By launching a pilot program to bring their publications back to libraries through OverDrive competitor 3M, Penguin has taken a step back toward serving its customers. At least so long as those customers don’t like reading on their Kindle. One of the notable shortcomings of the new system, and likely one reason that it is so appealing to Penguin, is that it completely lacks Kindle compatibility at this time.
The ongoing disputes between Amazon and the Big 6 publishers have provided any number of inconveniences for readers over the years now, but the library system has been hit particularly hard. While demand for eBooks, especially those compatible with the Kindle platform, has been rising at an ever increasing rate, publishers have been doing their best to make sure that eBook borrowing is as inconvenient as possible when it is available at all.
If that sounds horribly over the top, it is. Just not in the way you might think. The appeal of the 3M system for publishers, when it last made big news in library lending, was that it would force customers to both be in the library building to load their eBook and to wait in line as kiosks to get their chance. The OverDrive system, which often allows borrowers to download their titles over WiFi, allows for too little friction. Penguin, along with others, is concerned that if they don’t find some way to make using an eReader less simple and hassle-free then it will result in lost sales.
The argument is simple enough to follow, but seems to demonstrate how thoroughly these publishers understand their customers. By this logic, the only reason that book stores are able to stay in business is that libraries took too much of a drive or had longer lines.
To be fair, 3M has gotten better since those planning stages. Users are now able to browse and borrow from wherever they like, it seems, and there is even a fair selection available. The originally mandatory kiosks have been changed into promotional tools within the library itself and the program now includes branded eReaders meant specifically to be lent out to library patrons. It’s possible this explains why Penguin is only tentatively on board with the whole program even now, as well as why they will only be offering titles that are at least six months old.
Supposedly there will eventually be some degree of Kindle compatibility with the 3M lending network. Reportedly Amazon broke off earlier talks with a request that they resume in June, so at least things are still being discussed. It is unlikely that 3M will allow things to go the same way that OverDrive did, however, in shuffling their users through an Amazon store page. Given the customer base that Amazon already has, as well as the internal Kindle Owners’ Lending Library being used as a promotional tool for the Amazon Prime subscription service, this might become something that takes quite a while to come to terms over. Kindle owners probably shouldn’t be holding their breath waiting for Penguin, 3M, or Amazon to come around.
Obviously there has often been a bit of strain in the relationship between publishers and libraries, much of the time with arguments along the same lines as those currently used against media piracy, but eBooks have been an especially touchy issue. To illustrate how serious they are about disliking eBooks in general and the Kindle in particular, with regard to lending at least, Penguin has chosen to abandon eBook availability in libraries entirely for the time being. This is hardly the first time a major publisher or even Penguin in particular has reacted publicly against eBook lending, but it could be the first time there was anything resembling a sane rationale behind it.
At the moment, the vast majority of libraries in the US offer any eBooks they have available to borrow using the OverDrive service. As essentially the only major platform that libraries have the option of using, pulling out of OverDrive means pulling out of libraries. Unfortunately, publishers see the partnership that this service has developed with Amazon to provide Kindle compatibility as being damaging. Currently when a Kindle owner wants to borrow a library book, they pass through Amazon’s web page. This allows the retailer an opportunity to offer suggestions or advertisements and thereby potentially monetize library lending. There is ample evidence that publishers really dislike Amazon and the Kindle platform in general already, and this extra bit of opportunity is even more of a problem than the already distasteful fact that libraries let people read without spending money.
Sadly, this could spur some of the competition for OverDrive into a more prominent position. 3M, for example, is working on ways to take a part of that market for themselves with a new service by giving publishers more of what they want in terms of control. What do publishers want? Mostly they want things complicated. An oft-expressed complaint about eBook lending is that it is too fluid. Borrowers should be required, they maintain, to be at the library when they borrow at the very least and even that is a minimum standard. As much friction as possible is desired so that eBooks do not become more convenient than paper books. The 3M example is particularly relevant since they are discussing offering kiosks that users would be required to use any time they want to borrow an eBook. While it defeats the point for many people, these publishers would generally prefer them not to borrow in the first place anyway.
Now, pulling out of OverDrive over Amazon’s sales opportunities makes sense in a few ways given the concern about the company’s increasing influence and the fact that other OverDrive partners don’t have similar options. By offering no alternatives and openly embracing a philosophy of obstruction regarding eReading as a whole, however, Penguin is sending a message to their customers that they just don’t care who gets hurt by their sluggish reaction to new media. They want to drive people away from the Kindle by making life harder for Kindle users, but really this just damages their own position. Making a move like this without offering libraries other options was at best premature.
