If Sony, Kobo and Barnes & Noble e-reader reps seem a little nervous today, they have good reason to be. While Amazon's Kindle has been the best-selling dedicated e-reader out there, one of the key issues competitors have been able to leverage has been Amazon's proprietary AZW file format. By opting to go it on its own, instead of adopting a a more standard format such as EPUB, Kindle remained a closed ecosystem with its e-books locked to its e-readers. By going "open," the other major e-reader manufacturers were able to attract customers who were concerned about having their e-books forever locked to a specific brand of device (see here for our complete list of e-reader file format support). Another key advantage of EPUB was its virtue of being the format chosen as a platform for e-book lending through public libraries. Everyone likes "free" e-books and borrowing from the library is about as good as it gets without making do with public domain classics or resorting to piracy.
The first shoe dropped when Amazon released a Kindle app for devices like the iPad. Suddenly, those AZW Kindle e-books being sold on amazon.com no longer required owning a Kindle. And the idea of building an AZW e-book library was much less of a risk, since a multitude of app-running devices could read the files.
The second shoe just dropped with an April 20 press release announcing that the 11,000 public libraries in the US currently offering e-book lending will begin lending Kindle e-books. There isn't a whole lot of detail in terms of dates, how the checkout process might differ on a Kindle or whether libraries will immediately have access to Kindle-compatible versions of their existing e-book collection, but Amazon is working closely with OverDrive (the company whose technology powers library e-book lending). The one detail that has been released is that Whispersync will allow borrowers to make notes on Kindle e-book titles and have those (Private) notes preserved if they subsequently check out the e-book again, or buy it from Amazon.
Having access to library e-books is bad enough, but if Amazon can improve the existing, overly-complicated e-book lending process, in particular the jumping through hoops required to satisfy Adobe Digital Editions, the other e-reader makers will have an even bigger problem on their hands.
Full press release below:
AMAZON TO LAUNCH LIBRARY LENDING FOR KINDLE BOOKS
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—April 20, 2011—(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.
“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 www.amazon.com/kindle.