Some Questions for Overdrive and Amazon about the Kindle Lending Library – Updated

This morning Amazing announced their Kindle Lending Library.

Amazon today announced Kindle Library Lending, a new feature launching later this year that will allow Kindle customers to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the United States. Kindle Library Lending will be available for all generations of Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps.

“We’re excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries,” said Jay Marine, Director, Amazon Kindle. “Customers tell us they love Kindle for its Pearl e-ink display that is easy to read even in bright sunlight, up to a month of battery life, and Whispersync technology that synchronizes notes, highlights and last page read between their Kindle and free Kindle apps.”

Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer’s annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.

At first glance this seems like good news,  anyone who works with the public has encountered the discouragement people feel when you have to tell them that amazon does not allow library ebooks on the Kindle.  It’s SO exciting to see that Kindle users will now have access to library ebooks (especially when we know that library books usage actually drives sales up).

Plus that note taking ability they mentioned is a big reason I bought my Kindle! Very excited to see it on library books.

We’re doing a little something extra here,” Marine continued. “Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we’re extending our Whispersync technology so that you can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle books you check out from your local library. Your notes will not show up when the next patron checks out the book. But if you check out the book again, or subsequently buy it, your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced.”

All of this seems like great news! Except…

Except repeatedly in the release it says ‘kindle books’ which implies a specific format for file type (Kindle has its own file type for ebooks).

So in addition to epub which has generally become to be seen as the standard for ebooks and the somewhat outdated pdf format still available from Overdrive is sound like they will be adding a third format!  People have enough problems with the current file formats without adding in an additional one.A

Except that the announcement doesn’t say “Library eBooks from OverDrive now work on the Kindle” It says there will be a Kindle Lending Library which it something very different, as Eli Neiburger points out

Also, don’t miss that “Overdrive for Kindle” is a very, very different business model & UX than “Kindle for Libraries”.

So I have some questions for OverDrive or Amazon:

Will libraries be forced to add a third ebook format (which will only spread their already thin money thinner?)

If yes

  • Will I be allowed to borrow library ebooks in epub and pdf format on my Kindle?
  • Will owners of other devices (such as the Nook or Sony) be allowed to read Kindle books on their device? (the press release reads as “no”)


OverDrive has a post up that answers some of my questions. Kindle Library Lending and OverDrive – What it means for libraries and schools

Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers. As you add new eBooks to your collection, those titles will also be available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and Kindle reading apps. Your library will not need to purchase any additional units to have Kindle compatibility. This will work for your existing copies and units.

A user will be able to browse for titles on any desktop or mobile operating system, check out a title with a library card, and then select Kindle as the delivery destination. The borrowed title will then be able to be enjoyed using any Kindle device and all of Amazon’s free Kindle Reading Apps.

The Kindle eBook titles borrowed from a library will carry the same rules and policies as all our other eBooks.

The Kindle Library Lending program will support publishers’ existing lending models.

Your users’ confidential information will be protected.

I’m still not clear on a few things:

  • Does this mean that any time we buy an epub book we also have access to the Kindle format?
  • Will all titles be available as a Kindle book & a format that works on other ereaders such as the Nook or Sony without additional cost?
  • While I love the notes option I am NOT ok with linking my Kindle to my library account, can I opt out of this?
  • When you say “Your users’ confidential information will be protected.” What exactly does that mean? Exactly how much of my check out information will Amazon have access to? How will that change if/when I choose to purchase a title I’d borrowed?

Read more


    26 thoughts on “Some Questions for Overdrive and Amazon about the Kindle Lending Library – Updated

    1. The the Kindle Lending Library is definitely a step in the right direction. The format question seems to have been answered in an acceptable manner. I would prefer not to have my Kindle account sync with my library account. However, I will just not highlight or make notes in borrowed books as oposed to purchased books. Let’s give Amazon credit for moving in the right direction and keep them informed of our concerns so the kinks can be worked out.


    2. It was inevitable. As inevitable as converting WMA audiobooks to play on the i-pod was inevitable two (or three? years ago). Amazon has been taking a hit in terms of Kindle sales and image with the library incompatibility issue. By making this deal with Overdrive Amazon rehabilitates its reputation, regains some market share and libraries have more customers that can use their services.

      The following is speculation. Amazon surely will be getting some cut of the cost of Overdrive e-books as well. Perhaps the price of titles that libraries purchase will increase by some % going forward? It appears, however, that Amazon is not selling copies of e-books in Kindle format that libraries must then purchase and add to their collections but making Kindle books available for download from the Kindle catalog to library customers who choose that format. The customer presumably already has an account with Amazon, already can store notes, annotations, etc. on purchased books and therefore would be able to do the same with borrowed books. This also explains how Kindle format books would be available for books previously purchased by the library in epub or pdf format. It’s not a purchase per se but licensed access.

      So, if Amazon is simply fulfilling a borrower request for and Overdrive book that is in a library’s collection those books will be limited to titles that Overdrive has licensed for lending through libraries. Any title that appears in the Overdrive catalog but not in the Amazon catalog would presumably not be available in Kindle format. Admittedly, the list of exclusions is likely to be extremely short.

      I do anticipate that there may be much confusion over why many, many titles that appear in the Amazon catalog will not be in any library collection. Part of the customer excitement (and some interesting assumptions as well) I see on various blogs is due to the idea that libraries will have the entire Amazon catalog to buy from for their collections. Sadly, not so. Libraries are still constrained by the agreements that the individual publishers wil be making with Overdrive on lending terms for their titles. We will still have to explain this to our customers every day.

      As I said above–this is all speculation based on the original press release and the subsequent clarifiction from Overdrive.


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