One of the reasons I have eschewed the Kindle from Amazon is that you can’t use the device to check out ebooks from your local library. Many public lending libraries now lend ebooks. They can be read on PC’s, Android devices and things like the Sony eReader. But they have never worked on an Amazon Kindle. I suppose some people might have found a way to convert proprietary file formats from libraries to work on Kindle, but I doubt it. It’s a big turn off for a book lover not to be able to get FREE library books on your electronic reading device when you can pick up real books at the library or use a compatible device. Rather than working with the library community, Amazon just performed an end-around. If you have an Amazon Prime membership (which I do) you can now read books in the Amazon Kindle Lending library for free. The catch is, you can only read them on a Kindle device. Weird, huh? Part of the draw of Kindle is that you can read your books on your Kindle, your PC, your phone or whatever device that can run the Kindle app. But with this lending library, the books are ONLY available on a Kindle device. To read a loaned book on your phone, you’ll have to pony up some cash and buy it. That seems to go against Amazon’s philosophy of ubiquity, but hey, free books! Now, of course, not everything is available in the lending library and it would take some time to sort through the available books to see if it is worth it. The content of the library seems to be mostly new stuff like NY Times bestsellers. But if you read a lot of new stuff and own a Kindle, the Prime membership could be worth its weight in gold. This new library will really change both the book selling market and the library scene. Revolutionary? Perhaps. I think a lot of public lending libraries that pay gobs of money to grant their patrons access to ebook collections are going to be up in arms. It also reveals a changing dynamic in Amazon’s business model. Their goal is to get people paying subscription fees (the annual $79 Prime fee) forever. If they get enough people to jump in and they continue to crush the competition, they’ll be free to crank up that annual price over time. I’m very curious as to what the pundits will have to say about this one. I also wonder if publishers are going to throw a fit. But knowing Amazon’s style, they probably worked out some kind of contract with publishers ahead of time. It’s bizarre to think that books are going the way of Netflix online streaming, but here it is in front of our faces.
Update: So I looked further into the details and the Amazon Library is not as golden as it seems. You get to “check out” 12 books per year, that’s one per month. It says there are no due dates, so why would you ever “return” a book. That’s a bit of a mystery to me. It seems like you would want to keep every one of your 12 annual books in your library and not return them. I’m sure this will get hashed out as people start using the library. Maybe an un-returned book will expire after year or something, but that would seem to undo the “no due dates” claim. What if you’re a slow reader and you check out a 2000 page book? Will they take it away when your on page 1701?
Ok, I think I figured it out. It says you can only “check out one book at a time.” That means if you don’t read a book a month, then you won’t be able to check out 12 per year. Seems like a good service for short books you can read in a few weeks, but not for long stuff.