September 21st, 2011
It’s happening! Today Amazon announced that all across America, they’re making Kindle ebooks available for free through local public libraries! (“Libraries are a critical part of our communities,” Amazon said in today’s statement, “and we’re excited to be making Kindle books available at more than 11,000 local libraries around the country!”) Amazon also posted the news on the Kindle’s page on Facebook — and within one hour, nearly 2,000 people had clicked on its “like” icon.
Here’s eight reasons why this is very exciting news.
- You can even read them if you don’t own a Kindle!
The library ebooks are also compatible with Amazon’s free Kindle apps. This means that even people who don’t own a Kindle can still read Kindle ebooks that they’ve checked out from the public library on their iPhone or iPad, and on Windows and Android smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers (as well as on Blackberry devices).
- You can read them in a web browser
Last month Amazon released the Kindle Cloud reader for the Safari and Chrome browsers. It’s a full-color application for reading Kindle ebooks on a desktop computer — or on a tablet (like the iPad). Amazon originally just wanted to create a way for their customers shop in the Kindle store on Apple devices. But now those same customers can also check out Kindle ebooks for free from their public library.
- You can highlight passages in the library’s ebooks
I’d never use a highlighting pen on the library’s only print copy of a book. But when you check out a virtual ebook, you’ll be able to fill it with your own virtual highlights and notes. Amazon will sync
them to your account, so whenever you check out that ebook from the library, you’ll still be able to see your original highlights and notes. And you’ll always be able to access them through Amazon’s special web page for highlights, at kindle.amazon.com.
- 24 Hour Access, From Home
My local library keeps reducing their operating hours — but fortunately, their Kindle ebooks can be checked out using the library’s web site! (After selecting your book, just sign into your Amazon account, which is linked to your Kindle or your Amazon reading apps.) You don’t have to make a trip to the library just to get new ebooks — and you don’t ever have to drive back there again later to return them!
- It Even Works with a WiFi-only Kindle
The ebooks aren’t delivered using Amazon’s WhisperSync technology, so you’ll receive them by making a local WiFi connection. (And they can even be transferred to your Kindle using its USB cord!) Obviously Amazon’s not earning any money when customers check out a Kindle ebook from their public library…but they’d otherwise still have to pay for the cost of every download (since Amazon buys its wireless “bandwidth” from AT&T).
- Long Check-Out Periods
Amazon didn’t put any restrictions on how long the ebooks can be checked out. (On their help page, they stress that you should contact your local library for the length of the check-out period and the availability of specific ebooks.) But Amazon still lets you know when you’re getting close to the end of the library’s check-out period. “Three days before the end of the loan period, we’ll send a courtesy reminder e-mail about the loan expiration,” Amazon explains on their web page. (Adding that “Once the loan period has ended, an additional e-mail notification will be sent.”) Again, the length of the check-out period is set by your local public library. (And thankfully, it looks like there won’t be overdue fines for ebooks!)
- Good Technical Support
Amazon’s created a special web page offering answers to the most frequently-asked questions, and there’s also a dedicated e-mail address just for feedback about the Kindle Library Books (at firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Users can also see how many days are left in their check-out period just by visiting the library’s web page, or on their “Manage Your Kindle” page at amazon.com/myk .
- They’re Everywhere!
Amazon’s offering Kindle ebook check-outs through the OverDrive system, which has already been set up in over 11,000 American public libraries. “We’re thrilled that Amazon is offering such a new approach to library ebooks…” said the librarian at Seattle’s public library, adding that it “enhances the reader experience.”
“This is a welcome day for Kindle users in libraries everywhere and especially our Kindle users here at The Seattle Public Library.”