The Kindle Library Lending service launched in the fall of 2011 started with 11.000 libraries. The number has grown to about 15,000 libraries and counting in the US, and 18,000 worldwide. This new service offered via a partnership between Amazon and OverDrive has been very instrumental in facilitating this big jump in membership. more
Kindle Library Lending is available to anyone who has an e-ink Kindle, Kindle Fire, or Kindle reading app. The books can be downloaded via Wi-Fi or USB. Loan periods vary by library.
So it looks like a win win situation for both parties. Customers who want to keep a book can purchase them on Amazon. Amazon has the broad customer base and selection of books to bring to the table. I do hope that they can eliminate some of the steps to downloading a book. In some cases it takes a lot of digging to even find the e-book collection on the library’s website.
OverDrive is the repository that is used for holding digital book collections. This includes both e-books and audiobooks. The e-book collections are available on the Kindle, Nook, and any other e-reader that supports ePub format. E-books can also be accessed on the computer. If the service is offered at your local library, a link to it should be fairly prominent on the library’s website.
Most states have a digital library account with OverDrive. North Carolina’s is called the NC Digital Library. From there, select libraries subscribe to the account and offer e-books. If your library doesn’t currently offer them, keep checking back. More libraries are constantly being added to the service. I see articles about individual libraries launching e-book lending all the time.
Between Kindle Library Lending from my local library and the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, I’ve been able to find a lot of good reading material for free. There are also a lot of reduced priced Kindle books available as well. Each month features 100 Kindle Books under $3.99. The major bestsellers aren’t available on either yet unfortunately, but they do offer a chance to explore new authors and catch up on older bestsellers.
If you follow the e-book publisher news, you might have seen some mention of the major publisher Penguin Group’s decision to take away, then restore their titles to OverDrive. OverDrive is used by many libraries to deliver e-books to their patrons. States including North Carolina have a digital library that is run through OverDrive, and it is the place where patrons have to go to download books for all e-readers, tablets, and smartphones.
A couple of months ago, Amazon began offering Kindle e-books to 11,000 and counting libraries nationwide through a partnership with OverDrive. The service is extremely popular with library patrons, and there are already long waiting lists for popular titles.
Penguin will restore their titles at least until the end of 2011, and is working with OverDrive to write up some regulations that will fit their needs.
Does this whole issue mean that publishers are starting to freak out about whether allowing library lending will impact their e-book sales? Probably. But at the same time, it is also adding libraries to their consumer list. Libraries have to purchase copies of the e-books just like they do regular ones. I wonder if there was a big fight with the publishers when libraries started buying books way back when?
I think that the bigger thing that is hurting e-book sales overall is the higher prices. Kindle e-book prices have gone as high as $16.99, which no one could reconcile paying that for an e-book unless there is no other cheaper option. The good news is that there are plenty of Kindle e-books out there that are free or reduced price. Most of them are older ones, or ones written by self published authors.
On another thought, in the past, library patrons have checked out newly released books at the library, and then purchased them later if they really liked them. The same idea will most likely go for e-books.
I can understand the fear that books might end up like music once did with the rise of Napster and other music sharing sites. I can also understand that it is important to make everything secure so no one gets misled. But, I think that it is important to keep the consumers in mind because they are the ones who are reading the books.
It will be interesting to see what other major publishers such as HarperCollins and Random House do as Kindle library lending becomes more popular.
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.
The long anticipated release of Kindle library lending has begun! Beta testing for the new integration with Overdrive Library, a product of the Cleveland-based company whose software powers most library eBook lending in the country, is now going on in Seattle libraries.
Ever since the initial announcement that these two companies would be working together to bring the feature to the Kindle, there has been an impatient audience waiting to take advantage. Library lending has often been touted as the one thing that allowed anybody to claim a significant advantage over the Kindle in the eReader marketplace. With recent hardware updates for both the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Kobo eReader, news that this feature gap will finally be closed will be a big asset for the Kindle line. While at present only the Seattle Public Library and the King County Library System will get to borrow Kindle Editions, the opportunity will be making its way to over 11,000 libraries nationwide once the testing is complete.
