Magazine article American Libraries

Amazon's "Library," Kindle Ebook Loans, and What It All Means

Magazine article American Libraries

Amazon's "Library," Kindle Ebook Loans, and What It All Means

Article excerpt

The library world was thrilled at the September 2i announcement that OverDrive had enabled its library customers to lend the ebooks they'd licensed from OverDrive to patrons with Kindle e-readers--provided that the ebooks were in the online sales inventory of Kindle-maker Amazon. But soon, examination of the fine print between OverDrive and Amazon caused ethical concerns to be raised in several arenas of library punditry. Among the issues was the perceived incursion on patron confidentiality: Since Kindle ebook borrowers must sync their e-readers to their Amazon accounts in order to receive the item they are borrowing, Amazon will know who is checking out which titles--a valuable addition to the firm's vast treasure trove of "buy this book" target-marketing data.

As the library community sorted through the issues involved, Amazon announced November 2 that it had launched the Kindle Owners Lending Library, which would be accessible only to Kindle owners who were also Amazon Prime subscribers (which costs $79 per year).

These rapid developments left many in the library community wondering what it all meant for the future of libraries.

Prime competition

It soon became clear that there was little for libraries to fear for the time being from the Amazon Prime lending program. "Users get access to one book a month with no due dates," explained Joe Brockmeier in a November 2 ReadWriteWeb post. With each new book borrowed, the previous book gets automatically removed, leaving no possibility of building a free ebook collection one monthly loan at a time.

The November 3 Wall Street Journalrevealed even more "None of the six largest publishers in the U.S. is participating. Several senior publishing executives said recently they were concerned that a digital-lending program of the sort contemplated by Amazon would harm future sales of their older titles or damage ties to other book retailers."

The inability of Amazon to secure those elusive lending rights may indicate that ebooks have a ways to go before they fully replace print. It also hints at just how much negotiating OverDrive of ficials must have done to secure the limited Kindle ebook lending rights that it did. …

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