Kindle books now at the local library

Amazon is finally making e-books for its Kindle reader available at libraries across the country.

By Kim Peterson Sep 21, 2011 3:57PM
Users of Amazon's (AMZN) popular Kindle reader got some welcome news Wednesday. They can now borrow Kindle books from 11,000 U.S. libraries. But will many of those books actually be available?

Barnes & Noble (BKS) worked out a similar partnership for its Nook reader a long time ago, but Kindle users have been left out of the library loop. The deal won't immediately help Amazon's business, but it may eventually entice more people to buy the device if they can borrow books on it for free.

Here's how it works:

Users visit their library's website to find available books to borrow. There, they may see a "send to Kindle" option, which takes them to Amazon's website. After logging into their Kindle account, they can receive the book through Wi-Fi or a USB connection.

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The books will be available for all Kindle devices and for computers and phones that have the Kindle app. Amazon shares were essentially unchanged Wednesday afternoon at $233.46.

There were hundreds of Kindle books on my library's website, but only a small fraction were actually available. The library owned 68 copies of "The Help," for example, but none of its Kindle versions were available. The library suggested I place a "digital hold" on the book.

Shouldn't a library in theory be able to have unlimited copies of Kindle books for checkout? No, because it's expensive, and book publishers everywhere would riot if that took place. Also, who would visit a library anymore if it were that easy?

Many popular bestsellers are absent from the list. The public libraries in New York and Los Angeles don't have the "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series for the Kindle, reports The Los Angeles Times. Also missing is Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom."

The terms Amazon has placed on the lending are also fairly restrictive. Amazon says the lending time will vary by library, generally between seven and 14 days, Ars Technica reports.

But there was one bright spot in all of this. The actual checkout process, including the transmission to my Kindle, was flawless. I was able to find "Honeymoon" by James Patterson and Howard Roughan, and it showed up in my Kindle about 10 seconds after I requested it from the library's website.

If only it were all that easy.

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