The Real Netflix for Books

by Angie Solis, Senior Assistant, INALJ Missouri 

The Real Netflix for Books

AngieSolisModern libraries are beginning to have more and more competition in the world. One of which is Amazon’s new Unlimited Service. What I’ve noticed is that there has been a ton of backlash from the library community in an attempt to preserve the traditional library and it’s services to the public. As librarians and even information professionals, there’s no way we can dispute the importance and relevance of the library in today’s society. I’m an avid user of Amazon and it’s services but I think the Unlimited service is a bit much. But it’s not just Amazon and the internet in general that challenges the libraries of today, there’s also companies like Oyster who claims to be the “Netflix of books” along with others. Is this something that is likely to hurt libraries or is it something the public recognizes as a service that has little value? Proponents of Amazon’s Unlimited Service also boast it as the “Netflix for books”. But is it really fair to make this comparison? I don’t think it is as there isn’t a free library of movies on the same scale as Netflix the way that libraries lend books to patrons. Not only is this not the same in my opinion but could this really be hurting society by threatening the livelihood of libraries?

Librarians and information professionals aren’t the only people skeptical of the claims that Amazon or Oyster will succeed as the “Netflix for books”. The New York Times wrote about the advent of book renting services that are hampered by the lack of newer and older titles in their collections. All the big name websites offering these services have “something to be desired” and among other things a library card is still a more viable option for reading books. The Verge also published an article noting that Amazon’s Unlimited Service might be doomed before it starts. The article notes that Amazon has the potential to be a successful service but lacks the support of some big name publishers to allow them to succeed. Finally, International Business Times published a great article on Oyster and how it lacks the value to actually be the “Netflix of books”. According to this article, “this isn’t a new concept. Public libraries provide the exact same content for free. The only benefit for Oyster subscribers is the ease of access. You just don’t have to go to the library. But libraries provide so much more than just books.” And even now, many libraries offer digital versions of many books that patrons can check out from the comfort of their own home. I think these articles answer my previous questions. While Amazon Unlimited and Oyster may be convenient services they don’t offer what libraries offer. They don’t offer community involvement or content for the cost of a library card. These book renting services require that you pay to receive the same services and I think that the public will recognize this fact. So, are libraries in danger? I think not and I hope that the public will acknowledge this as well.

And still, there is good news for librarians on the horizon. According to the Wall Street Journal, “America may be running out of sea captains and librarians.” That’s great news right? Absolutely! The same article notes that a shortage in labor will result in faster wage growth. While this doesn’t necessarily help job seekers now, I believe that it is reassuring to know that there is potential job advancement and wage growth for librarians that are entering the field now and in the near future. I don’t know about you, but I plan to keep a positive outlook on the field and its future. Who’s with me? From now on, let’s make Libraries the Netflix for books and think happy thoughts about the future of the profession.

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