Get passed the excitement of the library and think about all those periodicals, and local newspapers that now have an audience again.
People never pay for a newspaper because they are buying words, they pay because they believe they are buying a physical object - the paper. The same is the case for an ebook - you are buying or in this case borrowing an edition, a physical file, rather than just accessing the news on your computer or phone.
Suddenly the industry is saved.