How people find books


I can’t tell you how many times a faculty member has sent me a reference from Amazon asking if we could get a certain book.  Often we already have the book in our collection, but the go-to source for many for finding books is Amazon, not the OPAC.  This new NBER Working Paper talks about the online tools consumers use to find books of interest.

Searching for Physical and Digital Media: The Evolution of
Platforms for Finding Books
by Michael R. Baye, Babur De los Santos, Matthijs R. Wildenbeest – #19519 (IO PR)


This paper provides a data-driven overview of the different online
platforms that consumers use to search for books and booksellers, and
documents how the use of these platforms is shifting over time. Our
data suggest that, as a result of digitization, consumers are
increasingly conducting searches for books at retailer sites and
closed systems (e.g., the Kindle and Nook) rather than at general
search engines (e.g., Google or Bing). We also highlight a number of
challenges that will make it difficult for researchers to accurately
measure internet-based search behavior in the years to come.
Finally, we highlight a number of open agenda items related to the
pricing of books and other digital media, as well as consumer search

E-book lending sites

From today’s Wall Street Journal (p. B8):

Digital Media

E-Book Lending Takes Off

New Online Clubs That Let Readers Share Have Drawbacks but Worry Publishers

By Stu Woo

. . .

In the past few months, online clubs with such names as and have proliferated. The sites, some of which have gathered thousands of users, allow strangers to borrow and lend e-books for Inc.’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble Inc.’s Nook free.

Kindle and Libraries

In yesterday’s New York Times, Claire Cain Miller and Miguel Helft reported on Apple’s tighter control of the App store.    TechCrunch then added that Apple’s moves may “foreshadow war with Amazon Kindle.” 

As Jason Kincaid writes: ” instead of beating Amazon on price or features, it looks like Apple might just cut them off. Or force them to use in-app payments, which give Apple a 30% cut and would kill Amazon’s margins. Amazon has avoided using Apple’s in-app payments system by kicking users to a browser to complete their transaction, but according to the NYT report . . .  it sounds like this will be banned.”

Just last week, Amazon announced a major event: Kindle book sales had finally passed paperback books sales on (Last year, Kindle book sales outpaced hardcovers.)

With all of this swirling about (and very little mention of what this means for libraries), what should I see on our shelving truck? 

Gregory K. Laughlin has a new article in the University of Baltimore Law Review: “Digitization and Democracy:  The Conflict Between the Amazon Kindle License Agreement and the Role of Libraries in a Free Society.” (Volume 40, Number 1, Fall 2010)

Laughlin asks “whether libraries may lend e-books to patrons without violating the copyright owners’ exclusive right of distribution.”    He continues:

“Amazon, in the license agreement to which a purchaser of a  Kindle e-book must assent prior to downloading the e-book, retains ownership of the “Digital Content” (i.e. the e-book), and imposes a number of restrictions that are inconsistent with transfer of ownership to the purchaser, including prohibiting redistribution.  If libraries are not owners of the Kindle e-books they acquire, then by the explicit terms of the Amazon license agreement, as well as Section 106 of the Copyright Act, they may not lend the e-books to their patrons.”


“Are the license terms prohibiting the lending of e-books (and other digital content) enforceable under existing law? . . . If so, should the Copyright Act be amended to provide libraries with an inalienable right to lend e-books that is equivalent to their current right to lend printed books?”

Laughlin argues: “The right of libraries to lend e-books to their patrons should be inalienable…. There is still time for society as a whole to establish definitively what rights a library has to lend e-books that it acquires.  Congress should guarantee that the interests of the reading public are protected; and it should do so in a way that guarantees the same freedom of access to e-books that the public has enjoyed with physical books for well over a century.”

E-books in the news

The Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, July 21, 2009, p. B1, Barnes & Noble Challenges Amazon’s Kindle, by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Geoffrey A. Fowler.

“The biggest news here is the multi-channel integration of [Barnes& Noble’s] physical store and e-book store via the iPhone ,” said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc. “It makes use of B&N’s biggest asset: the brick-and-mortar store.”

