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Using the Kindle in Library Settings - A Survey

By Montrese Hamilton, Published on October 17, 2010

As librarian for a professional association with strong research and editorial teams, I embrace technology that lets me offer staff on-demand access to new content. The electronic document reader may be such a device. Beyond instant access to material, e-readers can: Reduce the need for Interlibrary loans, help me grow the collection without adding shelf space, and eliminate processing required for physical matter.

Curious about the Kindle, Amazon’s electronic document reader, I surveyed a few Special Libraries Association units about using the Kindle in library settings. A summary of the replies follows below. As I read the messages and talked with colleagues, some key points emerged:

RESPONSE #1

This respondent noted the importance of deleting your account information from the device if you want to prevent clients from downloading material and charging the library.

Kindles are stored and charged in a locked cabinet.

The library uses Kindles to store e-books purchased from the publishers; they do not use Kindle-formatted books due to licensing issues.

NEW RESPONSE #1

1) When you consider feedback from your product trial, did users like the Kindle because it solved existing issues? For example, needing to travel with lots of reading material; rapid access to new content; a telecommuter without access to physical library collection; having a dedicated device on which to store reference material, etc.

2) One of your trial users bought his own Kindle. Has that changed how he interacts with the library? More contact? Less? Asking non-research questions about the Kindle device or Kindle-formatted content?

In answer to your follow-up questions, in both cases, our users liked the portability of the reading material and the number and diversity of titles they could store conveniently. In particular, one of our executives has a lengthy train commute and he found the Kindle ideal.

In both cases the executives have access to a physical library and we are always willing to purchase books which interest them. That was not a motivator. On the other hand, they both liked the ability to preview books on the Kindle before buying them, although one thought that those previews seem to be disappearing. We have not had any comments about the ability to store documents and I personally found it inadequate for viewing PDFs I had sent to my Kindle. Perhaps I didn't figure out the technology, but I couldn't increase the text to a readable size.

The user who ended up buying his own Kindle actually increased his interactions with the Library significantly during his use of the device. Now that he's bought his own, we're back to the previous pattern where we get an occasional question or contact from him. I would say, though, that we developed a closer relationship with both users through this trial and that they would be more likely to include us in projects or research questions going forward.

RESPONSE #2

To meet client needs, Library often buys Kindle version of titles already in collection. Ultimately, Kindle is one of many format options deployed to serve a global user base. Also, the Kindle's voice reading and large-print features provide accommodation for clients with disabilities.

The staff is interested in Kindle-format content as solution to portability issues during travel. Kindles are also popular for their document-storage feature; for example, a staff committee loaded working documents onto Kindles for easy access/sharing of long PDF documents.

NEW RESPONSE #2

The terms of service for Kindles do not allow for organizational lending (unless Amazon has made a change in the last year) but I have not yet heard Amazon enforcing it.

I see a response about disability issues. [Search the] literature for the universities that ran a Kindle pilot for textbook last year. The courts ruled [that Kindles] were not adequate for those with disabilities and the university could not use them as a textbook platform. Not all books can be read to you as the publisher has the right to turn off that option. The menus also cannot be read to you.

RESPONSE #3

We will typically lend a Kindle to anyone who asks, but we don't publicize the program. We have an asset tag on each and check it out through our ILS. I think the entire [Kindle-formatted] library is on each device and another use case has been loading abstracts from our business book summary program onto the Kindles for distribution.

NEW RESPONSE #3

1. Yes, we have four Kindle DXs in circulation

2. We did quite a bit of research before implementing this program. Many libraries seem to be interpreting Amazon's terms of use differently (some have claimed that an Amazon rep. said circulating Kindles is OK, while others have not done so at the suggestion of their legal counsel); I guess we are turning a blind eye. We began circulating our Kindles in conjunction with a staff book discussion group, partially to promote the devices and also to circulate more copies (you can purchase a Kindle book once from Amazon and send it to up to 6 devices -- cheaper than buying extra print copies of a different book each month).

3. We store the physical devices in a locked server/storage room to which only library staff have access. We deactivate the devices when they circulate so the user can't use our dept. credit card that's tied to our Amazon account.

4. We store the whole library on each device (but we have fewer than 20 titles so far).

1) Did your library clients who used the Kindle change the way they used the physical collection or your research services?

Not necessarily. When clients who have already used a Kindle request an article or report, some have asked if a Kindle version is available. We have also investigated uploading PDF reports on all the Kindles -- seems very doable and useful, but we're undecided about which reports would be most valuable to upload. Best of? Most current? A notable series? I'm waiting for the day someone in senior management requests a Kindle with certain reports/other PDFs that are relevant to a conference or meeting and that they take the device with them when they travel to that event...

2) Is there an ongoing interest among your clients in using the Kindle (lots of repeat users) or does "curious to try it" represent the trend?

Until now, it seems to be more the latter. Many people who check out the Kindles are seeing if they'd like to purchase one for themselves.

RESPONSE #4

I've just instituted e-book guidelines for our library. We support a 100+-member research community and purchased 2 iPads which we plan on loaning out. [The iPads circulate] under our IT department's tech policies

Our loan period will be 2 weeks with renewal possible if no one is waiting. We plan on storing our entire e-book library on both devices. If someone wanted to download something, they would need to re-register the device with their own username/password and thus lose access to any content we had downloaded.

Unfortunately, there is no circulation usage data to be had that I know of … but a survey upon the return of an iPad is [an option].

RESPONSE #5

Initially we chose specific colleagues and asked them to use the [Kindles] on a trial basis. In both cases we allowed the users to purchase a "reasonable" number of titles in addition to the books we had already loaded on the account. Our users liked the portability of the reading material and the number and diversity of titles they could store conveniently.

The user who ended up buying his own Kindle actually increased his interactions with the Library significantly during his use of the device. Now that he's bought his own, we're back to the previous pattern where we get an occasional question or contact from him. I would say, though, that we developed a closer relationship with both users through this trial and that they would be more likely to include us in projects or research questions going forward.

[According to feedback from] the local public library consortium, one library allowed each borrower to ask that specific titles be loaded from the Library's Kindle collection and permitted the borrower to choose one [new] book [for the Kindle collection]. The library would purchase the book, load the requested titles, and disable the account. It seems like a lot of manual intervention.

The price of the Kindle has dropped so much that I think our program may evolve into a way for users to test the Kindle before determining whether to buy one.

Editor's note: originally published in Government Info Pro.