Wednesday, April 20, 2011

11, 000 Local Libraries in Kindle Lending Library - Amazon did it quietly.


How did the libraries keep it quiet?

I had wondered if they would do this but how could they keep it secret?

From their press release today, the whole thing:
'   Customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 local libraries to read on Kindle and free Kindle reading apps.
  Whispersyncing of notes, highlights and last page read to work for Kindle library books

SEATTLE, Apr 20, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) --

(NASDAQ: AMZN)-- Amazon today announced Kindle Library Lending, a new feature launching later this year that will allow Kindle customers to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the United States. Kindle Library Lending will be available for all generations of Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps.

"We're excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries," said Jay Marine, Director, Amazon Kindle. "Customers tell us they love Kindle for its Pearl e-ink display that is easy to read even in bright sunlight, up to a month of battery life, and Whispersync technology that synchronizes notes, highlights and last page read between their Kindle and free Kindle apps."

Customers will be able to check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. If a Kindle book is checked out again or that book is purchased from Amazon, all of a customer's annotations and bookmarks will be preserved.
[ No, they would not let anyone else see our annotations and bookmarks, as it would be handled just as it is now, with annotation records kept in our own Amazon area.  That takes a lot of programming beyond the norm in the ereader world.]
"We're doing a little something extra here," Marine continued. "Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no. But we're extending our Whispersync technology so that you can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle books you check out from your local library. Your notes will not show up when the next patron checks out the book.  But if you check out the book again, or subsequently buy it, your notes will be there just as you left them, perfectly Whispersynced."

With Kindle Library Lending, customers can take advantage of all of the unique features of Kindle and Kindle books, including:

. Paper-like Pearl electronic-ink display
. No glare even in bright sunlight
. Lighter than a paperback - weighs just 8.5 ounces and holds up to 3,500 books
. Up to one month of battery life with wireless off
. Read everywhere with free Kindle apps for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry and Windows Phone
. Whispersync technology wirelessly sync your books, notes, highlights, and last page read across Kindle and free Kindle reading apps
. Real Page Numbers - easily reference passages with page numbers that correspond to actual print editions

Amazon is working with OverDrive, the leading provider of digital content solutions for over 11,000 public and educational libraries in the United States, to bring a seamless library borrowing experience to Kindle customers. "We are excited to be working with Amazon to offer Kindle Library Lending to the millions of customers who read on Kindle and Kindle apps," said Steve Potash, CEO, OverDrive. "We hear librarians and patrons rave about Kindle, so we are thrilled that we can be part of bringing library books to the unparalleled experience of reading on Kindle."

Kindle Library Lending will be available later this year for Kindle and free Kindle app users.  To learn more about Kindle go to '

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  1. Is this U.S. only, or international?

  2. This will have a huge negative impact on one of the few Barnes & Noble Nook competitive advantages. Many people I know who chose a Nook over the Kindle cited the ability to borrow library books as one of their key decision factors.

  3. It's funny how you mention the secrecy issue! I have often wondered the same thing. Amazon has been issuing some interesting press releases recently and most have come as a complete surprise. Think, for example, about the ad-supported Kindle.

    The only thing it seems that everyone is speculating about - free kindles for Prime members - will probably never materialize.

  4. Finally (hopefully)! OverDrive compatability on the Kindle so we can borrow books. I have the OverDrive app on my iPod Touch. It is a really poor ebook reader, even compared to the iBook app.

    I wonder how they would implement it? Hopefully we wouldn't have to use the "experimental" web browser to go to the Overdrive website and download the books.

    I imagine it would involve a firmware update to make the Kindle compatible with the Adobe DRM that OverDrive uses.

  5. Jae/Jennie,
    Their press release says that their deal with Overdrive is for "local the United States." People could write Overdrive, maybe, to see what they're doing internationally, if they are.

    Profit Perspectives,
    Yes, as far as the Nook Classic eInk model goes, that's been sinking and I think this will have the effect you mention. This is a more far-reaching change, for many, than a new Kindle. The lack of library-lending has been a huge factor in people deciding not to buy a Kindle.

    It was such a wish of mine that they were secretly working with the library system to do something like this but I just couldn't imagine how they'd swing that secrecy thing. With all those libraries involved, how could it not leak?

    Well, we don't know when in 2011 this will happen, so I guess the minute this was ink'd they announced it and can now work on getting everything in place.

