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Kindle Lending: Is Facebook the New Library?


Kindle Lending: Is Facebook the New Library?

New York Public Library's 5th Avenue Branch

Image copyright New York Public Library

In the relatively short time that it's been around, Facebook has proven to be disruptive in many ways, some of them rather unanticipated. When Amazon enabled a lending feature for its Kindle e-reader on December 30, 2010, it took all of a day for a Facebook group -the Kindle Lending Club- to be formed. This may not have been entirely unexpected given the fact that a group called "I have a NOOK and I'm willing to share books!" was already in existence, but there are a lot more Kindle owners out there than NOOK owners, so it's a big deal. No doubt e-book retailers recognized what could happen with lending and the web, because both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have a single lending instance restriction baked into their e-books. This means that book owners are permitted to lend their book out once only, preventing a free for all. 

Obviously, this restricts the ability of people to exchange e-books at will, but the door has definitely been opened and with social media sites like Facebook in the equation, connecting interested people has never been easier. In the space of a few months, thousands of Kindle owners have signed up for the service which matches borrowers and lenders so that participants can legitimately borrow e-books for the Kindle's 14 day lending period. Borrowing also works for Kindle app-enabled devices, such as iPads, iPhones and Android smart phones. 

The irony in this development is that Kindle users are currently just about the only e-reader owners locked out of borrowing e-books through most public libraries (which use Overdrive software that does not support Kindle). Yet with the wide range of e-books being purchased and shared through the Kindle Lending Club and other outlets, Kindle owners actually have the ability to legitimately borrow a wider ranger of e-book titles than many libraries offer. Even with only one loan permitted per title, it's not hard to imagine the possibility for this to really take off if everyone who buys an eligible Kindle e-book opts to share it with someone else.

Whether Kindle Lending will give libraries a run for their money remains to be seen, but it may put pressure on them to speed up their adoption of e-book lending.


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