Amazon this week launched a lending library of its own for Kindle owners, following the September launch of its tie-in with public libraries. While Amazon’s lending library doesn’t have the due date and copy check-out limits of the public library program, The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has its own set of restrictions.
First, you must subscribe to Amazon’s Prime program to be eligible to borrow a book. For $79 a year, Prime already offers its members free 2-day shipping on most items and unlimited free streaming of selected movies and TV shows. Prime members will be able to borrow one book per month from the new 5,000-title e-library. Like a Netflix DVD , you can keep the e-book as long as you’d like, but you’ll have to turn it in before you can borrow another one.
Borrowed e-books can be read only on a Kindle device, including the soon-to-be-released $200 Kindle Fire tablet. Purchased Kindle books can be read on any device by downloading a free Kindle app, which is available for PCs, Macs, most smartphones and tablets such as the iPad.
Is it worth buying a Prime membership to access the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library? That depends.
You’ll pay around $6.60 per month and you could buy most of the titles available in the library for less and read them on a device that you own. However, if you frequently opt for expedited shipping, enjoy streaming movies and TV shows and are certain there’s a Kindle in your future, a free book a month is a bonus.
Books available to borrow are found in the Kindle Store by clicking “See all” on the homepage. Choose Kindle Owners’ Lending Library from the list. Alternately, you can search for a specific title — if it’s part of the library, it will be designated with the Prime logo and you’ll have the option to buy or borrow for free if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
The future of borrowing e-books is uncertain. None of the major publishers have signed on with Amazon for this program, but the smaller publishers who have, such as Algonquin Books and Scholastic, will earn fees from Amazon for book rentals. If the program shows publishers that there’s money to be made from lending, we may see the big names join to make what today seems like a bookmobile into the full-scale library tomorrow.