    Amazon provides cloud services for many large companies like Netflix (for something like its infrastructure), and they've got our mp3 libraries streaming our music to us, so this company is very sophisticated and will be hard for other dedicated e-reader companies to beat.

    Prime may be saved for that $99 level, as Bufo Calvin has surmised. I agree.

    I wonder if you might get a more human name! :-)
    Amazon will probably implement this in a way that looks more like its own apps.

    I think that Overdrive and Amazon figured out a way to have libraries use Amazon's own DRM (for library book lending), as otherwise Amazon would have to pay Adobe for its DRM when Amazon can do its own. With all that sync'g and annotations-backup, it's not likely Amazon would be using ePub so this would have an effect on the ePub standard too.

  6. I wish I could give you a human name, but that's the name OpenID gave me. :-(

  7. 21531b36-6516-11e0-889e-000bcdcb5194,
    That's awful! At any rate, you can just sign yours with a nickname (not necessarily one you use in real life), and that'll help.

  8. andrys,

    does this mean that libraries will have to purchase mobi formatted ebooks to work with the kindle?

    most books at my library are in epub/adobe drm. currently, they've dropped purchase of pdf copies, for the most part, and long ago (well, two-three years ago) stopped buying mobi format.

    don't know how many ebooks in mobi/kindle compatible format will be available from local libraries, as their budgets are stretched already. think there may be many disappointed kindle customers.


  9. sara,
    What I THINK they'll do is a contract with Overdrive and libraries to provide the Kindle books directly to the customer VIA a loan from the library, with the library buying a copy the way they now buy a certain number of copies to lend. These usually mean only one customer at a time to a copy.

    Amazon would provide the ebooks direct from their servers, as they could not sync the ebooks and back up the annotations otherwise.

    I think Amazon has done something really huge with this because of what they can do with 'cloud' services in a way that the others don't.

  10. Amazon has a strict policy of not releasing any information to the outside world except through official press releases, and no doubt strict penalties for those employees who break that policy.
    Combined with a loyal staff that leads to a tightly run ship.

    I've worked for a software company in the past that had a similar policy, it worked great.
    Despite constant badgering by (potential) customers to release information early, we never made an announcement until the product was ready to ship, thus never caused customers to be unhappy because of shipping delays.
    We might have lost some business to competitors taking (pre)orders for products we were working to release superior alternatives to not much later, but we kept up our reputation for quality and keeping promises, which in the long run is more important.

  11. Amazon seems to be getting as good at the secrecy/surprise game as Apple. That it covers "all generations" of Kindles is surprising. That means my Kindle 1 is in the club. Passing user notes on from the library copy to a purchased one is also great. If only Kindles linked to Bluetooth keyboards, so entering those notes was not such a pain.

    I'm at a Seattle public library, so I asked the librarian about this. Seattle's libraries are in the 11,000, which isn't surprising. Amazon's headquarters are here. My only disappointment is that he says this Overdrive-powered scheme still treats digital books like physical ones. If a public library system only has two Kindle copies, then only two can be checked out at a time. Even worse, if they don't own a copy, there's nothing to check out. Since what libraries and their patrons are doing is actually renting ebooks, a purely rental scheme makes much more sense.

    Pure rental is easy to describe. Everyone who publishes a Kindle title would get to select a Rent Option when they upload it to Amazon. If selected, their Kindle book is listed in the collections of every one of of these 11,000 Overdrive-supporting libraries without charge. Only when a book is checked out is there a charge, one that's much less than the purchase price and with slices going to the author and publisher as well as Amazon and Overdrive.

    As a writer, it'd be marvelous, yielding a steady cash flow instead of jolts when each new book comes out. Libraries would benefit too. Even small town libraries could have huge collections at no cost.

  12. It looks like libraries won't have to add Kindle specific copies, their current books will be made available in Kindle format without them having to buy anything new...


    "In other words, the libraries—including schools, colleges and public libraries—will not have to add a new format, and the ebooks now available on the OverDrive sites will be immediately integrated with the Kindle,"

  13. Michael,
    It's a relief they're including the Kindle 1 on these, but it wouldn't need a different method for operating/navigating the Kindle, so that makes sense.

    Am with you on the Bluetooth keyboard!

    So, Seattle Library is already answering questions on it. I wonder how long they knew.

    The Overdrive program is run the same way and it wouldn't be good if the Kindle had a better deal than the other e-readers, and also not likely. Also, publishers have to sign off on this kind of thing.

