Amazon Kindle lending library

Today Amazon announced it’s long-rumored Kindle lending library: one book/month for Kindle reader owners (not Kindle apps) w/ Prime memberships. This lending library has a catalog of >5,000 books.

I’m sure there will be chatter online (and in real life) about the impact this might have on libraries, and some people might even claim that this is another nail in the coffin for public libraries. Look again at all the requirements Amazon has placed on this program.

  1. You must own the Kindle hardware. Having the Kindle app for Mac, PC, iOS, Android doesn’t count. The cheapest Kindle sells for $79.
  2. You must have a Prime membership. This $79/year service offers free 2-day shipping for many items sold at Amazon.com, video streaming for a selection of movie and TV titles, and the Kindle lending library.

So you’ve spent your $160+ to be eligible to access the Kindle lending library. What do you get?

  1. One book per month. If you did not borrow a book the first month, you don’t get to borrow two books the second month. (There’s no roll-over.) Once you have borrowed a book, it is yours for that month, and you can view it from any of the Kindles associated with your account for that month.
  2. Highlights and notes recorded to that Kindle book will be saved and will appear if you buy that title or borrow it again.
  3. There is no due date, but you cannot have two books checked out from the lending library at once. It appears that you could borrow a book this month and keep it indefinitely, as long as you continue to have a Prime membership. But you can’t borrow a new book without returning the previous book.
  4. There are over 5,000 titles available, “including more than 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers.” At this time, I haven’t been able to find a section at Amazon.com that lists all of the titles available to the lending library. So beside the 24 titles listed (and linked) on the lending library’s info page, discovering available titles is up to you. If Amazon doesn’t provide this directly, I’m sure users will compile a list to post on the web.

Is this cool? Sure it’s cool. I would have no complaint with coming across a book that Amazon will lend to me for free. Is this a threat to libraries? Not under these terms. Amazon’s interest is obviously in selling Kindles and Prime memberships. If someone tells you that Amazon just made libraries obsolete, they either don’t understand the Kindle lending library or they’re trying to wind you up.

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