. . .

Mountain View, Calif.-based Plastic Logic is targeting its e-book reader for the business audience, . . .


The New York Times, Tuesday, July 21, 2009, p. B1, “Barnes & Noble Plans An Extensive E-Bookstore,” by Motoko Rich.

. . . Barnes & Noble said that it would offer more than 700,000 books that could be read on a wide range of devices, including Apple’s iPhone, the BlackBerry and various . . .  computers. . . .

More than 500,000 of the books now offered electronically on can be downloaded free, through an agreement with Google to provide electronic versions of public domain books that Google has scanned from university libraries. Sony announced a similar deal in March to offer the public domain books on its Reader device.

Why won’t Amazon let us share eBooks?

Larry Magid in his “Digital Crossroads” column in today’s San Jose Mercury News (p. c3) asks “Why won’t Amazon let us share eBooks?” and he reports on a couple of library efforts to circulate books via the Kindle.

I’m bothered that Kindle books can’t be loaned out or sold, but that is a solvable problem. The Northern California Digital Library ( has solved the lending problem for books that can be read on PCs and Macs, or audio books that can be listened to on computers or iPods.

. . .

As far as I know there’s no way to lend a Kindle book, although Brigham Young University experimented with lending out Kindle book readers with books on them. Unfortunately, BYU suspended the program until it hears from Amazon as to whether that’s OK. “Being a library, we will follow the rules and until the rules are clear we will wait,” university spokesman Rogen Layden told the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha has nine Kindles that it loans out to patrons. For awhile, there were funds to purchase books for patrons but the money ran out. Patrons can still borrow Kindles, but if the title they want isn’t on it, they’re out of luck.

. . .

It seems to me that libraries should be able to buy licenses for Kindle books and loan those out to patrons to read on borrowed Kindles or their own devices. . . .

. . .


Law Books on Kindle

“Amazon will sell continuing education legal books from the Practising Law Institute on Kindle . . . ”

The Wall Street Journal, Friday, July 10, 2009, p. B6

Amazon’s Kindle to Sell Law Books

By Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg

 . . . the three-volume “Art Law,” by Ralph E. Lerner and Judith Bresler, carries a Kindle price of $220 instead of the $275 print list price, while the Kindle edition of “Copyright Law: A Practitioner’s Guide,” by Bruce P. Keller and Jeffrey P. Cunard, is priced at $236, a 20% discount from the $295 print price.

. . .

The PLI said 67 of its 90 titles are now available in the Kindle format. “Our average book is easily over 1,000 pages, and a number are multivolume sets, . . .

. . .

Traditionally, lawyers buy PLI books whose binders allow them to insert new material and discard the old. PLI customers typically receive annual supplements priced at $125. With the Kindle, users will be able to delete old versions of their texts and substitute new books. The digital editions are also searchable.

. . .

The Mediated Book

“The Mediated Book”

U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 463

RANDAL C. PICKER, University of Chicago – Law School

Text in hand, we have read books by candlelight, oil lamp and Edison’s incandescent bulb, maybe even the occasional CFL. But even as light itself has changed, the book has remained constant. Until now. With the rise of Google Book Search and ebook readers like Amazon’s Kindle, we have entered the era of the mediated book. We will still browse and read books, but we will do so through a screen.

This is more than just a change in medium. Digital texts are inherently on-demand works, that is, works that can be produced at the instant that a consumer wishes to interact with the text. Physical books historically have been printed in batched runs in advance of demand. This fact of production matters relatively little for the texts themselves, as we typically want books to be fixed, reliable artifacts.

This changes matters for how we finance books. On-demand texts can be financed through advertising. Printing in advance means that embedded advertising has little chance of being relevant at the point of reading. Mediated texts can be updated instantly with new, continuously timely advertising. That advertising also can be personalized for individual readers as the interaction between the mediating device and the reader will create a rich information stream to enhance the relevance of this advertising. That process of course will raise standard privacy issues.

