Why the Public Library Beats Amazon—for Now

08 October 2014 /
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As E-Book Subscription ServicesGrow Their Catalogs, the Age-Old Institution Trumps All.. by Geoffrey A Fowler

.....I have a soft spot for public libraries. I grew up reading at the one where my mom, now retired, worked. Like many, I hadn't used my library card much since I started reading books on screens. But in the past few weeks, discovering my library's e-book collection helped me reconnect with the power of the library card I felt when I was young.

It's easier than you might think. At the typical public library, you need only log in with your card number and a PIN to its e-book collection, then search through the online catalog.

During online checkout, many will give you the choice to zap your borrowed book directly to a Kindle reader, a tablet or phone app, or a computer screen. When it's time to "return" the e-book, it just disappears.

In exchange for this free access, you have to accept a bit more hassle. Your loans may expire after 21 days or less, but you can recheck them out. Some libraries have multiple e-book collections that you have to search and learn to use. Most aren't as pretty as Scribd or Oyster, which let you scroll through large images of book covers to find something that suits your fancy.
Libraries serve nobler purposes than just amassing vampire romances. They provide equal access to knowledge, from employment services to computer training. And in an age where getting things "free" usually means surrendering some privacy, libraries have long been careful about protecting patron records.

Read more @ http://online.wsj.com/articles/why-the-public-library-beats-amazonfor-now-1407863714

Write to Geoffrey A. Fowler at geoffrey.fowler@wsj.com or on Twitter at@geoffreyfowler.

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