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Amazon Launches Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

Yesterday, Amazon began offering a new service to its Prime members with the launch of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. This new feature allows members to borrow eBook titles free of charge, though the program does have restrictions. The service is only available on Kindle eInk hardware or the soon to be released Kindle Fire tablet, and will not be accessible through any of the Kindle apps on other platforms. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, about 5,000 titles will be available at launch “including more than 100 current and former national bestsellers”, though at present, none of the six largest publishers in the U.S. have agreed to participate in the program. Users are allowed to borrow one title per month, a number that may not impress avid readers. However, unlike most public library eBook lending policies, there is no due date, so users can borrow book for as long as they like.

For those who are unwilling, or cannot afford, to pay the $79 annual fee to be an Amazon Prime member, the best way to borrow eBooks free of charge is still the local library. Thousands of public libraries nation wide have begun offering this service, so it is becoming fairly easy for readers to download books to their PCs or eReader devices. I recently borrowed a couple of titles from my local library, which uses the OverDrive service for lending eBooks. The interface could do with a re-design, but it is easy to use and books can be quickly downloaded to any Kindle or Kindle app, or in various other ePub formats to suit a variety of electronic devices. As with the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, the main drawback is the limited number of titles available. My library has only a couple thousand eBooks available for download, and the waiting list for very popular titles, like Kathryn Stockett’s The Help can be hundreds of people long. In cases like these, it would probably be be easier and faster to visit the library branch and check out the physical book.

A big fan of the mystery genre, I found the latest books from Jonathan Kellerman and John Sanford, quite easily available. eBooks from my library can only be borrowed for two weeks, but the term will expire automatically, so there are never any late fees, and if you finish the eBook early, you can return it with the click of a button. All of this saves time, money and gas.

For a detailed account of one reader’s experience with the OverDrive lending service, check out the recent article posted on Ars Technica.

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