After years of waiting and fan requests, J.K. Rowling has finally got her Pottermore site running well and offering eBook versions the Harry Potter series to owners of Kindles, Nooks, and more. She accomplished this in such a way that even Amazon, the bane of publishers and booksellers everywhere if you believe the news, was persuaded to redirect all interested buyers away from their main site and into Pottermore. This makes it even more surprising for Amazon to announce the recent inclusion of the Harry Potter series in its controversial Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
Those with access to the lending service will be able to select from the whole seven book series in English, French, German, Italian, or Spanish starting next month, thanks to an exclusive agreement with Pottermore. This means that anybody with an Amazon Prime account and a Kindle device can check out one installment of the series every month. If you are planning to read through these books again anyway and don’t necessarily need to own new copies in a digital format, this means about $56 in savings that could offset the cost of a new Kindle eReader or Amazon Prime annual membership significantly.
No details were released as to the nature of the exclusivity that Amazon mentioned in their press release. Seeing as the Harry Potter series is already available in libraries across the country and has been since March, it is unlikely this will be exclusivity with regard to digital borrowing. More likely, Amazon has an arrangement to be either the only purely digital lending service to carry the books or they have arranged unlimited distribution rights for the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library rather than a per-copy fee. The only major impact this will have for users of Amazon’s library is that it will never have waiting lists. Either way this will likely be more inconvenient for potential competition down the line than it is right now when the Lending Library is essentially the only one of its kind.
The usual Kindle Owners’ Lending Library rules apply to Harry Potter. You get one book per month and the most. You only get to borrow one book at a time. There are no late fees. To participate you must be both a Prime member and a Kindle Owner; the Kindle Apps do not qualify. While reading, any notes, highlights, bookmarks, tags, or other personal interactions with the book will be saved via Whispernet in the hopes that you eventually decide you need to own the book. Should you buy a copy, or borrow the same book a second time in the future, it will already have access to all of the marks you made in your library book.
If you are interested in taking advantage of this arrangement, the Harry Potter series will become available on June 19th. Assuming you meet the requirements for Lending Library usage, you will be able to get your free rental then regardless of the level of popularity it enjoys on launch. If you don’t yet qualify but are in the market for a tablet, the Kindle Fire comes with a convenient month of Amazon Prime membership and thereby takes care of both sides of the qualification at the same time. Something worth looking into.
The image on the right is a really creative marketing strategy by Milwaukee Public Library. I like how they mention sites that just about everyone is familiar with.
The amount of technology including social media, e-readers, tablets, computers, and more, is overwhelming. Technology is a very good thing because it puts the world at our fingertips. Social media has formed a global community of users. It has also helped us keep up with the lives of our friends and family more easily.
Social media can be used to share what we are reading. We can share passages from our Kindle via Facebook or Twitter. We can also follow Amazon or other Kindle related users to keep up with the latest news and reviews.
The drawback is that it is all a major time suck. The time we used to spend curled up with a book or playing outside is now spent on Facebook. More and more of our interactions with others are done online rather than in person.
So, how does this all relate to the Kindle? Well it is more of a topic for discussion than anything. If you could take a break from social media for a period of time, would you do the same for your Kindle? I am excluding the Kindle Fire from this question because it is more tablet than e-reader.
In my personal opinion, there is something that sets the e-ink Kindle apart from other gadgets. It is considered electronic, but it is built in a way that simulates that feeling we get when we read a real book. I curl up on the couch and escape into my Kindle books often. Does anyone ever say they’re addicted to the Kindle? If so, do you consider that a bad thing?
I think social media also affects the quality of what and how we read. We are exposed to so much information that we have to filter it out. So we spend less time reading more in depth material.
So, how can we use the technology more effectively? We will have to actively allot time for various things. Check e-mail or Facebook twice a day, get outside for an hour each day, etc. Read for an hour a day. Those are just examples.
It is amazing to me that just 10 years ago a majority of what is out there now wasn’t even invented yet. However, books have been around for a very long time. Now e-readers add another medium for reading them. Happy reading!
