Amazon is Bringing Their Kindle to the Library

Over the past few months, comments have been made repeatedly about the potential for the Kindle‘s lack of library compatibility being a deal breaker when it came time to make the purchase of your new eReader.  Well, apparently Amazon has been listening to you too.  In a press release this morning, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has announced that they have been working with Overdrive to integrate the Kindle into a library lending friendly system and will be rolling out the product of these efforts later this year.

In terms of basic features, there shouldn’t be too many surprises.  Expect all the basic Overdrive Library functionality and book selection, given the interaction between Amazon and Overdrive.  You should even be able to grab all your borrowed books via the WiFi.  What makes this a unique addition to the eBook library lending situation, to the best of my knowledge and aside from the fact that it brings in the largest eReader owner base on the market, is the annotation feature.  Users can expect to be able to annotate, highlight, and generally personalize their reading experience as they always have with any purchased book and, while these alterations will not pass on to the next borrower, all this will be preserved should the book be borrowed again or purchased at any point in the future.

This new feature, if you want to call accessibility of this sort a feature, will be available to every user of the Kindle platform, not just owners of the Kindle eReader.  This means that pretty much anybody who owns a device with a screen should be able to borrow themselves an eBook now, and that reading borrowed eBooks has become practically uncoupled from device concerns.  While I doubt that the end goal of this was to empower libraries as players in the digital marketplace, I would guess that it suddenly got a lot more important for publishers to avoid boycotts like those that HarperCollins has managed to stir up.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the Overdrive book lending system, it is essentially to institutionalized eBook lending what the Kindle is to eBook reading.  Sure there are probably other options, but in general it sets the standard.  I have yet to come across a decent implementation of another type of eBook library software, in fact.  The way it works at present involves downloading a book to your computer as a step in the process, but it sounds like Amazon is planning to do away with that given their mention of WiFi book downloading in conjunction with the service.  Maybe this is what took so long to get working?  Other than that step, I have never been inconvenienced by a borrowed eBook, though the waiting lists can get a bit long at times.  The only question that remains to be answered, for me, is whether or not this extends to downloadable audiobooks.  While I’m aware that these aren’t a big thing at all libraries, it would be great to see that sort of thing be possible for Kindle users. Let’s hope, given how long this has all taken, that every possible option is left open for readers.

Kindle Accessories I’d Like To See

So, you get yourself a Kindle and the first thing to do is usually grab a case for it.  That’s just a matter of preserving your investment.  You spent this much money and might as well drop a few more dollars to make sure it stays durable.  It’s obvious.  But beyond that, there are other considerations.  Do you get the case with the light in it, or a separate book light?  The one in the official Kindle case draws on the battery of the eReader, which can be either good or bad, of course, but it means no extra weight…

Eventually, once the obvious stuff is worked out, you have a Kindle configured and housed as you’d like it and are pretty much likely to leave it at that indefinitely.  Myself, I like to tweak things.  There are a few uses that the Kindle would be fairly great for, if only we had the ability to make them more accessible.  For example:

I’m sitting here writing a blog on an overpowered PC with at least one completely superfluous monitor, if we’re talking about nothing but the demands of the task.  I find it convenient at the moment, but what about on vacation or even on a plane?  The Kindle would be perfect for that sort of thing in that it’s compact, holds an amazing charge, and can handle the basic demands of the task, but the keyboard is hardly convenient for any form of extensive typing, be it blogging or email or whatever else might seem important at the time.  Why not a case with a built-in folding keyboard?

Also, going back to lights for a minute, wouldn’t it be nice to have a LightWedge style book light built into a case for the Kindle 3?  I have seen them for the Sony Reader, and I even saw a pre-release announcement of something similar for the Kindle 2, but I haven’t been able to find anything but clip-on lights for the newest Kindle.  While I know that reading through a piece of acrylic isn’t exactly an enhancement of the reading experience, I find these lights a bit easier on the eyes than many clips and would like to have the option.  So far, I have yet to find anything of the sort besides homemade case modifications.

This is all just a bit random, I’m aware, but I can’t help but feel that at present the potential for the Kindle isn’t being realized as well as it might be.  There are a lot of convenient uses that it could handle.  While admittedly some of them might be better suited for software updates, apps, or, barring those, user developed hacks, it seems like there should be a wider range of options on the hardware side of things.  The sort of things that might expand the niche of the product.  Maybe I’m just a bit of a gadget lover, but end-user device customization has always been one of my favorite parts of owning things like the Kindle and so far I haven’t managed much besides the cosmetic.  You guys have any thoughts on accessories that have yet to be realized?