[FoRK] Kindle price slashed...

Ken Meltsner meltsner at alum.mit.edu
Thu Oct 8 11:09:12 PDT 2009

On Thu, Oct 8, 2009 at 1:41 PM, Reese <howell.r at inkworkswell.com> wrote:
> What is the big deal with checking out the same e-book multiple times,
> if there is DRM in place that makes it go invalid after a certain date?
> Reese

They want to limit how many users can access the book at a time --
it's all based on the physical book as a model , which is kind of
silly, but that's how it's been sold to the publishers and libraries.

I believe this is a straightforward extension of the current book
leasing business -- IIRC, libraries lease popular titles, e.g. 3 or 4
copies of the latest Dan Brown, use them for a while, and then turn
them..  The book rental company can then resell the somewhat used
titles.  Libraries get lots of copies to handle the spike in demand
when a popular title comes out, the book renter makes money on the
rental as well as the eventual re-sale of the books, and the library
members get lots of copies of best selling titles.

I suspect the ebook leasing business works the same way -- some number
of popular titles are "leased" by each library, the software regulates
how long you can read the ebook, and the ebook leasing site controls
how many people have unexpired copies at any time.  They could do this
in another way: charge for each download while maintaining some cap on
total or simultaneous downloads, but I suspect that's too futuristic.
 I mean, the whole issue of how to control of a scarce physical object
(a printed book) is no longer relevant.  The deeper question: how do
we make sure that authors, editors, etc. reap the rewards of their
labor is not addressed at all.

Amazingly, I remembered the name of the big book leasing vendor and a
quick Google found this:


McNaughton's History
The concept of leasing books to libraries actually began as a rental
program through retailers more than 50 years ago. Nelson McNaughton
founded and ran a commercial lending library, distributing his books
through a variety of retailers. Day rates to customers were a nickel a
day, divided between the storekeeper and McNaughton. Despite his
considerable number of retail lenders, he struggled to make a profit.
All his books were covered with Brodart book jackets, a detail that
would later play a significant role in the company he ran.

During a store closure in West Virginia, McNaughton arrived to
discover his books were about to be auctioned, and was told to either
remove his books or forfeit them. With no truck to cart the books
away, he asked the local library to store the inventory for a short

As it turned out, the library hadn't been able to afford new books for
some time and was pleased to get a few. The librarian asked if she
could lend the titles and offered to collect the drugstore's books
that were still in circulation. The library would collect any money it
could and McNaughton would permit book loans, free.

A month later, McNaughton found that the receipts from the drugstore's
customers were amazingly high. He concluded that storekeepers had been
cheating him but that librarians were honest. The library's
circulation was amazingly high, too.

Eventually, the businessman was prepared to reclaim his books, but
they were in great demand, so he struck a deal in which the library
collected lending fees and he took a commission on the service. In
short order, word spread around West Virginia about this remarkable
new program, a commercial lending library in a public library. In no
time at all, McNaughton had 13 library accounts. Upon his retirement,
the McNaughton program became a division of Brodart Books &

Today McNaughton offers popular reading plans for lease or purchase.
Each plan is credited with a monthly allowance of books or points.
Unlike the allowance you received for doing chores while growing up,
this allowance is "spent" by ordering books. The allowance amount used
for a particular book is based on the publisher's list price.

Each plan begins with a rotating collection of popular and bestselling
books. New books are chosen monthly from McNaughton's annotated
catalogs. Periodic returns and/or purchases of leased books keeps the
collection up-to-date for your patrons. You decide which books to
return, and which books to purchase to build your permanent

McNaughton can help you establish a popular reading plan, enhance an
existing collection, or reduce your reserve list with multiple copies
of high demand books.

In the move from retailers to libraries, McNaughton made the
commitment to develop the best popular reading programs for the
library market. The commitment is the same today, and the proof can be
found in over 3,800 subscribers in North America, Australia, and
military installations throughout the world.

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