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To mark the first day of the nationwide rollout of  the Library eBooks for Kindle collections, I’ve captured a snapshot of the Kindle ebook collections of four public libraries:  The New York Public Library, The Los Angeles Public Library, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and the CLAMS Library Network, which serves Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

The populations served by these four libraries vary in size, community type (urban, suburban, rural) and in the mix of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.  As is evident in the numbers listed below, the library ebook collections available in each of these community varies greatly, too.  A scientific comparison would require population totals, library cardholder totals, median incomes, library funding numbers, etc., as well as a larger sampling of public libraries.  As I don’t have time to do all of that before this moment in ebook history passes, I’ve provided a few simple, but interesting metrics, including a list of each library’s ten most popular ebooks.

The books that made it into each library’s list of top ten most popular ebooks are as much a function of the limited library ebook titles available to patrons as they are indicative of the reading zeitgeist of each community.  In other words, when reading library books – whether print, ebook, or audiobook , library users can only choose from the titles made available to them.  A library’s list of the top ten most popular library ebooks is bound to be a subset of the ebook collection itself.  Thus, when that ebook collection is limited, any list of most popular library ebooks will be skewed by the fact that the library users are making choices within a very limited catalog of ebooks.  As you can see from the number of titles in each library’s ebook collection, there’s a great variation in the number of titles available from library to library.

As this is early days in the adoption of ebooks, we can expect the demand by library patrons for ebooks to grow.  One of the challenges for public libraries will be to secure the funds needed to purchase ebooks and other electronic resources fast enough to satisfy the needs and demands of library users.

You can help by calling and/or writing your public officials in support of these services.  If it’s within your budget, consider showing your appreciation by making a donation to your public library!  If you’re not using your library’s ebook services, start now!  When you want or need a book that not in your library’s collection, place a request for it.  If the ebook you want to read has a waiting list, add your name to it.  When the waiting list becomes long enough, it serves as a tipping point for purchasing more copies of the book (that is, if the funds are available).  As you wait your digital turn, browse the catalog and choose a book from among those that are available.  I guarantee that you’ll discover some very interesting books by doing just that.

Total Titles in Library eBooks for Kindle Collections in the Following Libraries on Sep 22, 2011

New York Public Library:              14,527
Los Angeles Public Library’:           8,726
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh:      2,878
CLAMS (MA) Library Network:      2,285

New York Public Library
Total NYPL Library eBook Titles for Kindle: 14,527

Top 10 List of Most Popular eBooks at the NYPL on Sep 22, 2011

1.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Library copies: 108
Waiting list: 524 patrons

2.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Millennium Trilogy, Book 1 by Stieg Larsson
Library copies: 123
Waiting list: 2 patrons

3.  A Game of Thrones: Song of Ice and Fire Series, Book 1 by George R.R. Martin
Library copies: 79
Waiting list: 198

4.  Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen
Library copies: 65
Waiting list: 6 patrons

5.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest: Millennium Trilogy, Book 3 by Stieg Larsson
Library copies: 80
Waiting list: 0 and 13 copies are available

6.  One Day by David Nicholls
Library copies: 36
Waiting list: 228 patrons

7.  The Girls Who Played with Fire, Millennium Trilogy, Book 2 by Stieg Larsson
Library copies: 67
Waiting list: 0 and 11 copies are available

8.  A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Library copies: 35
Waiting list: 210 patrons

9.  In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
Library copies: 35
Waiting list: 86 patrons

10.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Library copies: 40
Waiting list: 77 patrons

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The Los Angeles Public Library
Total Library eBook Titles for Kindle: 8,726

Top 10 List of Most Popular eBooks at the LAPL on Sep 22, 2011

1.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Library copies: 24
Waiting list: 172 patrons

2.  A Game of Thrones: Song of Ice and Fire Series, Book 1 by George R. R. Martin
Library copies: 20
Waiting list: 69 patrons

3.  George R. R. Martin’s a Game of Thrones 4-Book Bundle by George R. R. Martin
Library copies: 13
Waiting list: 52 patrons

4.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Millennium Trilogy, Book 1 by Stieg Larsson
Library copies: 13
Waiting list: 18 patrons

5.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest: Millennium Trilogy, Book 3 by Stieg Larsson
Library copies: 10
Waiting list: 18 patrons

6.  Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen
Library copies: 35 patrons
Waiting list: 12

7.  Smokin’ Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich
Library copies: 8
Waiting list: 34 patrons

8.  In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
Library copies: 9
Waiting list: 40 patrons

9.  Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Library copies: 9
Waiting list: 21 patrons

10.  Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Library copies: 8
Waiting list: 34 patrons

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Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Total Library eBook Titles for Kindle: 2,878

Top 10 List of Most Popular eBooks at the CLP on Sep 22, 2011

1.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Library copies: 12
Waiting list: 144 patrons

