Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Amazon Prime Lending vs. Library Lending

Not too long ago we announced with much fanfare that Stark County District Library card holders (and card holders at about 11,000 other libraries) are now able to check out library books to read on their Kindles and Kindle apps.  Here in Stark County, library lending of eBooks has already seen a lot of success, with almost 2,000 downloads in October of 2011. 

But then, earlier this month, Kindle announced that Amazon Prime members will now be able to loan about 5,000 titles directly from Amazon for "free."  First of course, one has to be an Amazon Prime member, which costs $79 dollars a year.

First to discuss exactly what is included in this new deal from Amazon.  When you find a book and go to buy it for your Kindle, if you you are an Amazon Prime member and the book is included in the library, you will be given the option to "Borrow for Free"
Click on ‘Borrow for Free’ to start reading. You may borrow one book at a time.

Here's the caveat- you can only check on one book at a time, and can only check out one book per calender month.  Meaning if you borrow a book on January 1st, finish it and return it, you will not be able to check out another book until February 1st.  No doubt this measure is meant to encourage people to buy books rather than "borrow" them.  Also you can only use this feature if you have a Kindle.  It will not work on Kindle apps for iPhones and iPads.

On the other side, there are library eBooks.  I can only speak for the Ohio eBook Project and the SEO Library Consortium, which is who the Stark County District Library deals with to get eBooks to our customers.  The eBooks and audiobooks on these sites are, unlike Amazon Prime, actually free.  You can also check out up to 10 at a time from each site (so that makes it possible for Stark County Library card holders to check out up to 20 books at a time).  And of course there is no added barrier of only being able to check out one a month.  You can find books to read on Kindles and Kindle apps, as well as books for other eReaders, such as the Nook and iPad. 

But of course the difference between libraries and Amazon is that Amazon exists to make money, whereas libraries exist to promote literacy and access to information.

And so it will be interesting to see how long this new program from Amazon works.  It has already drawn the ire of not only librarians, but authors and publishers who say this lending is a perversion of the contracts they have with Amazon, calling it "an exercise of brute economic power."

This blogger's advice to Amazon is to tread carefully.  There is no such thing as being too big to fail, just ask Netflix.

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