In a bit of surprising good news, today Amazon announced “Kindle Library Lending,” which will bring library e-book lending to the Kindle range of devices and Kindle desktop & smartphone apps. The program will work through OverDrive, the major player in library e-book lending. Amazon says the feature will launch “later this year.”
The lack of access to library e-books was often mentioned as the single greatest weakness of the Kindle compared to its ePub-reading brethren (like the Nook, Kobo, and Sony E-Readers). (I just bought a Kobo Wireless and started checking out library e-books; the process does work, but is difficult to set up and the e-book selection at most libraries is quite limited. My review of the process is here.)
In a nice touch, Amazon will save any notes or highlights you make on the e-book you check out, and will sync those notes up through Whispersync if you check out the e-book again or even if you decide to buy it. Pretty cool for people who like taking notes in their e-books. (The notes will not show up for the next patron who checks the e-book out from the library; they’re saved to your Amazon account.)
All in all, it’s a very positive feature, and another example of Amazon improving (through software updates or added features) the Kindles we already own.
I do have to say I’m a little surprised. On the one hand, adding this feature will probably win over some people who would have bought e-readers other than the Kindle just due to the lack of library access. (Honestly, I can’t think of a single important reason to buy an e-reader other than the Kindle 3 right now — library lending was the one key feature the Kindle was missing.) On the other hand, Amazon already owns the lion’s share of the e-book market, and most e-books borrowed from libraries are e-books that won’t be purchased from Amazon. I always saw library lending as something the other e-readers had to do in order to compete with Amazon.
In any event, look for library lending to come to a Kindle near you later this year.