2.  George R.R. Martin’s a Game of Thrones 4-Book Bundle by R. R. Martin
Library copies: 10
Waiting list: 49 patrons

3.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Millennium Trilogy, Book 1 by Stieg Larsson
Library copies: 7
Waiting list: 40 patrons

4.  Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen
Library copies: 9
Waiting list: 17 patrons

5.  The Confession: A Novel by John Grisham
Library copies: 10
Waiting list: 5 patrons

6.  Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
Library copies: 7
Waiting list: 25 patrons

7.  Smokin’ Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich
Library copies: 5
Waiting list: 47 patrons

8.  Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Library copies: 6
Waiting list: 35 patrons

9.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest: Millennium Trilogy, Book 3 by Stieg Larsson
Library copies: 6
Waiting list: 31 patrons

10.  Dead Reckoning: Sookie Stackhouse Series, Book 11 by Charlaine Harris
Library copies: 5
Waiting list: 25 patrons

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CLAMS Library Network for the Cape and Islands, MA
CLAMS Total Library eBook Titles for Kindle: 2,285

Top 10 List of Most Popular eBooks at the CLP on Sep 22, 2011

1.  The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Library copies: 7
Waiting list: 38 patrons

2.  Caleb’s Crossing: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks
Library copies: 7
Waiting list: 15 patrons

3.  Smokin’ Seventeen: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich
Library copies: 4
Waiting list: 8 patrons

4.  Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Library copies: 5
Waiting list: 13 patrons

5.  Unbroken: A World War II Story of Surval, Resilence and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Library copies: 5
Waiting list: 0

6.  In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
Library copies: 4
Waiting list: 3 patrons

7.  A Game of Thrones: Song of Ice and Fire Series, Book 1 by George R.R. Martin
Library copies: 4
Waiting list: 1 patron

8.  George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones 4-Book Bundle by George R. R. Martin
Library copies: 4
Waiting list: 1 patron

9.  The Paris Wife: A Novel by Paula McLain
Library copies: 4
Waiting list: 1 patron

10.  The Lincoln Lawyer: Mickey Haller Series, Book 1 by Michael Connelly
Library copies: 4
Waiting list: 1 patron

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Amazon has just launched a Free Book Collection page, where it gathers together links to “Free classics and out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books available for Kindle.”  Although this information has been available for a long time on other sites, having it pulled together on the Amazon site makes for a more seamless experience for the Kindle user.  Andrys Basten, the wonderful force behind A Kindle World Blog, provides an excellent analysis of what this means to the Kindle community in her post yesterday.

Here’s hoping that Amazon will soon realize that it’s in its best interest to enable Kindle users to download free books from the ebook collections at public libraries to their Kindles. If Sony and Barnes & Noble can figure out how to do this, then surely Amazon can, too.  People who borrow books from libraries also buy books. (And, let us not forget that libraries purchase books based on demand from patrons.)  As it stands now, those of us who wish to purchase ebooks from Amazon AND who also wish to borrow ebooks from libraries AND who wish to read them on an ereader must do so using two different ereader devices.  PC users have an additional option, which is to install Kindle for PC software and Adobe Digital Editions software on their computers, where they can then read both Amazon and borrowed library ebooks from that one appliance.  But, for those of us who prefer to hold the book – be it analog or digital – in our hands, this means taking two giant steps backwards, reading from a desktop or laptop screen instead.

Ebooks borrowed from libraries can only be read on devices and/or software that work(s) with DRM-protected Adobe EPUB and PDF files.  This category includes ereaders like Sony Reader and B&N’s Nook and software like Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) software.  As ADE comes in both PC and Mac versions, patrons who do not own ereader devices have the option of reading the borrowed library ebooks from a computer screen. ADE does not work with the Kindle, nor has Adobe released an ADE app for smartphones yet.

PC users may read Amazon ebooks from their computer screens by downloading and installing the Kindle for PC software.  Mac users, as of this date, don’t have that option because Amazon has not yet made Kindle for Mac available.  Mac users (as well as anyone else) who own an iPhone, iPod Touch, or a Blackberry do have the option of reading Amazon’s ebooks on those devices.  What they can’t do is read borrowed library ebooks on smartphones because neither ADE nor Overdrive (the company that provides the digital delivery infrastructure for 9,000 public libraries) has released an ebook app for the mobile phone platform yet.

The upshot of all of this is that anyone who wishes to read both Amazon ebooks and borrowed library ebooks on a non-computer ereader device is forced to either choose between the two — or purchase two different devices and toggle between the two.  If the iPad enables users to download apps for the Kindle, all other ebook vendors, as well as apps for borrowing library ebooks, then I suspect that many ebook readers frustrated by having to toggle between devices and platforms, will adopt the iPad as their sole ereader.

Of course, there’s a much simpler solution:  all ebooks be published using the same format and be device-agnostic.

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