Kindle eBook Lending Through Libraries: What would it mean to Libraries and to You

Amazon announced today that it is working with OverDrive (our ebook supplier) to begin lending Kindle ebooks through libraries. This is a fairly dramatic change in the library world. Up to this point, Amazon’s Kindle ebooks have been incompatible with OverDrive and they have been unwilling to work with libraries to lend their ebooks. The entire publishing industry is struggling to develop a model of delivery that works for both publishers and customers, including libraries. So far, no one has figured out exactly what works, but it is nice to see publishers working on a solution.

There is no standard form of delivery of ebooks, no single format that works with every device. This poses what is possibly the most difficult problem for libraries who lend ebooks–how do you make it as easy as possible for customers to use your ebooks when each device is handled a little bit differently? There is a constant need for education among library staff, which is nothing new. Libraries have worked with changing technology and information formats for years. The changes just seem to be a bit faster these days.

With Amazon working to change the rules and make their books available to libraries, Kindle owners will (as long as this actually happens–this is only a forward-looking statement from Amazon at this time, so things could still hamper the deal) be able to check out ebooks for the first time. Currently, Overdrive is compatible with a variety of devices including the Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony eReader, Pandigital Novel, and iPad.

The Cedar Rapids Public Library partners with the Marion and Hiawatha Libraries (as the Metro Library Network) to provide ebooks to this community. Ebook use has risen dramatically since last Christmas, with sales of ebooks up over 200% in February. There remain challenges to this changing technology, just as there were challenges with switching from VHS to DVD. Until the publishing industry has determined a standard process for ebook lending and until the individual brands of devices begin using a single format, we will do what we can to make the process of using our ebooks as simple as possible. If you would like additional assistance with an ereader or the library’s ebooks, sign up for one of our regularly scheduled classes.

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