August 30, 2014

Amazon.com Is Now Lending eBooks as Kindle Lending Library Opens

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The rumored Kindle eBook lending service is real and is now live. It will  add a new variable as libraries rethink their roles, collection building, eBook services for libraries, and many other issues.

First, some fast facts and links and then a few comments on first learning and digesting the news. As you’ll see there are a number of restrictions and limitations as of today. Of course, if this initial launch is successful, this will very likely change.

Fast Facts (As of Today):

  • The Kindle Lending Library is ONLY Available to Those Who Own a Kindle Device AND Subscribe to the Amazon Prime Service
  • The Service is Only Available for U.S. Customers
  • None of the Six Largest U.S. Publishers are Participating
  • Books Can Be Read on Multiple Kindle Devices, as Long as They’re Registered to the Same Eligible Account
  • Books CANNOT Be Read on Kindle Reading Apps (Android, iOS, PC, Mac, etc.)
  • One Book Can be Borrowed at a Time, and There are No Due Dates
  • You Can Borrow a New Book as Frequently as Once a Month, Directly on a Registered Kindle Device, and You Will Be Prompted to Return the Book That You are Currently Borrowing
  • If You Have Already Borrowed a Book in that Calendar month, You are Not Yet Eligible to Borrow a New Book Until the Next Calendar Month.  There is No “Roll-Over” or Accrual of Unused Borrowing Eligibility
  • Bookmarks, Notes, and Highlights are All Available on Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Titles, and Will be Saved to your Amazon.com Account  If You Borrow Again or Purchase the Book in the Future, Your Notes and Highlights Will be Available for You
  • A Few of Titles Available at Launch
  • 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers
  • Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Big Short and Liars’ Poker by Michael Lewis
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Links

Kindle Lending Library Homepage

Kindle Lending Library Help Page

From WSJ.com  (by J. Trachtenberg and S. Woo)

The program will be limited, [our emphasis] at least at the beginning, in what is available to borrow. Amazon will initially offer slightly more than 5,000 titles in the library, including more than 100 current and former national bestsellers, such as Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”

[Clip]

Borrowers can keep a book for as long as they like, but when they borrow a new title, the previously borrowed book automatically disappears from their device.

From the Amazon.com News Release

Titles in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library come from a range of publishers under a variety of terms. For the vast majority of titles, Amazon has reached agreement with publishers to include titles for a fixed fee. In some cases, Amazon is purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader under standard wholesale terms as a no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents.”

A Few Comments

Today is day one and Kindle Lending Library (KLL) is far from a mainstream service even for many Amazon.com customers. Plus, as you’ve see there are MANY  limitations in terms of what (only about 5K titles) and how much can be borrowed (one new title per month). Plus, not every eBook reader uses a Kindle device and even if they do they also have to subscribe to the Amazon Prime service. Of course, some don’t like eBooks and let’s not forget that many can’t afford ebooks, Internet access, and the other services libraries provide at no charge.

Libraries are about books and ebooks but so much more.

However, as we said earlier, if this initial launch of the KLL is successful things can and will likely change so it’s important (no, essential) for the library community to not only watch developments closely but to also consider future scenarios and discuss how we can respond and how to convey what we offer and will offer vs. Amazon (and other services) to both current and potential users. In fact, a lot of this is already underway when it comes to non-book material. For example, we now have several ways to access free or low cost music libraries (e.g. Spotify) and when it comes to streaming video there is both Netflix and Amazon.com’s service offering free streaming video content (again, only for Prime customers).

Some don’t like the word competition in the library world. However, we have it. We might not be competing for revenue but we continue to compete for mindshare and overall awareness of not only what we offer but also our skills in getting accurate and timely answers, navigating the electronic world, advocating on privacy issues, preservation and digitization of content, and so much more. We have to ask how good of a job the library community has done to explain this to our current users but also to non-users. Are they even considering us and if not, why not?

Finally, mindshare and a clear understanding is also critical because in many situations relates directly to funding for current and future services. More and more often we’re going to hear, why do we need to pay for x, we can get all sorts of material for free and that’s more than good enough?

It’s one thing to offer great resources but unless we explain and demonstrate it’s value to the specific user and/or  group of users, faculty members, students, etc. the results are likely not going to be very good. We’ve gone beyond simply announcing we have something and to take a look.

UPDATE 3: Amazon and the future of lending by Peter Brantley (via Publisher’s Weekly)

UPDATE 2: How Amazon Can Afford to Give Away Books, Free (via Technology Review)

UPDATE: Paul Biba at TeleRead has posted a breakdown of the titles (by category) currently available from the Kindle Lending Library.

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.