Kindle users have been kind’a-sort’a able to loan e-books to each other for a while. Today Amazon announced that the Kindle is making a bigger leap in the near future:
Amazon said the library books will be available on the Kindle “later this year,” but the company did not specify a launch date. The free e-books will be available though Kindle apps on smartphones and on the Kindle e-reader device, which can download books over Wi-Fi or 3G internet connections.
The service will work only in the United States.
I’m not sure why the reporter used the word ‘free’ to describe the financial impact of taking out a library book, unless it was to clarify the terms of such a transaction for those who have never had a library card. In any case, the basics of the deal strike me as almost banal in the way they replicate the loaning of physical books. (Libraries will purchase and loan limited copies. Copies loaned out will not be available until returned.)
The one glitch I can imagine is allowing loans via the internet. Libraries have always required that patrons present themselves physically, with allowances made in some municipalities for the physically disabled. Allowing people to download content from anywhere is obviously problematic, but can be mitigated to a great degree by only allowing people who qualify for local membership (meaning they reside in the library’s district) to access content from that library’s site.
How long will it take for somebody to download and pirate/market content from a library system? Well, I have to believe that’s already been done, and will be done again. (If I understand the piracy argument correctly, everything’s already on the web anyway, so why would pirates bother — unless they like the clean, device-ready formatting.)
— Mark Barrett