Amazon has announced Kindle Library Lending. Planned to launch later this year, it will allow Kindle users to borrow e-books from their local libraries in the U.S.
When Amazon introduced the Kindle lending facility Kindle users quickly responded to form online lending clubs to borrow and lend Kindle titles. Now Amazon has partnered with OverDrive, the main e-book distributor for libraries, to bring Kindle e-books to more than 11,000 libraries in the U.S.
Kindle users, including users of the free Kindle apps on Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone, will at last be able to check out an ebook.
The normal restriction that a book can only be loaned to one customer at a time will apply but extending e-book loans to Kindle users, in addition to those using Sony's Readers and Barnes & Noble's nook who already have this facility, seem to be good for libraries as well as for e-books.
Commenting on the impact on libraries Carrie Russell, public access program director for the American Library Association said (TechFlash) :
"This increases the accessibility for all those library users who got Kindles last Christmas, more access always is good for libraries."
Libraries cannot directly purchase ebooks from Amazon, Russell explained, over concerns that publishers would lose sales because people would share the electronic files:
"That's a misconception; there is no evidence showing people illegally share ebook files checked out from libraries."
One thing Kindle users will be able to do that other borrowers cannot is to add annotations while they read. Amazon is extending the Whispersync technology so that readers can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle library books.
"We're doing a little something extra here," said Jay Marine, director of Amazon Kindle. "Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we're extending our Whispersync technology so that you can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle books you check out from your local library."
The notes will not show up when the another library user checks out the book, but if the original reader borrows the book again or purchases it from Amazon, all the annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.
So if you borrow a book and find it indispensable you have an added incentive to buy the Kindle version for yourself.
Being able to borrow ebooks from a library at first seems like a sensible move but it doesn't help to redefine the role of the library in any modern sense. After all who needs a building to house ebooks or a local institution to permit borrowing? When you think about it more carefully it is all a little strange and part of the desire not to let things change just because books have gone digital - at last.
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