Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More encouraging news on Kindle and Public Library Lending - A live "Beta"

First, a Repeat of the header-entry from the blog article from early Sept. here:

MAYBE GOOD NEWS [Sept. 5 blog]

Leslie DeLoose, reference and community services librarian for the Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, New York, writes a monthly column for The Daily News.  In today's edition, she included an encouraging statement:
' Early word is that Kindle owners will be able to borrow eBooks from the library in September.  This is on the library’s webpage and is administered through OverDrive.  Watch for details. '

That was not what I considered just a rumor, although many were wary, tired of being disappointed by so many rumors (mostly tablet) and Amazon appearing to take so long to roll things out this year.

  I gave more credence to that one.  As mentioned in that story, Overdrive CEO Steve Potash had dropped a strong hint at the Digipalooza event, a written summary spelling out "S E P T" as the first letter of each itemized point when asked when Kindle users would be able to download from overdrive.  What a tease.

  The website thisismynext.com (soon to be The Verge) noticed that Kindle forums were "aflutter" with a few users seeing that Kindle public library lending feature is LIVE in some areas, most of all in Seattle (home of Amazon).

  On Twitter, columbiacity tweeted to me Monday a.m. (but I was not online all day to read it) that:
' @kindleworld I notice this a.m. that Library eBooks for Kindle (beta) are live for Seattle and King County Public Libraries! '
And it is expanding through the night.

  Remember that when most were insisting that Amazon would have to go ePub for this, I explained that it had to be Amazon serving their Kindle ('Mobi') format files, when Kindlers requested library books, because of

  1) the 'seamless' wireless delivery promised to TheKindleChronicles in May 2011 by Amazon's Jay Marine (rather than the kludge of computer transfer with most library lending of ePub books),
  2) the by-"location" tracking of annotations, which Amazon does on its servers for its Kindle-formatted books, and
  3) the fact that Adobe DRM would NOT be involved?

  In April, I had described "How it would work" from writings online, including a key one by Karen Estrovich, Overdrive's manager for content sales, and the careful description she gave that made it clear to me.

Amazon has posted now how it will work, and it does match what I had described in April.
  Just to see how closely -- when it involved the controversy over any need for Amazon to do ePub format for this -- here's what I felt at the time, and it has more detail about some concerns that people had over library costs (for an additional format), how books would be identified for loaning, how they'd be put together and delivered, etc.
' [April 21, 2011]

MY INTERPRETATION of this varies from others' I've seen
Caveat: It's only my interpretation and nothing more, but I think it has a good basis.
' Estrovich is writing to partners who have OverDrive-powered ‘Virtual Branch’ websites for the Overdrive library e-books program.  This is important to an understanding of what she's describing.

The existing collection of a partner's downloadable titles will be available to Kindle customers.

  When the partners add new ebooks to their collections available for loan, those titles will be available in Kindle- and ePUB formats for lending.  No one will have to, to my mind, convert from ePUB to Amazon's mobi format, as some have written -- for the reasons given below.

  This indicates strongly that the titles in Amazon Kindle/mobi format will be available from Amazon's servers directly once the requirements are met for the loan of a title to a Kindle customer.

  It's the only way Amazon would be able to (1) synchronize between the various Kindle/compatible devices and (2) back up annotations for a customer.  This would be done via matching the server's usual Amazon-formatted e-book and the copy on the customer's Kindle.

  The partners' libraries will not need to purchase any additional units as the partners are purchasing TITLES from a publisher via Overdrive, and the partners can decide which format a customer will get, depending on the customer selection of "destination" device.  Again, no conversion would be needed.

  Amazon wouldn't be using ePUB-formatted books that are transformed, nor would ePUB books be affected.

  Most important, this would mean the partners' existing copies and units would continue to work, as-is, totally unaffected.

  The reason is that the Kindle ebooks would be handled (and sync'd and backed up) by Amazon servers.  The delivery of the Kindle format books to Kindle customers would not affect the ePub books in the overall collection one iota.  The e-books that Overdrive partners offer will be available in both formats.

 There would still be DRM involved in the library loan but probably Amazon's DRM rather than Adobe's.  I think that Amazon resisted partially because they don't want to pay Adobe for their DRM process when they have their own (and apparently they don't want to switch to ePub).

