Amazon is learning to love libraries. The online retail giant announced Wednesday that owners of its Kindle e-reader will be able to borrow — and annotate — digital books, for free, from two-thirds of U.S. libraries starting later this year. Amazon is joining a program run by OverDrive, which offers more than 400,000 digital books at 11,000 libraries. The Barnes & Noble Nook and Sony Reader already use the service, but because Kindle is the top-selling e-reader, the announcement has raised another round of questions about the balance of power among libraries, publishers, and retailers like Amazon. So is this really good news for libraries and bookworms?
This could revive libraries: The details are still sketchy, but it sure looks like, after being "implicated in the death of book retail chains like Borders," Amazon is looking to work with libraries rather than compete with them, says Max Eddy at Geekosystem. This program could boost library membership and, "at least for now, seems like a win for users and for their libraries as well."
"Amazon and libraries announce ebook loans for Kindle"
It's great for readers, and Amazon: The company's adoption of this "library model" is "huge" news because it helps fix "one of the e-reading world’s biggest weaknesses," says Lex Friedman at Macworld. Some "voracious readers" who prefer to borrow books rather than buy them have been slow to embrace the Kindle. Once this lending library starts up, "that may well change."
"Amazon announces the Kindle Lending Library"
But Amazon left a lot of questions unanswered: Amazon's announcement doesn't explain the lending terms for the e-books, or "who ultimately controls the content in those books," says Mathew Ingram at GigaOm. For example, will there be "arbitrary limits" on how many times an e-book can be borrowed? Whether Amazon and publishers try to exert control over the libraries "remains to be seen."
"Amazon launches library lending, but who owns the books?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How a degree from Duke University dashed my dreams of buying a home
- This is why you can't trust the NSA. Ever.
- Half the world's population lives in these 6 countries
- Innocent before proven guilty? The bizarre bipartisan rush to clear Rick Perry
- What Keeping Up with the Kardashians can teach America about interracial marriage
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- ISIS and the echoes of the West's religious terror
- The single best way to help your kid succeed at school
- Today in history: Lincoln reveals the real goal of the Civil War
- It's time for the police to rethink 'shoot-to-kill'
Subscribe to the Week