    Maybe they all did work out a kind of rental system, but I guess we won't know for awhile.

    It would be a coup if they did, but then maybe it would be unfair and Overdrive couldn't go for that.

  14. Amazon DRM _is_ Mobipocket DRM, and availability of Mobipocket format titles for library borrowing pre-dates ePub format for lilbrary borrowing. Kindles have always had this capability built in. I assume they are leveraging the existing Mobipocket backend fullfillment now for Kindle.

    I think the one technical thing they needed to do is to connect the Overdrive and Amazon servers so that users only need to provide their Amazon account ID and not some device ID (as with Mobipocket).

    I'm also relieved that libraries will not have to purchase two formats: they purchase a license for the title, and get to lend out either format (wonder if this has included PDF as well). Adobe gets paid for fulfilling Adobe DRM formats, and Amazon for fulfilling the Kindle format.

    LIbraries would not have known this was coming because none of their terms are changing.

  15. Clearly, Amazon's negotiations were with Overdrive, not the libraries. The libraries contract with Overdrive to provide the system and wouldn't be involved in that kind of discussion.

    I'm sure Overdrive will update their software and provide Kindle-compatible formats of ebooks. All the libraries have to do is update their instructions to include Kindles.

  16. Lorraine, thanks.
    I think Amazon will be providing the Kindle-ebooks though -- to sync them and back up annotations, they have to match what they have on their servers pretty much exactly. But Overdrive would make sure their interface for the libraries handled Amazon's format rather than just purely ePub books.

    Very interesting times.

  17. Yes, most know that Amazon bought MobiPocket moreover, and that it's Amazon's format with DRM and that libraries carry a few mobi books so it's interesting to see what changed to make it all happen.

    Yes, re not using the device ID. But is it certain that Adobe will provide the DRM?? They usually charge the online booksellers for that and I haven't see Amazon doing that.

    Would the Overdrive process require Adobe's DRM?

    I've been wondering if any of the money-terms differ when the book is not a Big6-published book -- and since both Macmillian and Simon & Schuster won't even allow library loaning of their e-books (last I heard), it's the Big4 in this case ;-)

    I'm wondering if some creative arrangements were made.

  18. Karen Estrovich blog posting (Karen is manager of content sales for OverDrive) seems quite quite staight forward.

    /**** Begin Quote ****/
    The program is scheduled for launch later this year, and will significantly increase the value of the investments that libraries have made in OverDrive-powered eBook catalogs.

    Many of our partners will immediately receive inquiries about this new program, so here is a brief introduction into what can be expected when the program launches:

    The Kindle Library Lending program will integrate into your existing OverDrive-powered ‘Virtual Branch’ website.

    Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers. As you add new eBooks to your collection, those titles will also be available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and Kindle reading apps. Your library will not need to purchase any additional units to have Kindle compatibility. This will work for your existing copies and units.
    /**** End Quote ****/

    By way of emphasis, let me repeat the last two lines. "Your library will not need to purchase any additional units to have Kindle compatibility. This will work for your existing copies and units."

    Surely this means a firmware upgrade will make it possible to read DRMed epub format on the Kindle.

    Why would Amazon do this? Surely they would just be cutting their own throat?

    No, not really. If I buy a Nook or other epub reading device instead of a Kindle (in order to be able to check out library books), Amazon has lost me as a potential ebook customer. If a firmware upgrade enables borrowing DRMed epub format books, does it doesn't necessarily follow, that reading of un-lent (purchased by the user) DRMed epubs must also be allowed.

    You borrow the book from your public library (in epub format). And having read it, then you decide you must own your own copy of the book and are forced to purchase it in .azw format?

  19. jwenting,
    Forgot to say that I agree with you entirely. It's more important to have a product that's robust, although later than some would want, rather than one that's 'on time' (when a time is estimated) but buggy or just not well thought-out.

    Keeping quiet until things are pretty firm tends to be better than raising expectations.

  20. Mr. Booknerd,
    Thanks very much for pointing us to that blog. I'll add the URL to that posting.

    Estrovich's quote is interpreted by me in another way.

    She is writing to their partners with virtual websites.

    ----} "Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers."

    "Downloadable" by the partners' customers.

    ----} " As you add new eBooks to your collection, those titles will also be available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and Kindle reading apps."