Kindle owners found themselves targeted recently in a fairly unpleasant way. Penguin USA, one of the largest publishers in the world, decided that it would be a smart business move to pull their entire collection of publications from libraries across the country for Kindle owners. Everybody else, including owners of competing eReaders like the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch, could still get these books. Now, while things have been temporarily dealt with since then – Penguin has temporarily stopped singling out the Kindle users entirely – new Penguin books will not be made available anymore and there is reason to believe that the event will recur unless Penguin and OverDrive (the service providing eBook lending services for most libraries these days) are able to work out a deal by the end of the year.
Neither Penguin nor OverDrive has said anything about the exact details of Penguin’s problems. OverDrive was simply sent word to disable the “Get for Kindle” functionality for all Penguin eBooks immediately. There was not even a warning sent to the affected libraries before the change took effect, which led to a great deal of ill will. These libraries purchase each copy of the eBooks they rent out and as such were left sitting on the results of essentially wasted money that could not be lent out despite Kindle-owning customer demand. The expected outcry for massive refunds, which would certainly have garnered a great deal of public sympathy, might well explain Penguin’s temporary capitulation.
Many have believably argued that this is a direct response to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library that Amazon launched recently for their Prime members. The timing certainly fits. Amazon got around the fact that major publishers have refused to buy into this new program by focusing on their KDP titles, smaller publishers, and by outright purchase of each rented eBook that they could get their hands on through wholesale arrangements. This last move is what causes the ill will since many publishers and authors feel that this exceeds the scope of their current relationships with Amazon.
While nobody involved in the Prime lending library is directly losing money, a major worry in the industry is that eBooks will lose perceived value. If customers start thinking of eBooks as somehow inherently cheaper that printed books, then printed Book sales will suffer and publishers would be forced to rely on sales of the eBooks, which means being subject to Amazon and Barnes & Noble even more than they are now. This is the same sort of reasoning that brought on the behind-the-scenes deal with Apple to fix prices of eBooks around the time the iBooks store opened up.
I would say that this is going to go poorly for Penguin. While their need to react is understandable given that they feel wronged, the targeting was off a bit. Instead of attacking Amazon directly, they have gone after their own readers. Yes, the Amazon deal with OverDrive increases the incentive to purchase a Kindle, but going after libraries doesn’t do a lot to make you look better to a customer base that loves to read. The Kindle is unlikely to be pushed out of the #1 slot in eBook Readers any time soon, even if all the major publishers pulled out of the library system in the same way. It’s difficult to understand what Penguin is still hoping to accomplish here.
Apparently Amazon has been working on a way to offer Amazon Prime customers a Kindle platform lending library experience similar to what Netflix users have come to expect. While this is in its extremely early stages and will depend on reaching agreements with publishers who have not been particularly fond of Amazon or the Kindle, if it were to be realized it would be a game changing addition to the eBook world.
It is important to note that this will be distinct from Kindle Library Lending. An Amazon Prime membership will not be required for Kindle Library Lending. This service would allow subscribers to access a certain number of titles per month, after which it is unclear whether these users would be cut off or given the option to pay overage fees of some sort. At launch, and possibly permanently depending on the eventual structuring, this service would be only for older works, leaving the bestsellers list alone in favor of less profitable titles that publishers would have less reason to object to.
Publishers are not terribly enthused by this idea, unfortunately. While Amazon has reportedly offered a substantial fee for any publishers who join in on the program, there are concerns. One, executives are apparently concerned that the idea of such a rental program would devalue their publications in the eyes of potential customers. Two, with Amazon already being in a highly influential place in the eReading world, many are concerned that such a program would alienate competing retailers.
The former concern isn’t exactly surprising in an industry that already seems to view libraries as little more than theft. The fee offered for participation would have to be substantial indeed to overcome the industry’s anti-lending attitude. As for the damaged relations, it seems shortsighted. If Amazon did pioneer a successful subscription based lending program, it would open the door for publishers to arrange similar deals with competing platforms. That relies on the assumption that the publishers do themselves a disservice by alienating their customers and will eventually have to give people what they want, which apparently is a difficult concept to swallow in many cases.
