The long anticipated release of Kindle library lending has begun! Beta testing for the new integration with Overdrive Library, a product of the Cleveland-based company whose software powers most library eBook lending in the country, is now going on in Seattle libraries.
Ever since the initial announcement that these two companies would be working together to bring the feature to the Kindle, there has been an impatient audience waiting to take advantage. Library lending has often been touted as the one thing that allowed anybody to claim a significant advantage over the Kindle in the eReader marketplace. With recent hardware updates for both the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Kobo eReader, news that this feature gap will finally be closed will be a big asset for the Kindle line. While at present only the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System will get to borrow Kindle Editions, the opportunity will be making its way to over 11,000 libraries nationwide once the testing is complete.
The user experience should be remarkably familiar for most Kindle owners, as it is essentially just a short step before the procedure normally employed for purchasing a Kindle eBook in the first place. To rent a book, you start off in the library’s website and browse their available content. Seattle Public Library, for example, has around 25,000 eBooks at this time. Not all of those will be in stock at any given time, of course, so waiting lists are available to handle anybody who doesn’t get to the latest new acquisitions in time. The library’s collection will be browse-able through OverDrive’s software and you will check out as would normally be the case.
Once the eBook is put on your library card, for whatever period the library allows, presumably, there is a button labeled “Get for Kindle”. Clicking on that brings you to an Amazon.com store page with “Get Library Book” in place of the usual purchasing button. Click it and you’re done! You’ll be notified three days before the loan expires. There are, however, some minor inconveniences.
One, you will not be able to use the 3G coverage on a Kindle to download your library books. Either WiFi or USB connections will manage it just fine. Should you happen to have an older Kindle or Kindle DX that does not have WiFi capabilities, and should you be unfamiliar with the method for putting eBooks onto your eReader, it’s as simple as downloading the file to your computer and dragging it over the the Kindle in your Computer menu like you would any other removable drive.
Two, some library patrons are apparently unhappy with the recommendations presented during the Amazon.com steps of the borrowing process. Given Amazon’s eBook sales business and the fact that the library rentals will be offered freely, I think it unlikely that they will make any significant effort to remove the unobtrusive sales pitch but it is something to be aware of if you find such things truly unpleasant.
These aside, it sounds like the process is smooth and should generally be more streamlined than any other eBook borrowing procedure at this time. Library patrons will finally be able to make the most of their Kindles. With luck we can expect to be seeing this service pop up nation-wide by the end of the year.