The 3M Cloud Library system is one of the newest entries to the market that focuses on getting libraries hooked up with the ability to loan out ebooks. The company has grown over the last year and now sees almost 1,000 different libraries offering its ebooks and other multimedia content to their patrons. We caught up with Tom Mercer, the Digital Library Business Development Manager at 3M.
One of the ways 3M differentiates itself from the competition is by offering Discovery Terminals for libraries to purchase. This puts a touchscreen computer for patrons to use to check out books automatically. One of the cool elements of the terminals is that they display QR codes that your phone can scan for quick ebook borrowing. They also provide an e-reader that libraries can try to purchase for their customers. Tom Mercer of 3M told us that “it’s mainly urban libraries who invest in a lot of digital content that are the ones that primarily buy the e-readers to loan out.” It seems as though the small to medium sized libraries don’t want to shell out the extra money for the e-reader and they often offer their own devices like Sony or the Nook.
3M has really focused on app development for Android and iOS. The company saw a dramatic increase in over usage during the holiday season and specifically cited the iPad mini as being a strong avenue for growth. In order to facilitate third party development, it has released a series of API tools that libraries can use to make their own custom apps. 3M is also focused on international expansion into Canada, which is on the roadmap for later this year. They big thing 3M needs to work out is international publishing rights to distribute books into major Canadian centers.
Speaking of publishing, Penguin Publishing has been the Holy Grail for content distribution companies that want to provide Penguin’s digital book versions to the public. Penguin, over the last few years, has been very resistant to the entire concept of free borrowing, citing in the past “free ebook borrowing devalues the book and the author.” Late last year, Penguin turned an about face and started a pilot project with 3M. The publisher initially ran in New York, and due to the positive outcome from the New York Public Library, Penguin has expanded and now offers its books as part of the total 3M package.