In all honesty, the fact that one executive defended their position by saying that “What it would do is downgrade the value of the book business” says to me that publishers still don’t quite get the fact that there are few inherent differences between the print and eBook mediums in most peoples’ minds. Just as public libraries don’t keep people from valuing books, being able to access a Kindle library equivalent wouldn’t change anything for the vast majority of customers beyond removing the need to worry about waiting lists and local availability of lend-able titles in the public library system.
Going along with a plan like this would be great publicity, make author back lists more accessible for potential customers, and quite possibly make the companies more money than would otherwise be the case on these titles, if the fee Amazon is offering is large enough. Shunning this sort of idea on principal does everybody a disservice.
One of the biggest flaws in the idea of a Kindle purchase for a lot of people has been the complete lack of library lending support. This isn’t a new problem. It stems from Amazon’s refusal to open up compatibility with the industry standard EPUB format. While Amazon may not have been willing to concede on that point, however, library lending is a must have for customers so they have worked with OverDrive Library, the most popular library lending management tool available today, to bring the capability to the Kindle. Several months back we heard that it was due before the end of the year and little has come up since then, until now.
Toward the end of OverDrive’s Digipalooze conference, one of the biggest unanswered questions was that of Kindle support. When would it be coming, what would it include, how hard would it be to use, and all the other little details. Though many of the specifics are still up in the air, the major points of the final presentation’s focus tell us a lot. Specifically, the final summary:
Streamlining (both downloading and ordering)
Explosion (we have gone from two reading devices to 85 and more are coming)
Premium (the library catalog as the most premium, value-added site on the Web)
Traffic (enormous growth coming by year’s end)
Naturally no specific dates were given, but I’m catching a rather obvious hint hidden in there as to when we can expect results.
This software update will not just include Kindle support. It will also mean an improvement to the experience for all library patrons. The acquisition process will be simplified significantly, for example. While the Kindle will be the only device that maintains persistent notes (meaning that anything you annotate in your library rental will still be there next time you rent or buy the text) , everybody will benefit in some way. There will also be an emphasis on allowing readers to express their preferences when it comes to library ownership. Not every library can keep every title in stock, especially with some publishers disliking the idea of eBook rentals enough to force libraries to keep repurchasing their books constantly, but now users will be able to point out their desired titles to the library or even go directly from the library rentals page to a purchasing option if they don’t feel like waiting.
From the sound of things, this is going to be the biggest thing to hit libraries in a long time. OverDrive is reportedly putting systems in place to handle demand a hundred times more intense than this past year. Kindle support will certainly do a lot to contribute to those numbers, but this may end up being the beginning of a whole new way to view libraries. If everything goes as planned and September is indeed the month of release, it is going to be a big one. Having a library card has never been such a good investment for the eReading enthusiast.
At this point we know that the Kindle as a physical purchase is not where Amazon is looking to make their money. If anything, the fact that they have gone to ad support indicates that there has been a need to get inventive to further reduce prices while not actually losing money on every sale. Knowing this, we have to assume that the big focus will always be on selling the most content. With an emphasis on renting, lending, and sharing eBooks lately, though, is this a genuinely achievable goal?
Right now we are hearing about the fact that Overdrive will soon be bringing Kindle compatible library books. Definitely a selling point for Amazon, since up until now it has been a major complaint against the platform. We also now have textbook rentals that can save renters as much as 80% over the purchase price of the book. Between the two options, I’m seeing a theme forming and looking to other media rental business models that seem like they have a real chance of finding their way to the Kindle.
The obvious one would be the Audible.com approach. Get users to subscribe for a monthly fee, perhaps as a means of getting a cheaper or free eReader, which locks them into picking out a certain number of eBooks to add to their library on a regular basis. Amazon has experience with this one and it would certainly work as a way to reduce eReader prices even beyond what the Kindle w/ Special Offers has been able to do. I don’t think it will happen, though. For something like this to work, Amazon would have to be able to provide value to subscribers beyond what they have control over with the current Agency Model pricing. Lack of control means lack of options.