    To me, that "also" available in Kindle format for lending to Kindle and its apps means they'll be available from Amazon directly once the requirements are met for the loan.

    ----} "Your library will not need to purchase any additional units to have Kindle compatibility. This will work for your existing copies and units."

    And that would mean their existing copies and units work continue to work and are unaffected.

    The reason is that the Kindle ebooks would be handled (and sync'd/backed up) via Amazon and its servers. The delivery of the Kindle format books would not affect the ePub books in the overall collection one iota. The books they offer will be available in both formats.

    There would still be DRM involved in the library loan but probably Amazon's DRM.

    If they do it this way, it's an ingenious solution. Am I making sense?

  21. Anonymous,
    Thanks for the Library Journal article as well!

  22. Looking solely at the language of the Amazon's press release and Karen Estrovich's blog posting, you're interpretation seems more likely to be correct than mine.

    But when I consider:

    1) OverDrives partner libraries purchased copies of works in ePub format for purpose of lending.
    2) OverDrive brokers the lending and check-in process for their partner libraries.
    3) And now, Amazon will partner with OverDrive to distribute/lend completely different copies in a new AZW format - that no one has paid for?

    How are the Big6/Big4 not going to see that as plain and simple copyright violation?

    If your interpretation is correct, it seems sure that we'll see it argued in court. And my guess would be that Amazon/OverDrive would loose that battle.

    When everything is said and done, Kindles are dedicated linux computers running a 'kindle' application. If new firmware can update the application to handle Collections, firmware can just as easily update the application to handle reading another format.

    So, my guess is still that Amazon has acquired the necessary DRM licensing from Adobe/OverDrive and is busily working on a firmware upgrade that will allow us to read LENT (but probably not purchased) OverDrive DRMed ePubs.

    Of course, I could easily be mistaken. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

  23. Mr. Booknerd,
    What I mentioned was that the "Title" wlll be purchased -- the ebook that people want -- but that it won't matter which format it is in.

    There'll be an order, a payment and one delivery, whether ePub or Kindle format, and the customer selects the destination device for the ebook, which then determins which format will be delivered...

    But this way there's no reason for the library to buy two copies of each book -- just the copy (in whichever format) is wanted by the loanee.

    Does that make more sense then?

  24. Sounds to me like you're thinking about libraries purchasing new material for lending?

    I'm firmly focused on Karen Estrovich's statement - "Your existing collection of downloadable eBooks will be available to Kindle customers."

    The vast majority of content in those "existing collections" were purchased as DRMed ePubs. If they're to be delivered in some other different format, how is it no one will be required to pay for the new, different, additional copies of the works in question?

    Hardback, paperback or e-book, the publisher's (and possibly the author's) money is made when a copy is sold to the library. Whether the book is lent just two times or twenty six times make no difference to them. Purchase of a hardback copy can't be used to justify lending the work in question as an e-book - it's a copyright violation. Similarly if an ePub copy was purchased, can that be legal justification to distribute/lend in some other (AZW) format? I'm certainly not a lawyer, but my guess is no.

    At this point, we don't seem to have been given enough information to arrive at a firm conclusion one way or another as to how this will actually be implemented.

    I think I follow what you're saying. And it seems well within the bounds of probable interpretation. But if you're correct, I think we'll see a law suit before we see library lending on the Kindle.

  25. MrBookNerd,
    I don't know why you say I seem to be thinking about libraries purchasing new material for lending. I have said several times that new purchases are not needed, per the Overdrive manager's site you linked us to.
    (Thanks again for that.)

    That's one beauty of it. A a license to loan a book title is bought from the publisher via Overdrive.

    It *doesn't matter* which format you need, Overdrive would take care of the loaned-title's format via the *Selection* of which "destination" as Estrovich says.

    That's why she says libraries don't have to purchase additional e-books. It's a license. The format is secondary.

    The library would buy an ebook title and only one copy can be loaned out at any time. The one copy can be either ePub OR Kindle mobi. That's why there's no additional cost to get Kindle formatted ebooks even for existing ebooks.

    The existing collection of downloadable books would now be available in Kindle format because Amazon has joined the Overdrive program, which offers ebook loans from libraries.

    Now, if Amazon does not already offer the book itself, then it would be a NON-Amazon book and -that- would have to be converted to mobi and, as with our current non-Amazon purchases, that book could not be sync'd or backed-up -- if they treat it like the many non-Amazon mobi books we put on our Kindles (with Amazon's blessing as shown on the page where they tell us about the free mobi books available).

