While libraries still struggle to provide digital content for lending to its patrons and publishers still feel the need to examine all the ramifications of allowing patrons to borrow their bestselling–and sometimes, even back list–titles on their digital devices, some companies are working to change the concept behind the lending all together. Library Ideas‘ ebook lending platform Freading, which will be upgrading next month to include new content and new publishers, is an entirely different take on the concept of book borrowing.
Close in nature to concepts like Amazon Prime, in which members have a pre-determined number of ebook checkouts for one annual membership price, Freading allows libraries to allot patrons virtual tokens that are exchanged for borrowable titles, tokens that are bought with actual money by the library, as opposed to a flat subscription price for using the catalog. The cost of a title is determined based on the publication date of the title. A new release typically costs the equivalent of around two dollars to borrow, and it is removed from the device after a two-week checkout period.
Update: Brian Downing, CEO of Library Ideas, reached out to GoodEReader with clarification of the token model for ebook checkouts. The libraries incur the cost for the patron checkouts, much as they would assume the cost for a subscription to a lending catalog, only in the case of Freading, libraries only pay per circulation for a title. Additionally, libraries have unlimited simultaneous access to titles, eliminating the waiting list that frustrate so many digital patrons.
One issue that Freading has struggled with, and which has been addressed for the upgrade on April 12th, is book discovery. Unlike some library platforms that use subscription-based limitations to keep prices affordable for libraries of all sizes, all of Freading’s catalog is available to its member libraries. This can lead to issues with search and discovery, but Freading has incorporated search headings in this new edition, especially popular seasonal headings, that make it easier to filter searches for books.
To date, around 1500 library systems have signed on to use Freading’s lending platform, along with more than 850 publishers.