More likely, to me at least, is the Netflix model. Picture spending $10 per month to access as many books as you want, so long as you only have one checked out at a time. There would have to be some sort of artificially produced swap delay, of course, since otherwise subscribers could simply jump back and forth at will, but if the system only allowed a book to be checked out once per month or only allowed one change per day (which doesn’t seem unreasonable since the Kindle Store already generally provides sample chapters and this would only be for reading entire books) then it would work. The profit would be available since most everybody has periods where their reading tapers off in spite of best intentions, and one would have to assume that an arrangement for multiple-use licenses would still be cheaper overall than per-user purchases. If something like this could be managed in spite of the total control that publishers want over their distribution, it would be the next big thing for the Kindle. Admittedly, it is something of a divergence since reading has always had a certain element of collection attached to it for many people, but I think the opportunity to save the money would make all the difference.
In May I wrote a post about library usage of Amazon Kindle. Recently Lone Wolf Librarian did a more thorough search and uncovered at least 15 libraries that lend Kindle eBook readers to their patrons. Here are just few:
- Mary White, Director of Howe Library in Hanover, NH - The Kindle Library Loaning Page. Lending out Kindles since Jan 14th, 2009.
- Sparta Public Library in Sparta, NJ have 2 Kindles for lending.
- LaCrosse Public Library lends out 1 Kindle.
- Rancho Mirage Public Library lends out Kindles, although its unclear whether its internally or patrons can take them home.
- Texas A&M University Libraries have 18 Kindles (add your name to the waiting list here) …
If Amazon were to come up with some kind of library-oriented solution that would streamline the process and eliminate the need for librarians to constantly register/deregister devices (to prevent useres from accidentally ordering books like this one) they would make a killing because:
- Libraries would buy devices and books wholesale
- More people would get introduced to the device and end up buying one for personal use.
Believe it or not most of the general public doesn’t know that Kindle is. I often get asked what is that device that I’m reading from in parks and other public places.
Gerrit van Dyk from Shaping Libraries reports that his interlibrary loan office approved pilot program for loaning Amazon Kindles to faculty staff. The idea is to serve book requests that would otherwise be cancelled because book in question is either new and not yet available in paper form in the library or too popular with all copies checked out. Roughly 10% of such books are currently available in the Kindle Store.
Currently the way it’s implemented is rather rudimentary and involves a lot of manual manipulations with Kindle devices and accounts because:
a) Amazon accounts are limited to 6 Kindle devices per account that can be registered at any given time
b) Before sending the Kindle out library staff de-registeres the device to prevent people from accidentally buying books under library account.
Wouldn’t it be great is Amazon were to set up a turn-key digital library solution in a form of special account that would allow hundreds of devices to be registered but would limit number of books checked out to this devices according to the number of books purchased. Instead of accessing Kindle Store, devices would access library catalog with the option of increasing number of book licences on-demand so if some customer absolutely doesn’t want to wait for the book to become available he can purchase one for the library at a fraction of the price (with remainder of the price to be paid by library).
However such system would require different Kindle device with either WiFi, Bluetooth or just wired connectivity because as library would loan out the same book again and again having to pay 12 center per megabyte transferred via WhisperNet would make such system unprofitable for Amazon.
A Library in New Jersey has begun to offer Kindle’s to loan out. How cool is that?
The new Kindle ebook reader from Amazon.com is certainly not oriented for the library borrowing model, given that books purchased are limited to the device itself. But that hasn’t stopped the Sparta Public Library, NJ, in an affluent suburb 50 miles west of New York City, from buying two $399 Kindles and preparing to loan them to patrons. “[Director Carol Boutilier] is very proactive; she wants us to be on the leading edge of any technology,” explained assistant director Diane Lapsley. Unlike many libraries, Sparta doesn’t shy away from loaning devices along with content; it previously circulated iPods loaded with audiobooks as well as an earlier generation of ebook reader.
Read the full article on LibraryJournal.com… found [via]