Friday, December 31, 2010

Amazon lending program - what should libraries do in response?

A self-published author recently forwarded this email to me. It's intriguing on several levels.

From: "Amazon DTP"
Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 12:47 PM
Subject: Announcing Amazon’s Kindle Book Lending Program

Dear Publisher,

We are excited to announce Kindle book lending ( The Kindle Book Lending feature allows users to lend digital books they have purchased through the Kindle Store to their friends and family. Each book may be lent once for a duration of 14 days and will not be readable by the lender during the loan period.

All DTP titles are enrolled in lending by default. For titles in the 35% royalty option, you may choose to opt out of lending by deselecting the checkbox under "Kindle Book Lending," in the "Rights and Pricing" section of the title upload/edit process. You may not choose to opt out a title if it is included in the lending program of another sales or distribution channel. For more details, see section 5.2.2 of the Term and Conditions.

For more info on how Kindle Book Lending works, see our FAQ here:

Amazon Digital Text Platform

First, with cloud computing and a global network in place, this would seem to position Amazon to become the world's digital library. In theory, anyone who buys a book through Amazon can share it with anyone else. That makes buying a Kindle, and one book, the price of a global library card. Add an app that says what all the other customers have available for loan, and there you have it.

Second, it's clear that libraries need a comparable alternative. Absent that, we have only the advantage of physical place, which while real and compelling, cedes the ground in digital lending. Clearly, that's not thinking far enough ahead.

Some options:

* through ALA, OCLC, or some other professional group, get Amazon to offer subnets of libraries. All our digital purchases (collectively made through our members) are available to those same members. A subnet might be limited to, for instance, the residents of Douglas County. This makes us the digital jukebox for our funders. This is truly no different than what we do now: one use at a time, a purchase for each book. It makes Amazon our ILS.

* establish our own independent servers, with various apps to access our purchased content. This means that either we need software to manage and preserve Digital Rights Management (DRM), or something to replace it (we strip the DRM and archive it, which is surely our right as the owner, but still allow only one use at a time, in keeping with the spirit and letter of copyright laws). That approach allows us to add our own content without going through a vendor. Call it the "local cloud."

As I said to my staff earlier today: things are moving fast. Libraries need to move fast, too.

P.S. A follow-up by Susan Linden in Loveland: it seems that PUBLISHERS are opting out, or have not opted in, among any of the top 10 books. That's an important point. But I'll counter with another one: today, self-published materials represent over 2.5 times the number of commercially published titles. They may be more positively disposed toward libraries.


Amy said...

You may already be aware of this, but I thought I would mention it in the off-chance you weren't. Starting in January my library will be lending ebooks through OverDrive, which currently houses their audiobook selections. The only downside is that Kindle is not currently a part of this (much the same as the iPod was not compatible with OverDrive audiobooks for the first year or so). Our library has been recommending that Kindle users contact Amazon and express their interest in having Kindle ebooks available to libraries as well. I think (and hope) that Kindle will go the way of the iPod: stubborn and reluctant at first, but eventually jumping on the bandwagon lest it be left behind.

sharon said...

I'm not overly impressed with the Kindle lending program. It still doesn't make up for its other shortcoming, which is the incompatibility with Adobe DRM, which seems to be the de facto standard.

This week I got my first Android device. With an absolute minimum of fuss, I downloaded and installed OverDrive Media Console, an MP3 audiobook, and an epub book. Adobe Digital Editions is not necessary, just an Adobe ID, which I already had, but which might be a small stumbling block for a few people. If OverDrive and Adobe could just connect those two data items (i.e. library card number and Adobe ID), that would eliminate most of the pain for new users, and borrowing ebooks would be just as slick as buying ebooks on a Kindle or Nook.

It seems to me that this is the best of all possible worlds as of right now. With the Kindle app, I can buy from Amazon, and with the ODMC I can borrow books and audio from my library.

The next time anyone asks me which ereader to buy--if it's not already too late--I already had two calls from patrons who got Kindles for Christmas--I'm going to tell them to forget the readers and buy an Android tablet.

Melissa Powell said...

The Nook has a LendMe program. Kari Baumann and I have just completed our first 'lending'! Easy and quick. A whole bunch of us 'Nookies" are planning to lend books to each other. I see it as a service to our patrons. Less people on the hold lists. :)

I admit that I haven't really thought about the impact on libraries since I have always purchased books and lent them to friends and pretty much saw it in the same way.

I am constantly asked about e-Readers and have learned as much as I can about their use, including checking out books from the library, so that I am passing on correct and useful information to people. I know that my mother has actually been checking out more from her library using her Nook than she had been with paper books. She lives outside of town and it saves her the drive, so there is one benefit for libraries.

An excerpt from our Facebook conversation on this: "I think all the Nookies should unite and start lending each other books! Kind of like those things we work for. Starts with an "L". What is it? Oh yeah--a library!" - Welcome

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