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The Kindle in commercial settings

The Tinfoil + Raccoon blog owner Rochelle recently blogged about her experiences of testing the Kindle, specifically in relation to use in public libraries. She comes to the conclusion that it's not an efficient use of resources, and there's some interestingly vague user terms from Amazon which could prevent a library form lending a Kindle with any content loaded onto it, thereby pretty much defeating its entire purpose.

Although they're not exactly the same, public and commercial libraries (such as my own) are likely to encounter similar problems with eReaders like this. I considered what effect it would be likely to have in law firm libraries back in September, with our very specific needs for authority (hey, if we have trouble getting judges to accept electronic versions of cases, just think of the fun we'll have with electronic, editable / underlineable versions!) and multiple copy licensing.

Add to that the fact that, as we'd dispense these eReaders, we would therefore automatically become the IT support for them, cos if we give them out, we must know how to fix them, right? And as the Hedgehog Librarian pointed out in conversation with me, when a member of staff does the inevitable, and loses a fully loaded eReader, you then have the cost of not only replacing the reader, but every textbook loaded onto it! *whimper*

Throw in the joy that the Kindle is set up to allow you to download anything you want, without further authorisation needed (as it's assumed that , if you have it, you're the owner and therefore entitled to download materials), then you can just imagine the solicitors joy, as they see they can add anything and everything they want to the eReader, and it's apparently free! They wouldn't see the library budget draining away, download by download...The only way to stop it is to unregister the Kindle, which then makes it pretty much useless, as you wouldn't be able to add new content (I think,can be hard to tell from the vague info), or download updates to that content.

Plus, for the Scottish market, we're tiny compared to our neighbours and therefore would be last on the list for getting our core texts converted to eReader use, if ever. It's hard to make a commercial case for it if you know you're only likely to sell a few thousand copies. And if you can make that case, then the cost is likely to be so high to make it viable that every Scottish law / academic library's budget will be wincing painfully.

So...with all those potential problems with the eReader in a non-personal use setting....I wonder if there are plans for an 'academic' version, with blocks on unauthorised downloading? Or if, in a commercial setting, they'd only ever be useful for reference texts - the type of thing you need to have available, but nobody's ever going to fight to get their hands on it. Freeing up those shelves full of dictionaries, expert witness registers, "Who's Who in the Law", "Chambers UK", the White Book etc., and replacing them with one, handheld unit, to be checked in and out with the librarian. Now THAT I can see working...if the publishers ever did it!

All kinda moot points at the moment, as we can't even get a Kindle here yet (and no sign of even a possible release date either - a search on Amazon brings up 3 chargers for the Kindle, but no machine), but where America leads, we tend to follow. And if the Kindle sells well, it may be the beginning of an eReader boom. Remember those strange wee devices from that quirky firm Apple? Seemed to play music without you having to carry CDs or cassettes around...wonder if it ever caught on?

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