The user experience should be remarkably familiar for most Kindle owners, as it is essentially just a short step before the procedure normally employed for purchasing a Kindle eBook in the first place. To rent a book, you start off in the library’s website and browse their available content. Seattle Public Library, for example, has around 25,000 eBooks at this time. Not all of those will be in stock at any given time, of course, so waiting lists are available to handle anybody who doesn’t get to the latest new acquisitions in time. The library’s collection will be browse-able through OverDrive’s software and you will check out as would normally be the case.
Once the eBook is put on your library card, for whatever period the library allows, presumably, there is a button labeled “Get for Kindle”. Clicking on that brings you to an Amazon.com store page with “Get Library Book” in place of the usual purchasing button. Click it and you’re done! You’ll be notified three days before the loan expires. There are, however, some minor inconveniences.
One, you will not be able to use the 3G coverage on a Kindle to download your library books. Either WiFi or USB connections will manage it just fine. Should you happen to have an older Kindle or Kindle DX that does not have WiFi capabilities, and should you be unfamiliar with the method for putting eBooks onto your eReader, it’s as simple as downloading the file to your computer and dragging it over the the Kindle in your Computer menu like you would any other removable drive.
Two, some library patrons are apparently unhappy with the recommendations presented during the Amazon.com steps of the borrowing process. Given Amazon’s eBook sales business and the fact that the library rentals will be offered freely, I think it unlikely that they will make any significant effort to remove the unobtrusive sales pitch but it is something to be aware of if you find such things truly unpleasant.
These aside, it sounds like the process is smooth and should generally be more streamlined than any other eBook borrowing procedure at this time. Library patrons will finally be able to make the most of their Kindles. With luck we can expect to be seeing this service pop up nation-wide by the end of the year.
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.
As you have probably heard, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) is launching a new Library Lending program later this year for the Kindle. Other e-readers including the Nook have have allowed library lending for awhile because they don’t have the digital rights restrictions that Amazon has.
Amazon is working with OverDrive, the company responsible for providing e-book content in libraries. OverDrive recently released an update that will allow the transition to Kindle Library Lending to run much smoother.
According to a June 15 press release, OverDrive’s latest update, called OverDrive WIN will include the following features:
- Eliminate the need for librarians and readers to deal with various eBook file formats
- Reduce library staff time for collection development and help-desk support
- Offer support for Kindle Library Lending coming later this year, in addition to every major operating system, reading device, and mobile platform
- Add hundreds of thousands of in-copyright eBook and digital audiobook records with free “eBook Samples” for immediate access on reading devices and platforms
- Enable patron driven acquisition, an opt-in program that will allow readers to immediately borrow a title, recommend to a library, or ‘Want It Now’ from online booksellers
- Provide new ‘always available’ eBook collections for simultaneous access of romance, self-help, young adult, children’s, and other materials
- Launch ‘Open eBook’ titles, free of DRM
For the whole press release and more information about the latest OverDrive update, click here.
From a librarian’s standpoint, I think that OverDrive has done a good job in striving to be more user friendly. Since the Kindle is the most popular e-reader, the Kindle Library Lending program will open up opportunities for so many more people. It also brings the library to the user, not the other way around. I think this is awesome because there are plenty of people out there who can’t get to a library for one reason or another.
The biggest barrier will be trying to figure out how to monitor the amount of e-books being checked out. When you have a physical book, you purchase one book, sometimes several if the book is particularly popular, and the patrons can only check them out if they are available.
With e-books, many patrons can potentially check out one book simultaneously. There needs to be a balance, and libraries, OverDrive, and Amazon are all working on this.
Kindle Library Lending will be such a great relief for Kindle users who are frustrated with rising e-book prices. One thing to note is that if you do decide to purchase a book that you’ve checked out, you retain your highlights and annotations.
I am excited to see where e-book lending leads us, and how it will fulfill its role in bringing libraries into the digital book world.
For the first time ever, the Kindle is not quite in the lead among eReaders, according to Consumer Reports. Even though it is only a very closely held lead, it’s definitely a good sign for Barnes & Noble’s Nook line. They’ve released a new product and come out on top, just a bit.
