Kindle E-Books Now Available in U.S. Libraries

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By Mar Woolf | September 23, 2011 2:44 PM EST

Amazon is finally joining the band wagon as it makes free e-books available to libraries nationwide.

"Starting today, millions of Kindle customers can borrow Kindle books from their local libraries," said Jay Marine, Director, Amazon Kindle through a Sept. 21 announcement. "Libraries are a critical part of our communities and we're excited to be making Kindle books available at more than 11,000 local libraries around the country."

It adds that when a customer borrows a Kindle library book, all the usual features, such as Whispersync, Facebook, Twitter, Real Page Numbers, Popular Highlights, and Public Notes, will also be included.

 "Customers will use their local library's website to search for and select a book to borrow. Once they choose a book, customers can choose to "Send to Kindle" and will be redirected to Amazon.com to login to their Amazon.com account and the book will be delivered to the device they select via Wi-Fi, or can be transferred via USB. Customers can check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any generation Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry or Windows Phone, as well as in their web browser with Kindle Cloud Reader."

Library e-books have been available with Barnes & Noble's Nook, the Sony Reader, smartphones, laptops and other devices. This is the first time Kindle will be venturing into the field, which is good news for Kindle users who have long been complaining for being left out.

"We do get asked the question frequently: 'Can I use my Kindle to download your e-books?' " said John F. Szabo, director of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System. "And the answer has been no."

This scenario will definitely change now. Amazon's move "is a big deal and it's a big step forward in public libraries being much more central in the whole e-book growth," said Steve Potash, the chief executive of OverDrive, an e-book provider to public libraries and schools. Libraries connecting with the Kindle, the most successful device and the largest e-book bookseller in the business, "is going to bring millions of readers to the public library," he said.

Publisher Concerns

According to the New York Times, Kindle's move makes library e-books accessible to more people, which increases the concerns of publishers that customers will prefer libraries for getting reading materials. Loss of revenue is likely to occur when "E-book buyers will become e-book borrowers," claimed the report.

Some publishers say that "they found the development troubling and were concerned it might lead to a further unravelling of the traditional sales model." As e-books become more popular, libraries have been building their e-book collections to meet demand, successfully persuading many publishers to sell their titles to libraries in e-book format.

According to Christopher Platt, the director of collections and circulating operations at the New York Public Library, said that to meet demand from Kindle users, the library has already increased its e-book budget, and shortened its lending period for e-books from three weeks to two weeks.

"This is massive for libraries," Platt said. "It opens up another avenue of access to the collections that we already have." Data showed that from January to September the number of e-books checked out increased by 75 percent over the same period last year, he added.

The convenience of not having to go to libraries to borrow books worries some publishers, saying that e-reader owners who used to buy digital books will begin instead to borrow them. One of the six major publishers who haven't taken the e-book-to-library road is Macmillan and Simon & Schuster.

"Our e-books are not currently available in libraries because we haven't yet found a business model with which we are comfortable and that we feel properly addresses the long-term interests of our authors," said Adam Rothberg, spokesman of Simon & Schuster. "We are in an ongoing dialogue with our library customers, and holding meetings with the different vendors who are offering e-book distribution to libraries, so that we can stay abreast of all the possible options."

Publishing analysts state that the demand for library e-books will increase. Forrester Research estimated that roughly 15 million e-readers would be purchased in the United States this year.

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