Libraries claim to be places where readers can discover authors and titles, even more so now that there are fewer traditional bookstores. However, unlike bookstores, libraries generally aren’t able to monetize a patron’s enthusiasm over a new find.
That might change. On Feb. 18, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent to Ronald Dicke and Gordon Freedman, both of Ottawa, ON, Canada, for a system to enable libraries to sell e-books to borrowers.
Here’s how it works: Once a borrower downloads an e-book to a reading device, the system tracks how much of the e-book the borrower actually accesses. When the lending period is almost up and the e-book is about to disappear from the device, the system determines whether the borrower finished the book. If not, the borrower receives an on-screen offer to buy the e-book on the spot and keep it permanently.
The assumption is that some borrowers may be willing to pay for the ability to complete the book at their own pace. The system also allows borrowers to purchase the e-book as a gift for another borrower, or even to donate another copy to the library (although at three to four times the retail price, since the library’s copy will be available for lending).
In effect, the system would permit readers to try before they buy, giving them a way to browse through an entire tome—not just a sample chapter or two—prior to purchasing.