Roughly five months since Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) promised library lending that would work for Kindle, the service is live at more than 11,000 U.S. libraries covering “millions” of Kindle and Kindle app customers. The launch follows reports of beta testing in two Seattle libraries and finally puts Kindle in the league of Sony (NYSE: SNE) and other e-readers that allow temporary access to DRM-protected e-books.
The new service is powered by OverDrive. Amazon has prepped a support area to explain it but here’s the gist: Kindle owners, Cloud Reader, and app users should be able to log into their participating library’s web site, select a book available for Kindle, and after logging into their Amazon account, send the book to the appropriate device.
The Kindle library service has been on the cards since it emerged that Amazon was working with OverDrive back in April. OverDrive is the leading e-book distributor for libraries and already had deals in place to support other devices like Barnes & Noble’s Nook and the Sony Reader.
Separately, Amazon is also reported to be talking to book publishers about a book rental plan that would be bundled into Amazon Prime subscriptions.
The new Kindle library service includes some of the key features users expect from Amazon. Whispersync has been extended to the library versions, which means notes, bookmarks and highlights will be backed up and would be available for the next check out — or if the user buys the book. (It’s not clear if the notes and highlights remain accessible after the book is returned.) Users also can share passages by Twitter and Facebook.
While the new service could cut into Amazon’s e-book sales, giving users access to books that don’t require an investment should boost device sales and give app use a kick. It also will provide another selling point for that Amazon Kindle tablet we’re expecting later this fall.
Unfortunately, despite the announcement that the service has launched, the Municipal Library Consortium site that includes my local library still has a Kindle “coming soon” sign — not access to books.
Update: Not so fast. Kindle tells paidContent OverDrive’s full roll out will take a couple of days. No sense of how many libraries already have access. Let us know if your service is live and how you like the experience of checking out e-books from the library.