Kindle Library Lending

The announcement this week that US public libraries will soon be making Kindle loans has got the profession talking.

Kindle Library Lending, an initiative announced by Amazon and OverDrive, means that Kindle owners in the US will soon be able to borrow books from more than 11,000 local libraries.  Although no official statement has been made as to if or when, it seems likely that the programme will roll out beyond the US.

Since the announcement was made, bloggers and analysts have been debating its implications and some are expressing concern.

Publishers' lending policies

Publishers are still unclear as to the best way to manage e-book lending by libraries.  Most notably HarperCollins US is seeking to impose a 26-loan limit per purchase on its ebooks to the (well-publicised) dismay of librarians, who argue that that a hardback book has a shelf life much longer than 26 loans.  In the UK discussions are ongoing between the Publishers Association and the Society of Chief Librarians in an attempt to reach an agreement that is acceptable to both parties and beneficial to library users.

The announcement that Kindle Library Lending will support publishers existing lending policies is, according to Phil Bradley, "a shame, but unexpected".  He goes on to wonder if these recent Kindle developments will push some publishers who have hitherto resisted library e-lending to change their minds.  For some publishers, their current position is not one of refusal and resistance but simply a case of not yet having found a suitable model.  This is a point made by Adam Rothberg, Senior Vice President of Simon & Schuster in response to an article by Theresa Cramer, the editor of eContent.  He hopes "that there will one day be a model that is satisfactory to all the parties involved - library, reader, author and publisher".

What's in it for Amazon?

For some observers, including the US blogger Mike Cane, reported by Theresa Cramer,  the Kindle move will contribute to the demise of other ereaders and 'Wannabe Librarian, in his blog, expresses concern about the future of open e-book standard ePub.  Kindle's Whispersync technology offers readers the opportunity to annotate and keep notes and transfer them if, for example, they go on to purchase the book. This is something of great interest to students and is a functionality not offered by other e-readers.   Phil Bradley predicts that Amazon will also use Library Lending to increase purchases, by offering discounts on purchases to borrowers. 

Impact on libraries

The pressure from users to purchase Kindle books will place additional burdens on already squeezed library budgets. However, making Kindle books available might attract new customers into public libraries.  We won't know for sure until we see Kindle Library Lending in action.

Image by the Daring Librarian, via Flickr.