Why hasn't someone put libraries in airports?

Okay, I guess I know the answer: money.

But I think this would be a really good service for a lot of frequent + business travelars. Imagine how nice it would be if a certain airline had them in their terminals. You could take out a book in Boston under Delta, and return it in Los Angeles when you arrive there. Or if it was a two day business trip just retrun it back to the one in Boston when you come home.

I know that this isn’t a real great revenue generator, but I still think it sounds like a nice idea and was wondering if any airport or airline has ever tried it.

My guess is that with the thousands upon thousands of travelers going every-which way, it would be impossible to collect on late fees etc. At least local libraries can go over to your house and rough you up if don’t return their books.

Libraries, at least of they offer a selection which makes them attractive to suit different tastes, take up lots of space for their shelves, which is valuable in an airport. Then you have the problem of keeping track of the books lent out (of course, if the library is operated by an airline and you have frequent flyer status with that airline, they have your name and address, so you could put them into lounges, but then again this would limit down potential clientele). And given the way air passengers typically handle books - pack them into bags full of other stuff, pour drinks over them, etc -, the life expectancy of the books wouldn’t be too long, cuasing costs of more frequent replacements. Modern library visitors have become increasingly picky on the quality of books they borrow - it’s not sufficient, as it used to be in past devades, to have a bunch of worn out, stained, and dog-eared books. They prefer crispy, new ones, at least if they paid for an airline ticket which brings library access as a bonus service.

I have seen mini libraries in strip centers - a tiny branch with best sellers and other pop stuff - as one operating branch of a library system. Perhaps a kiosk at an airport might work. Also, they could follow Cracker Barrel restaurant’s example where books on tape can be purchased and returned (with a 98% refund) later at any other Cracker Barrel.

Hmm, maybe theres’ something in this, in theory. Not sure how to make it finanically viable…

Just a thought…

  • Jinx

I’d say you’re right. Space in airport terminals is valuable and tends to be rented out at fancy prices to those who can make the most money with it.

If a library were available, collecting late fees need not be a problem: the borrower would be asked to supply a credit card to which fees would be charged.

Note that there are stores in some airline terminals that rent DVDs.

There are already bookstores in airports, so you have built in competition. And those bookstores already have some “return after you’ve read” options so that market is already being served.

I like Jinx’s idea of copying the Cracker Barrel model. If the book was never returned, the library wouldn’t suffer a loss. The book could have a bar code which would let the library keep track of how long it’s been gone. (A book "purchased five years ago wouldn’t get the same level of refund unless it’s a “classic” title with long-term appeal.) Sums could be deducted for condition issues.

Not quite the same thing but interesting nonetheless:

set a book free

The service described in the OP really isn’t as much a library as it would be a subscription service. It’s not like the airport is going to set up a full library collection with reference books and access to fulltext databases.

“Hey, Jack, I’ve got to make my connection in 45 minutes!”
“Yeah, but I need to find a copy of the Canadian Journal of Sociology!”
“OK, let’s pop by the library.”
“Sheesh, it’s got nothing but Dan Brown and Steven King!”

There are already library-equivalents at airports for books & CDs / tapes / DVDs. The critical thing is they are not free to use. They all operate on some variant of the “buy it here, return it there for almost total refund” model.

The typical modern general-purpose library is free to use because it is paid for by the local taxpayers for local use. Absent a national library system paid for by national taxes, or an airline-wide system paid for by airline ticket buyers, free to use isn’t going to happen.

I read this and envisioned a library with nothing but Michael Crichton and Dan Brown and Tony Robbins on the shelves.

Wait - that’s the Saginaw, TX city library. I’m sooo glad my taxes pay for that collection.

I’d be wary of the collection in an airport terminal library. I think there’s crap selection in airport bookstores for a reason - it’s what the typical business traveler buys. I’m also skeptical that typical business traveler will be interested in borrowing a book rather than owning one.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder why something like Barnes & Noble hasn’t capitalized on this market. Libraries might not be as practical, but B&N would make a killing.

I am failing to see the business or general need here. Every airport of any size has at least a newsstand with a large collection of magazines, several different newspapers plus some of the more popular paperbacks.

The major airports Atlanta/O’Hare/JFK etc. have several full-fledged bookstores within the terminals with thousands of titles for sale plus newsstands with papers from around the country and often the world. Most long-distance travelers will travel through one of these major hubs where they can buy whatever they want to read.

Whose need isn’t being met? Academics and off-beat literature buffs? They are perfectly fine to go to their own libraries and bring what they with them.

Of course, it could be that that’s what the typical business traveler buys because that’s largely all that’s available, barring Danielle Steele or the latest religious-inspirational “bestseller.” I’m reminded of the local State Transportation Dept. response when asked why they didn’t look at estimates for a bypass highway connecting an interstate highway with an army base that generated a lot of the highway’s traffic, which was routed through a downtown business district by the existing roads: “Oh, nobody would drive that! We know, because nobody does now.” Of course, the reason that “nobody does now” is that there literally were no roads, even farm-to-market type back roads, running along or paralleling the desired route.

The easiest way to prove something won’t work is to show that nobody’s ever offered it, so there must be no demand.

Good point.

I’m working with the assumption that someone, somewhere, has conducted marketing studies with airline travelers and concluded that the typical business commuter wants to read mind-numbing dreck. But since airline travelers are basically a captive audience, the studies may very well have not been done, or perhaps have been done and subsequently ignored.

I read almost exclusively non-fiction books usually centered around science. I have never had a problem finding those in any large airport bookstore and sometimes even newstands. That is where I bought Steven Hawking, Carl Sagan, and some in depth computational theory books. Again, there are bookstores with multiple reading rooms and books categorized by subject in most major airports and they certainly don’t just carry Danielle Steele and John Grisham.

I feel like I am on a parallel universe here where people are asking where airports don’t have bars and restaurants. I do a substantial portion of my (non-pop) book shopping in airports because I have nothing better to do.

I think I have found a way to thin my overflowing heard of books.
What a cool idea.
Thanks for the link.

This idea would be great as part of a frequent flyer program for an airline. I have a lot of miles on Lufthansa which lets me use their airport lounges. It would be great if I could check out a book in the lounge using my FF card and return it at my destination. If I don’t return it, they debit my miles or a credit card I give them to register for the program.

I’m holding out for the airport laundry/shower/nap/exercise center/library.

An idea from SO: It’s the digital age, why not e-books that you can borrow/rent/buy?