One of the most frustrating aspects of being a Kindle user who also relies on public libraries has been the inability to check out e-books readily available for other devices. Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) plans to change that later this year by working with OverDrive, which provides digital content for more than 11,000 libraries in the U.S.
The new feature will be available for all generations of Kindle — and for Kindle apps, as well. It’s not clear from today’s announcement how many titles will be available.
One interesting twist: checkout will be linked to a user’s Kindle account in a way that will allow annotations to remain synced with the book as long as it’s being read by that user. If the same book is checked out again or purchased by that user, the notes will show up.
Library e-books usually are limited by the number that can be out at any given time and, as is the case with print editions, by length of time they can be checked out. They’re also governed by DRM, so that a pdf that might appear to be available to read on a Kindle now actually can’t be, often causing confusion. When a Salt Lake Tribune writer made the mistake last fall of saying library books could be checked on Kindle, a spokesman for the Salt Lake County Library stressed that it was not up to the library: “It is entirely up to Amazon [to make] the Kindle protected-files compatible. … At this point, they want customers of the Kindle and iPad to purchase the files – hence, not making them available from their local library.”
Exactly the kind of image Amazon now has to change. The company wants people to see the Kindle as a reading device and the apps as a reading platform, not an Amazon-purchase-delivery system. That’s one reason it’s allowed sharing of some books (it’s up to the publisher whether a title can be part of the lending program) under controlled circumstances and why it’s allowed services making lending between strangers possible. This is the obvious next step — and about time. Now if it can only go international …