PLA 2012 is now a couple days past, but the conference report wouldn’t be complete without mentioning 3M. 3M was at the show to demo all sorts of library tech, including checkout equipment, scanners, and the 3M Cloud Library.
They’re making a big push into library ebooks and their presentations always drew a crowd.
From external appearances the Cloud Library operates much like OverDrive. The interfaces might be slicker, but the Cloud Library was clearly conceived to be a direct competitor to OverDrive.
As I’ve posted before, a good part of the 3M Cloud Library was written by txtr, the German ereader developer. 3M invested in txtr just for the Cloud Library, and 3M now owns about a quarter of the company.
Txtr provided a lot of the behind the scenes code as well as the 3M Cloud Library iOS and Android apps. They didn’t provide the ereader, though; 3M is rebranding a Pocketbook 602 for the Cloud Library. That will cost $150.
3M is currently offering 130 thousand titles to 10 beta partners, and they plan to add another 40 or so libraries in April. The eBooks are of course available in Epub.
3M’s future plans include a PC app (according to a librarian who is a beta partner). 3M is also saying that they’re talking with Amazon about Kindle support, and that we should check back in June. I wouldn’t read too much into that; everyone is talking to Amazon about getting their library ebooks on the Kindle.
Money is a topic on everyone’s mind, but I don’t have much details on it yet. 3M wouldn’t discuss cost in public, but I did overhear a rather interesting conversation. One librarian reported that 3M was asking for $30 thousand a year for the Cloud Library. I heard that this was split between a 15k platform fee and a commitment to buy $15,000 in content. The latter is not so unreasonable, but the librarian thought that the former was a little steep. I’m not certain about the size of the library in question, but given that Ingram asks only $500 a year and that Freading has no platform fee, 3M’s fee seems a little much.
BTW, the device in the lead photo is one of what 3M would call their innovations, but it looks to me like another way to separate you from your money. They’re calling it a discovery terminal, but it’s really just a tablet PC that’s running 3M’s custom app. 3M believes that this discovery terminal will make it easier to browse the ebook collection, but I think a regular PC would be more cost effective.