Amazon and library e-book vendor OverDrive announced this morning its recently announced plan to allow library lending via the Kindle and Kindle app is now live. The service, which will be available at some 11,000 libraries across the U.S. at launch, enables libraries to expand their e-book lending to the nation’s most popular e-reading platform. Until today, Kindle had been noticeably absent from library lending, as OverDrive’s service worked only with ePub-enabled devices, such as the Sony Reader, the Nook, iPads, and smartphones. The launch, meanwhile, comes as leaders from the American Library Association and the Association of American Publishers met this week in New York to discuss e-book issues.
Without question, the Kindle deal will dramatically expand demand for library e-books, demand that has surged over the last two years. In 2010, OverDrive, which manages the vast majority of public library e-book lending, noted that e-book lends increased 200% over 2009, with more than 15 million digital check-outs of nearly 400,000 titles, numbers that company officials say have risen further, and faster, in 2011 as reading devices—including the Kindle—continue to grow in popularity and drop in price, and, as libraries continue to shift more money to their e-book budgets to meet demand. “This is a welcome day for Kindle users in libraries,” said Marcellus Turner, city librarian for the Seattle Public Library.
Under the arrangement, Kindle users can now use their local library’s web site to search for and select a book, then choose the “Send to Kindle” option to borrow it. They are then redirected to Amazon.com, where they log in to their Amazon.com account, and the book is delivered to the device they select via Wi-Fi, or via USB. The lend period is two weeks. Library editions will offer virtually all the features of Kindle books, Amazon officials said, including the ability to save margin notes for readers—should the reader choose to buy the book at a later date, or check it out again, their notes would be “backed up and available."
Of course, not all books will be available to library users. Some publishers, including Macmillan and Simon & Schuster, still refuse to allow libraries to lend their e-books, and HarperCollins instituted a lend-limit earlier this year. These are no doubt some of the thorny issues that came up when library and publishing industry leaders met last week in New York. According to a report in Library Journal, ALA president Molly Raphael and executive director Keith Fiels had the chance to sit in on a meeting with library marketing representatives from Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Random House, Macmillan, and others after what AAP officials described as a-get-to-know-you lunch with AAP president Tom Allen. “We just said we are trying to open the door for conversation,” Raphael told LJ, “and recognize that we would all be better off if we can figure out how to navigate digital content.”
That conversation, meanwhile, is about to heat up even further, as Kindle owners can now turn to their public libraries for e-books.
Editors' note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the date of the ALA and AAP luncheon meeting as yesterday. It was September 15. In addition, AAP officials say the meeting was not prompted by nor limited to the subject of e-books.