Last week Amazon announced that readers in the US will soon be able to use their Kindles to borrow books from libraries. Patrons of roughly 11,000 public libraries will be able to borrow e-books to read on their Kindles by the end of 2011. With this move, Kindle has finally caught up with Barnes & Nobles’ Nook and the Sony E-Reader, both of which have permitted downloads of library material for quite some time. 72% of American libraries offer e-books and 5% of Americans own e-book readers. The fact that one could only read books sold by Amazon on the Kindle had led to much frustration. The news that Amazon will now cater to library users was reported positively by the press (for example, in the New York Times and Guardian) as well as in the library blogosphere, especially against the backdrop of recent publisher restrictions on library loans of e-books. Yet some bloggers, including Bobbi “Librarian by Day” Newman, remain skeptical of this generous development. Does this mean libraries will have to buy their e-book titles on Amazon? And what data about e-book usage will Amazon be able to mine from the Kindle?
The exact date of when Kindle library use will be available has not yet been made public, but there are certainly a number of issues that must be resolved before it can be introduced.