  This would be a better solution than most had expected. '

True.  And Kindle forums everywhere have members trying this for their cities, with some finding Kindle books downloadable from their libraries although some downloads don't make it through.  This would be another testing session just before an official rollout, and we know that Latest Generation Kindles are getting a software upgrade "in a few weeks" (or earlier), in connection with "Special Offers" of the LivingSocial type going to Special-Offer Kindles (and maybe the option to receive these, with other Latest-gen Kindles).  But all Kindles are slated to be able to use Overdrive when it's all ready.
 It appears updated software is not needed to try this out, but maybe it'll be smoother.

  This is, from all I read, an unofficial "beta" ... quietly available for explorers to test and find any rougher areas and then Amazon would make adjustments for those.

  It won't be long, folks! And it'll be a more pain-free transfer of public library e-books to e-readers, overall, than we've seen in the past.  Best of all, well before December 31, after all.

  Soon, we'll deal with the availability of library books and the queues for them.

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  1. Any word yet from beta testers on how easy library lending will be? On my Nook Simple Touch, library lending is crazily complicated. You need a guide (there's no instructions in the Nook manual) to help you get setup. It then takes 12-15 actions to get into the library, find a book, put it in the cart, check out, enter my library number, download it, double click the download, go into Adobe Digital Editions, hook up the nook, drag it onto the Nook, and then disconnect the nook.

    All that to access the 1,249 e-books available for borrowing at my local library.

  2. Joe,
    I read that when it worked, it was as easy as it is now for buying a book. Yes, it's very complicated with most ePub book library lending functions due to the Adobe DRM processes and the need for a computer -- Kobo and Sony will be going the wireless way too, once everything's in place.

    Amazon has said they were waiting until they could do it with that 'seamless' download that they made a goal with their target audience. I suspect there were other reasons as well, but that would count as one. I think we'll find out soon.

  3. The forthcoming KSO/K3 update probably will not have anything to do with library lending. That's already built in to every Kindle as demonstrated by the 'loan this ebook" feature, which did not require any updates to K1/K2/DX. The library lending feature description on Amazon says you can check loan status on the MYK page. If they were going to deliver an update for library lending, wouldn't they include a way to do this on Kindle itself (short of using web browser)?

    I think the update might include localized UI for German/French/Spanish, as ebook stores have opened in Germany and France recently and there's a huge Spanish literate market in the US/Americas that B&N has been going after. Hopefully they'll include a way to enter diacritics without the Sym table (e.g. hold 'a' key down to generate diacritics of 'a', etc.). Also it is about time to do something with the built-in microphone (some basic voice navigation would be great to have).

    What I see happening with Sony/B&N/Kobo (maybe even Apple) is a cloning of the basic workflow that Kindle will be using: visit library portal (hosted by Overdrive), check out a book, choose desired delivery mechanism (download file or wifi), then vendor (Amazon, Sony, etc.), then you go to the vendor page to authenticate and select the endpoint (registered device/app). The vendor fulfills the request and delivers it wirelessly. Vendor specific DRM is applied to enforce the lending period and eliminate the need to authorize with Adobe ID (the main speed bump in the curent 'download and sideload' workflow). This could be copied by Overdrive competitors or even 3rd party ebookstores that want to have a 'rental' service. None of this will provide 'return early' feature that Adobe DRM uniquely confers, but I think publishers would be more than happy with that.

    Ironically it is Amazon that is driving all this improvement, though they are late to the library party.

  4. Tom,
    The kindle book lending is of books that have been purchased and for which 3G downloads are allowed, but the software would have to explain to those without WiFi in their area or on older kindles that 3G downloads won't be possible the way they are with purchased books.

    They'll need to use the USB transfer if they don't have access to WiFi.

    A Seattle resident wrote to say he watched his Kindle update (before the library access yesterday) and he is currently at v3.3

    I explain what I know about that (but am looking for more info) in the latest blog entry today.

    Amazon, being very active internationally, and with cloud features for the Kindle annotations that no other ebookreaders have, has been ahead of the curve.

    Glad they've found a way to work with Overdrive and still offer their usual features.

    It'll be really good that people don't have to go through the Adobe DRM library steps that are complex with some e-readers.

    The new Sony will do wireless library downloads also.


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