Kindle Lending Library comes with strict terms, preserved notes.
Kindle users will soon be able to borrow Kindle books from more than 11,000 US libraries. Amazon made the unexpected announcement Wednesday morning, noting that users would be able to read the borrowed books on any Kindle-enabled device, including older-generation Kindles and apps on iOS, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone, Mac, or PC.
Amazon is working with digital content distributor OverDrive in order to deliver the library books to Kindle users. Although OverDrive offers e-books to a number of different devices in various formats, all the books borrowed through the Kindle Lending Library will apparently be in Kindle format only.
What’s cool, however, is how Amazon and OverDrive are treating any notes or highlights made in the borrowed e-books. Users will be able to annotate and bookmark to their heart’s desire, yet those markings won’t show up for whomever checks out the e-book next. They will be preserved on your account, though—if you decide to check out the book again or even purchase it from Amazon, your markings will remain intact. (It’s unlikely, however, that you’ll be able to access your markings after you “return” the book, but before you borrow or buy it again.)
Amazon announced in October 2010 that Kindle users would finally be able to lend books to one another, but under strict conditions. The downside is that the book can only be lent to an individual user for 14 days, and it sounds like the terms for the Kindle Lending Library will be at least the same or more stringent. Amazon spokesperson Kinley Campbell told Ars that the lending time will vary by library, “generally 7–14 days,” but that users should check with their local libraries for information.
Although we’re excited about the Lending Library, the lending terms are a bit of bummer. Also, independent book lending services, such as BookLending.com and Lendle.me, still exist for Kindle users who want to swap books online (Amazon restored Lendle’s API access after revoking it a month ago). The Lending Library may be Amazon’s way of “competing” with those services by driving users towards libraries with more restrictive terms.
I don’t think this feature will really make much difference. It’s really quite easy to remove DRM from ebooks. I’ve looked at the selection of ebooks on loan via the Los Angeles library system, with the intention of removing the DRM and reading anything of interest on my Kindle, but I never actually found anything worth reading. Maybe this will make more of a difference some years in the future, when the selection offered by OverDrive is better.