The Consumer Reports article makes the point that for the most part the new Nook succeeds by emulating the Kindle so well. Rather than throwing everything possible at the reader in hopes that some feature will make it stand out, the Nook Simple Touch is all about the books. No official web browser, no games, no second screen, just a means to read your book. This is exactly what the Kindle has always tried rather successfully pushed for, of course, but with all of the fuss over potential competition with the iPad, it’s easy to see why companies like B&N felt the need to emphasize their diverse potential in the previous generation of devices.
Not surprisingly, the excitement over differing battery life claims between the two devices failed to catch on for this scoring. Consumer Reports gives anything over 5 days the same score. The screens also seem to have come in at a tie, being the same E Ink Pearl displays. Price obviously wasn’t an issue either. Really, the factor that pushed the Nook into the lead was completely separate from the hardware considerations.
The big advantage for the Nook, or at least what seems to have pushed it over the edge, is the library eBook compatibility. It’s clearly a valued and desirable feature among consumers that will give the Nook the advantage until the Kindle gains Overdrive Library support later this year. According to the reviewer, this alone could put the Kindle back on top if it is properly implemented. Given that we know Amazon is pushing for a bit more by allowing in-book annotation on borrowed texts, there might be slightly more to consider than even the ease of use.
The takeaway from this is not, in my opinion, that the Nook is the better eReader or that it is just now belatedly rejoining the Kindle vs Nook competition in a serious way. It isn’t even about Kindle vs Nook anymore. We have at least two great eReaders on the market again, between which there is no clear and obvious advantage. Where the first generation Nook was starting to look rather antiquated by comparison to the Kindle 3, we now have active competition again. Competition is good. Choices are even better.
If you’re in the market, this is a great time to grab an eReader. Check them both out, either on the web or in person at one of the many stores they’re sold at, and figure out which one feels better. If you have a distinct preference, great, because there aren’t really any downsides to either left. If not, give some thought to which company you’d rather be working with. Thanks to the Agency Model of eBook pricing, you’re not going to get a noticeably better price on the Nook than the Kindle or the other way around for most of your purchases. The customer service experience is slightly better with Amazon, in my opinion, but at the same time B&N offers perks if you happen to be able to get to their stores in person. It kinda evens out, I think. Isn’t it great when these are the biggest things we have to worry about when choosing our next eReader?
Over the past few months, comments have been made repeatedly about the potential for the Kindle‘s lack of library compatibility being a deal breaker when it came time to make the purchase of your new eReader. Well, apparently Amazon has been listening to you too. In a press release this morning, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has announced that they have been working with Overdrive to integrate the Kindle into a library lending friendly system and will be rolling out the product of these efforts later this year.
In terms of basic features, there shouldn’t be too many surprises. Expect all the basic Overdrive Library functionality and book selection, given the interaction between Amazon and Overdrive. You should even be able to grab all your borrowed books via the WiFi. What makes this a unique addition to the eBook library lending situation, to the best of my knowledge and aside from the fact that it brings in the largest eReader owner base on the market, is the annotation feature. Users can expect to be able to annotate, highlight, and generally personalize their reading experience as they always have with any purchased book and, while these alterations will not pass on to the next borrower, all this will be preserved should the book be borrowed again or purchased at any point in the future.
This new feature, if you want to call accessibility of this sort a feature, will be available to every user of the Kindle platform, not just owners of the Kindle eReader. This means that pretty much anybody who owns a device with a screen should be able to borrow themselves an eBook now, and that reading borrowed eBooks has become practically uncoupled from device concerns. While I doubt that the end goal of this was to empower libraries as players in the digital marketplace, I would guess that it suddenly got a lot more important for publishers to avoid boycotts like those that HarperCollins has managed to stir up.
For those who might be unfamiliar with the Overdrive book lending system, it is essentially to institutionalized eBook lending what the Kindle is to eBook reading. Sure there are probably other options, but in general it sets the standard. I have yet to come across a decent implementation of another type of eBook library software, in fact. The way it works at present involves downloading a book to your computer as a step in the process, but it sounds like Amazon is planning to do away with that given their mention of WiFi book downloading in conjunction with the service. Maybe this is what took so long to get working? Other than that step, I have never been inconvenienced by a borrowed eBook, though the waiting lists can get a bit long at times. The only question that remains to be answered, for me, is whether or not this extends to downloadable audiobooks. While I’m aware that these aren’t a big thing at all libraries, it would be great to see that sort of thing be possible for Kindle users. Let’s hope, given how long this has all taken, that every possible option is left open for readers.