Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2011 Issue

Amazon's Kindle E-Readers Will Soon Accept Library Books

Kindle5-11

Kindle electronic reader.

Amazon.com announced a major change with regard to its Kindle electronic reader. The retailer of Kindles and electronic books (among many other things) announced that Kindle owners will at some point this year be able to download library books onto their electronic readers. This may not sound like a big deal. Other e-readers already do this. However, for Amazon, it is a major step away from a business model that may indicate the barbarians are about to break through the gates.

 

In a news release dated April 20, 2011, Amazon announced that users will be able to borrow books from over 11,000 local libraries. Access will be available where the library makes use of digitization software provided by OverDrive, a firm that specializes in enabling libraries to offer books in electronic format. No date was given for when this service will be available beyond "later this year."

 

In the announcement, Kindle Director Jay Marine is quoted as saying, "We're excited that millions of Kindle customers will be able to borrow Kindle books from their local libraries." My guess is Mr. Marine is not quite as excited as he lets on. The difference between Amazon's Kindle and other brands, say Barnes & Noble's Nook, is that Kindles use proprietary software. You want a book for your Kindle, you buy it from Amazon. Period. Kindle was the first e-reader out there, and it dominates the market. A closed system guarantees that owners of most electronic readers must buy their books from Amazon. There is no other way to get them.

 

However, libraries have long been a resource for free books, and who doesn't like free? In the early days of e-readers, this was not an issue. Libraries offered only printed books. Now, libraries have stepped into the digital age, and many if not most offer books electronically. Access is really easy - in many cases you can simply download from home and never go the library. So, if you want to download a book the library holds in a digital format, and not have to pay for it (same as borrowing a traditional book from a library), you just plug your e-reader into the net and download it from the library. Oops… not if you have a Kindle. You need another brand, such as the Nook.

 

The dilemma for Amazon is obvious. They would undoubtedly like to lock all books but those offered by their store from access to the most widely used electronic reading device. To do so, however, means that customers who would like to get those free electronic library books must buy another brand of reader. That is not good for Kindle sales.

 

Still, there is something even worse. These other readers are open source, that is, you can buy your books for these devices from anyone - Barnes & Noble, Borders, Google, anyone who sells electronic books. So, if consumers purchase an e-reader other than a Kindle, it means they can buy their books from anyone, rather than just from Amazon. Sales at their e-book store will also take a hit. Allowing Kindle owners to download free library books may reduce Amazon's sales, but driving library users to other e-readers could adversely affect sales even more. Considering how many people want to borrow books from libraries, the loss of sales is likely, in time, to be quite large. Amazon has evidently chosen to allow for this one break in its proprietary model before a flood of customers migrate to other devices so they can gain access to free library books.

 

Will this lead Amazon to open their Kindles to books obtained anywhere? Probably not yet. Kindle users might like to purchase their electronic books anywhere, but as long as Amazon offers competitive pricing and selection to what others offer, there isn't a compelling need for Kindle users to go elsewhere. Where Amazon can't compete is against libraries, where the electronic books are free. This step takes away a major advantage its competitors possess. In time, competition may force Amazon to reassess its closed system. Google will probably make millions of out of copyright books available free, and this may be the competitive advantage that forces Amazon to open its system. For now, Amazon will probably allow for this one breach, and hold on to its other proprietary advantages as long as it can.

 

Amazon has offered users a feature that may help keep them loyal to their Kindles. Kindles allow their owners to highlight sections of a book or make margin notes. They will be able to do so on their library books as well. Of course, they won't be defacing the electronic impulses. The next borrower won't see them. However, if the Kindle owner ever borrows the same book again, or buys a copy, those notes will show up on their Kindle screens.

 


Posted On: 2011-05-01 00:00
User Name: gafisher

Amazon's Kindle has always supported other eBook formats, particularly the very common .mobi standard. However, Amazon's new partnership will for th


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  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
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    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
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    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Sergio Trujillo Magnenat, <i>Bogotá 1938 / IV Centenario / Juegos Deportivos Bolivarianos,</i> 1938. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>McQueen Drives Porsche,</i> designer unknown, 1970. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>Joe Bridge, <i>Bignan / A Des Ailes,</i> 1921. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Graham Simmons, <i>The Army Isn’t All Work,</i> 1919. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Leonetto Cappiello, <i>Je ne fume que le nil,</i> 1912. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> <i>Attack of the 50 ft. Woman,</i> designer unknown, 1958. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Raymond Tooby, <i>Festival Guiness / Have You Tried One Yet?,</i> 1952. $600 to $900.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> Francisco Tamagno, <i>Terrot & Co. / Dijon / Cycles Motorettes,</i> 1909. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b><br>A. Hori, Oakland / General Motors, circa 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 7:</b> James Montgomery Flagg, <i>Travel? Adventure? Answer – Join the Marines!,</i> circa 1918. $4,000 to $6,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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