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Will Kindle ever add support for library books?

You might want to read this posting from the Kindle Blog:

Will Kindle ever add support for library books?

Read it but the unofficial answer is basically ‘no, really no’. “The quick answer would be – Not Really. Not unless Amazon lose [sic] its head. Not unless another company starts beating it on the basis of library book support. Not unless there’s a gun put to its head.”

Anyway, read their reasons.

OK, you’ve read it.

Now, are you mad? angry? Do you think reading should be controlled by a dominant device in a marketplace? Is this a healthy eco-system for the world? Should access to reading be allowed to be limited
by a company? What comes next . . . censorship, removing books you’ve already bought, invading your reading privacy, submitting to DOJ requests, . . .? Hmmmm.

Maybe, maybe not. Just be happy to organize your libraries and staff to point this out to patrons when they ask. You can say that Amazon’s Kindles don’t ‘allow’ them to read library e-books. You can point out that the Sony Reader, Borders’ or Chapters’ Kobo, the enTourage Edge, The B&N Nook, and others do ‘allow’ them to read the e-books that their tax dollars provide or that their schools and universities require them to read.

Let’s not play dead or promote Kindles as viable options for libraries. Is this enough pressure or are we wimps?



Posted on: January 14, 2011, 3:38 pm Category: Uncategorized

11 Responses

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  1. Jamie Mason said

    Stephen, I had this very conversation with my parents. My dad was buying my mother an e-reader for christmas and said what do you think about the Kindle? I told him it wasn’t Library compatible and after telling him about the nook and other devices, his response was that they can have free [cellular] data (with AT&T or Verizon) for life. And that was the biggest selling point. So, not only do we have to be vigilant, but the other readers have to market themselves similarly to the Kindle and offer the same options.

  2. “Let’s not play dead or promote Kindles as viable options for libraries. Is this enough pressure or are we wimps?”

    Nice line in the sand dude. Love it.

  3. alex zealand said

    Interesting perspective on the word ‘allow.’ I’d been using it to explain that it’s Amazon that won’t work with Libraries, not the other way around. I hadn’t thought of it as a word that means we’re letting companies decide (allow) what we can read and how.

  4. Where are people getting the idea that the Kindle Review blog speaks in any way for Amazon? Sure, the author is an Amazon affiliate, but I haven’t seen any evidence that his blog is anything more than one fan’s conjecture about Amazon’s business strategy. If you know what kind of “unofficial” authority he has, please call it out for us!

  5. Patricia Uttaro said

    You have just convinced me to stop using my Kindle and buy a Nook.

    I led a full day workshop yesterday for library directors in my system where we discussed the implications of digital content on libraries now and in the future. We discussed many of the same things that you talk about here, and that Overdrive is talking about on their blog, and concluded that building the digital collection is critical, as is educating staff on how to use digital content and ereaders. I think Amazon underestimates the number of readers who now use and who will continue to use their public libraries.

    Ironically enough, one of my assistants heard today from a man who told her he was returning his Kindle and buying a Nook because “if Amazon thinks it can control where I get my books, they’re nuts!”

  6. KindleLuver said

    I check out ebooks from the library using directions from Tip #3 at

  7. Absolutely – I can think of no reason why a blog called ‘Kindle Review’ is in any way an official or unofficial spokesperson for Amazon. Jeez, in much the same logic, I don’t think book reviewers are official or unofficial spokespeople for authors or publishers either. Moreover, I think opinion doesn’t require ‘authority’ and it is up to the reader to determine any bias.

  8. H. N. Year said

    A Dec 29th NYT Kindle article attracted 102 comments, 4 (below) mentioned the freeware Calibre for use with Library ebooks.
    Comment #51 “There are some commenters here who offer opinions laced with inaccuracies, such as the one who claims the Kindle only supports the Amazon format for eBooks. Aside from the fact that the Kindle natively supports text, MOBI, PDF and HTML formats, you can also use the free ‘Calibre’ application to convert nearly any format to ones supported by the Kindle.”
    Comment #53 “Someone stated incorrectly that you cannot read epub format books on the Kindle. In fact, there is plenty of software out there that lets you read epub format books on a Kindle. A great piece of freeware that I use is called Calibre.”
    Comment #90 “I have been a patron of libraries my entire life, typically borrowing 12 to 15 novels on every six week visit. I love my new Kindle and have already downloaded about 2000 bestsellers from the most popular authors, run them through Calibre (an amazing piece of free software) and have enough available literature to keep me busy through an armegeddon.” (sic)
    Comment #99 “Regarding the comment made by Tumbleweed about the kindle being restricted to Amazons format and not friendly with epub or ebook formats. Just do a free download of Calibre to convert these formats to Kindles and away you go..even a chump can do it.. I have been using a Kindle for some time now and find it to be an excellent bit of kit.”

    Is this a viable solution/ workaround?

  9. No really at all. Why should people have to discover and use special plug-ins to do something that nearly every other e-reader does already without extra effort? It’s such a programmer way of dealing with the world of device programs – just go find a plug-in that may or may not exist yet, or make your own workaround, or hack the system, jailbreak the device, or break the license or write some code. It’s quite an anti-average-consumer POV. Whatever happened to simple?

  10. The question is, is Amazon subsidizing the Kindle in its pricing with the business plan of making the subsidy back in book sales…or are they making a reasonable profit on the Kindle by itself. If the former is true, then the general argument made in the article is defensable. If the latter is true, then Amazon is using its power as the producer of the best and most popular ereader to shape the market to their advantage at the expense of public libraries. The reducto ad absurdum here is that Amazon would like all public libraries to go out of business. Interestingly, the fact that they allow for use of other massive free book sites hints strongly that this is not their stance. In fact, book stores have thrived for decades in concert with free public libraries. If anything, it’s been the advent of widely available video that has squashed the book market…not some massive growth in public library use. Thus, it would seem that Amazon taking a stance to maximize consumption of written material across the board would likely lead to the most profitable behavior of the consuming public. People will always have to wait for new books at libaries while they’ll get them right away from Amazon. They will never be able to give books as gifts from libraries but they will from Amazon. They will never be able to maintain their own personal collections using library books, but they will from Amazon. In short, the same reasons that have allowed retail booksellers to persist in the face of public libraries before the ereader still exist. Finally, from a data driven stand point, I’d be very interested in seeing what the correlation is between people who buy books and people who frequent libraries. My guess is that these two groups largely intersect!

  11. Steve:
    You’re right but you miss the point. Virtually every other e-reader allows e-books in libraries to be read on them. Public library use (print and e-circulation, web traffic, and gatecount) is way up (every year for decades) and most libraries recommend any device but the Kindle. By using Amazon’s market dominance to exclude some enterprise Jeff Bezos uses that power to make profit and damage the market (especially as it relates to the freedom to read). It is unlawful in most western countries. Apple is facing the same issue about in-app purchasing policies and undergoing an FTC investigation and Amazon should probably undergo the same investigation. Bookstores and libraries and authors and publishers have happily co-existed for many years. When one or two device manufacturers choose to isolate part of the information and reading ecology just for profit reasons, then that is dangerous to society at large and not just the enterprises involved. Look at the bigger picture. And yes, readers do use both stores and libraries. If one company decides they can’t on their device, then that’s just plain wrong. Imagine if telephone companies did that if they own the handset patent. Oh wait, Apple is trying to do that too!