Library Books and the Kindle, What’s the Deal?

When the Kindle vs Nook competition began, a lot of those of us who take an interest in such things were making a fairly big deal about the advantages of the Nook’s EPUB compatibility.  This remains an advantage for the Nook and any number of other eBook readers to this day, oddly enough.  This, when it comes down to it, is really what’s behind the inability of the Kindle to pick up books at your local library.

Most of you will know what I’m talking about.  For those who don’t, here’s the basic situation as I understand it.  The standard in eBooks is currently the EPUB.  What Amazon is using for their Kindle platform is a variation on the Mobipocket format which is basically the generation previous to that.  For whatever reason, some people think it’s because it keeps the Kindle platform the focus of Kindle devices and software rather than give up any potential control over distribution, the most up to date distribution systems just don’t quite click with Amazon.   Sadly, these are the very systems in place for libraries around the country to take advantage of!

Library services, for example Media on Demand, tend to use Overdrive Inc’s software.  It’s a way to distribute their books in EPUB format, using the Adobe Digital Editions DRM (which is distinct from Amazon’s proprietary right’s management methods), in order to give people copies of eBooks that will become unusable after a set period of time. It’s a neat concept, since it allows for a single “copy” of an eBook to be sent to people without the usual risk of unauthorized copies.  It’s understandable that publishers would be somewhat concerned about that, since there’s nothing to stop people from just holding on to the files themselves, but libraries are awesome and should be supported even as the digital text option takes off.

So, for the moment, Kindle owners are still stuck waiting on the sidelines when it comes to borrowing books from libraries.  Not really surprising since we’ve only in the past month or so seen the activation of even single lending enabled Kindle Editions of books, but still more than a little disappointing for new owners who want to get the most out of their purchase or gift acquisition.

Is there hope for the future?  Of course!  Look forward to new and interesting options when it comes to book borrowing.  Eventually, somebody will figure out a good way to get the ball rolling.  In the meantime, it’s probably helpful to keep in mind that many libraries will offer at least some of their books in PDF format, or at least help walk you through the process of grabbing some public domain titles to put onto your Kindle if you’re not confident doing so on your own.  While PDF documents don’t like quite as good on the eReader display as the newer formats do, they’re still quite readable and there’s a lot out there to hold you over.  No need to be too horribly jealous of all those Nook and Kobo owners. If all else fails, check out the Kindle Lending Club I mentioned in an earlier post.  It hasn’t been going for long enough to have a great impression about reliability, but some option is better than none!