Paper rules: Why borrowing an e-book from your library is so difficult

eBookTwo weeks ago, the annual Book Expo America (BEA) conference hit New York City. A gathering of publishers, booksellers, librarians, authors, reviewers, and book bloggers, BEA is the CES or E3 of the literary world. However, though e-books are a huge portion of the book world today, you wouldn’t know it from walking the show floor. The literary world is slow to adopt and acknowledge that it is now a part of the tech industry, and no where is that more apparent than the sad state of e-book lending for libraries.

Libraries have been able to lend e-books for many years, but the practice went mainstream in 2009 when Sony announced a partnership with the New York Public Library. Since then, libraries across the country have quickly adopted lending systems that work with most major e-book reading devices from Sony, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Amazon.

Four years in, borrowing an e-book from your local library is still a difficult and confusing process that varies wildly depending on what kind of e-reader or device you own. And once you finally figure out how to borrow a book, there are other frustrations. Often, the e-book you want is unavailable, either because it’s been checked out by another patron, it’s not in your library’s system, or it’s not available for your device.

So why is it so hard to borrow an e-book? It’s because none of the companies involved are working together. The e-reader makers, library lending software developers, and the publishers are all working at odds and it’s us who suffer. E-book library lending is broken.

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