    If, via Overdrive, Amazon gets rights to offer the book (rather than Overdrive directly delivering a converted Mobi book that Amazon does not have in its catalog), then it -could- get a copy of the book on its servers in mobi format so that it could sync and back-up with, to match the Kindle status if they want. Those books that aren't Amazon-offered books will be the question.

    Existing books are just "titles" offered by the publishers who agreed to allow libraries the right to loan a title that the library purchases.

    Whatever format the customer gets is based on whether it's an Amazon Kindle customer or a customer of the others.

    Again, that's my theory. If Amazon has the book in Kindle format, it's foolhardy to convert an ePub book into Amazon Kindle format. All they have to do is deliver what they already have, to their own customer, if the customer chooses an ebook already in Kindle format.

    The thing is, a library buys a book from the publisher. Again, ONE title. The library can then lend it out, one person at a time, in -either- Kindle or ePub format. If Kindle, they can let Amazon download it to the customer.

    Amazon does have to have the ebook in Kindle format on its own servers (they have only one, by the way, even now, and it's a copy of this that is sold to each person). Annotations and last-page-read info are placed in separate or auxiliary files and the location numbers have to match.

    What the existing collection is, is not an actual e-book in only one format but the RIGHT to loan AN e-book, in whatever format.
    That's the thing with digital books.

    As for your interest in a 'firm' conclusion, I do say in my post with Estrovich's quote,

    "Caveat: It's only my interpretation and nothing more, but I think it has a good basis. "

    I think the difference between digital ebooks where you only have a license to buy/borrow to read one is the conflict here.

    An e-book can be delivered in either format,
    and only one copy of an e-book 'title' is out on loan to a customer at any time. There's just no basis for a lawsuit on that.

    I repeated myself a lot there, hoping it might be a little clearer (though I realize it may not be).

  26. Hello again, Andrys.

    I've been making an assumption - it could easily be an erroneous assumption - that the SEPARATE licenses from the Big4/Big6 to Amazon/Overdrive specify the DRM and forbid it's modification. I'm imagining those contracts to include language different from but similar to Amazon's own END USER LICENSE -
    You may not ... create any derivative works from ... or bypass, modify, defeat, or tamper with or circumvent any of the functions or protections ... or any mechanisms operatively linked to the Software, for example, by augmenting or SUBSTITUTING ANY DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT FUNCTIONALITY

    The emphasis (not screaming) by way of capitalization mine. MrBookNerd

    What are your reasons for assuming those overriding contracts don't include such prohibitions?

    FWIW If any of those over riding contracts exist on line, my couple of stabs at googling them up have turned up 'anything but'.

    PS. It was the "will be purchased" in the opening sentence of your preceding post, that led me to conclude that you were thinking of "new materials" - at the moment you wrote that particular post.

    PPS. If at any point you feel like this is degrading from a discussion into an argument, let me know and I'll stop. Argument is not my intent.

  27. Mr. Booknerd,
    I think the assumption IS erroneous.

    "The library would buy an ebook title and only one copy can be loaned out at any time. The one copy can be either ePub OR Kindle mobi. That's why there's no additional cost to get Kindle formatted ebooks even for existing ebooks."

    That's as simple as it is. That part is definitely so.

    And, no, the DRM is not itself modified. The license is the thing. There is no DRM applied until they decide which format.

  28. If one searches the New York Public Library's ebook page ***Powered by OverDrive *** for "Kate White" in all formats, there are seven results.
    (See url below)
    Sorted by title the results are:

    1) "A Body to Die For" in WMA
    2) "A Body to Die For" in EPUB, PDF and Mobipocket
    3) "If Looks Could Kill" in PDF and Mobipocket
    4) "Over Her Dead Body" in WMA
    5) "Over Her Dead Body" in PDF
    6) "'Til Death Do Us Part" in WMA
    7) "'Til Death Do Us Part" in PDF and Mobipocket

    In the case of "'Til Death Do Us Part", the Details tab of this BookOnBoard page -
    shows it to be available in EPUB, PDF, Mobipocket (OD)* and Microsoft Reader and Stanza formats.

    If it's available in EPUB, why don't NYPD/OverDrive present EPUB as a choice for that title?

    Generic NYPL ebook page:

    Direct link to the search results mentioned above:


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