Amazon launches direct ebook lending to Kindle owners

It’s official.  Amazon launched the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library on Wednesday.  The move was somewhat expected as it was rumored that Amazon Prime ebook lending was in being discussed in September.

Amazon Prime members will now be able to borrow one ebook for free each month as part of their annual subscription.  Only one free ebook is available per month.  If you finish your book and want to borrow another one, you will have to wait until the following month.  All notes, bookmarks, and highlights will be saved in case you decide to buy the ebook in the future.  The Kindle book can only be borrowed for Kindle devices, not Kindle apps running on smartphones, tablets, or PCs.  Borrowing the book is as easy as buying an ebook from Amazon with a Prime icon showing next to any borrowable ebook.

Amazon claims thousands of Kindle books will be available in the program, though it appears the major publishers have not signed on to the program yet.  So you definitely will not be able to borrow every ebook that Amazon currently sells.  At least not yet.

It looks like the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a test to see if there is demand for a subscription based ebook model.  I can easily see Amazon improving the program to cover all of their Kindle books and offering something like three ebooks per month for an additional $50 per year.  The revenue will probably be less for publishers but they might be interested in the recurring revenue stream that could be gained from older titles.

If the lending program does become popular it will be bad news for public libraries.  If voters start paying Amazon for an affordable way to conveniently borrow ebooks they will start to wonder why they are paying for a public library subscription as well.  Especially when the library subscription involves an extremely complicated search and checkout process and involves a lengthy wait and a smaller selection.

Kindle Owner’s Lending Library could be the program that causes ebooks to be the end of public libraries.


  1. Dale Copps says

    You are absolutely right. This is only Day One (or maybe Three) of Amazon’s move into eBook lending, and it shows in the paucity of its offering (though it came out of the gate with five times the titles available from my state’s Overdrive-managed public library consortium). As it succeeds, as I am sure it will, it will expand its titles and supported devices and, if it can develop a sane remittance model for the publishers, it could well take command of the eBook lending landscape. As you say, this will render public libraries irrelevant for many of those middle-class people whose support they depend on. As for the poor who so urgently depend on public libraries, well, who cares about the poor in this country or, for that matter, the importance of a public library system in supporting and maintaining an egalitarian democracy.

    Like you, I fear perilous times are ahead for libraries. I have treated this subject at more length on my blog, at All Together Now, where I also offer my own modest proposal for a solution to this threat.

  2. BETTY GENTIE says

    I would hesitate to join Amazon since it could be a threat to my local library. I have no card yet but have always supported libraries. It’s sad cause I am an avid reader and have considered buying a Kindle.

    Betty G.