The short history of 20th Century advertising expenditures in the United States is characterized by two facts. First, overall expenditures as a percentage of GDP are relatively constant over time, bouncing around over the last sixty years between 1.5% and 2.5%. The emergence of new advertising platforms – say radio in 1927; broadcast TV in 1949; cable TV in 1980; and the Internet in 1997 – hasn?t altered that essential fact. The emergence of another new platform – advertising-supported books – isn’t likely to expand overall advertising expenditures much if at all. Second, print?s advertising market share has declined steadily, from roughly 55% of advertising dollars in 1935 to a little under 21% in 2007.

Mediated content accounts for a large chunk of that decline. Now books and of course print more generally will be mediated too. And we will get a nice test. Does the decline in the role of print as seen in advertising dollars reflect the decline of words relative to images and sounds? Or is this a story not of content but of technology, in which a mediated platform is a better advertising platform? The rise of the new mediated books will change how we finance books and will change our understanding of the relative roles of content and technology in driving advertising.


Source:  LSN Cyberspace Law Vol. 14 No. 32,  05/26/2009

Cooler Cool-er?

An item with the headline “Electronic Books” on page 8 of today’s Financial Times points to an entry in the Financial Times’s Techblog by Chris Nuttall, “Cool-er e-reader takes on the Kindle.”

The item reports on an e-reader called the Cool-er that “is the brainchild of Neil Jones.”

According to the piece:

The result is the Cool-er and, an online store for the US with 260,000 paid-for titles at launch from all the major publishers, compared to around 250,000 on Amazon. Around 60,000 titles will be available in the UK and Europe initially.

Coolerbooks will sell titles in the open EPub standard, compared to Amazon’s proprietary .azw format,

There are . . .  eight different languages available for the device, giving the Cool-er more international appeal.

. . .

The Cool-er is also similar to the $280 BeBook, the $350 Cybook and iRex’s Iliad Book Edition, all of whom use the Mobipocket Reader software.

News Publishers and the iPhone

I was speaking at a law school panel discussion a couple of months ago.  The session was being recorded, and the technician was using wireless microphones.  He was picking up interference during sound checks and asked the six or seven law students who were on the panel if they had iPhones, and if they could turn them off if so.  It seemed to me  that  just about every student, and certainly a majority, reached into his or her pocket and pulled out an iPhone.

What made me think of this incident is a Technology story in tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal, “Publishers Nurture Rivals to Kindle,” by Shira Ovide and Geoffrey A. Fowler.  The article talks about a number of efforts by different publishers teaming up with companies such as FirstPaper LLC ., Plastic Logic Ltd., and E Ink Corp.

What especially caught my eye was this paragraph:

Some publishers also are focusing their portable-reading efforts on devices people already use. The new iPhone applications store rolling out this summer will support subscription prices, spurring the Financial Times, Time Inc. and other publishers to tinker with ways to offer subscriptions on the iPhone. Last week, Amazon bought a small startup that makes free e-book reading application Stanza for the iPhone.

I think that they might really be on to something.

E-book momentum

A front-page, above-the-fold story in today’s New York Times about e-books suggests that the devices are finding new readership and acceptance.

According to the story, “Turning Page, E-Books Start To Take Hold,” by Brad Stone and Motoko Rich, “[m]any Kindle buyers appear to be outside the usual gadget-bound demographic. . . . the device is most popular among 55- to 64-year-olds.”

The story concludes with a quote from a book reader who “once railed against e-readers” and who now is “in love with [her Kindle].”

But it’s not just the Kindle.  According to the Times:’s popular Kindle is unavailable until February, creating an opening for Sony’s Reader . . . The increased competition could signal the public’s acceptance of the idea of reading longer texts on a portable digital device.

In addition to the Kindle and Sony Reader, the story makes reference to e-book applications and devices from Apple (iPhone), Fictionwise, Scroll Motion, Plastic Logic, Polymer Vision, Foxit Software, and E Ink.