Amazon Introduces End-to-End Library Processing

Topic: has launched Library Processing, enabling its multitudinous library customers to receive Machine-Readable Cataloging (MARC) records and have books and other media they order from pre-fitted with Mylar jackets, barcodes, and other essential preparation services. For the latest list of library services, visit


It is not completely replacing the paper money. It appears to be a different edition that you can buy (only in the UK for now; being considered for U.S. and Canada later) that costs 2x as much.


There was a dj commenting on a radio station that he felt that Monopoly taught children money management tools and he worried that with the credit card that the kids would not learn as much. He said he thought that the kids could see better how much ownership versus renting would be if they had to pay out cash each time, etc..

This news story about Amazon's shelf-prep service solidified a series of thoughts I've been having under the heading of "Just-In-Time" acquisitions versus "Just-in-Case">. I finally got the pieces together and wrote it up on my blog; here is an excerpt from the beginning:

What of a service where the patrons selected the items they needed our of the library catalog and they were delivered to the patron even when the library did not yet own the item? Would that be useful? With the growth of online bookstores, our users do have the expectation of finding something they need on the web, clicking a few buttons and having it delivered. With such expectations of what is possible, where is the first place a patron would go to find recently published items — the online bookstore or their local library catalog? Does your gut tell you it is the online bookstore? Would it be desirable if the patron's instinct were to be the local library catalog?

A savvy patron looking for a recently published item will likely try the local library catalog to see if the item has been selected, purchased, received, cataloged, processed, and shelved (hereafter "SPRCPS") — in other words, gone through the traditional process libraries use for acquiring items. If not, the patron has one of three choices (that I can think of):

  1. make a request for the item to be SPRCPS'd with a hold placed on the item so that the patron is notified when it is ready;
  2. start an Interlibrary Loan process to try to get the item from another site that has SPRCPS'd the item faster than your library; or
  3. pay a cost premium — buy the book themselves and have it delivered.

Looking at this from the perspective of elapsed time, #1 is likely many weeks, #2 is likely a few weeks, and #3 is likely a few days. Looking at this from the perspective of direct cost to the patron, #1 is the cheapest, #2 may be free or some nominal ILL transaction cost (depending on local policy), and #3 is the most expensive. All-in-all, reasonable tradeoffs.

But what if our libraries offered a service that had the speed of #3 and the cost of #1? Do you think that would be an appropriate service to our users?

Comments welcome!