By November 14, 2011

Amazon Prime Kindle Lending Library First Impressions

Over two years ago I wrote about my ideal eBook lending system, which was a mix of Netflix’s all you can eat rental model and a limited way to lend your eBooks to friends.

I got my hopes up when Amazon announced their Kindle Lending Library program for Amazon Prime members. There are some interesting books on the lending list, and I was eager to try the program out. Unfortunately there are some serious limitations that keep it from being much more than a nice gesture.

Overview

The Kindle Lending Library is available only if you are an Amazon Prime member. There is no additional charge. As of this writing, the Lending Library currently has over 5300 titles, including “over 100 New York Times best sellers,” as the Amazon marketing copy is quick to trumpet.

Any Kindle device registered to the Amazon Prime account can read the eBook. I’ll talk more about exactly what that means in a bit.

Limitations

  • Kindle devices only. This is the major dealbreaker for me. I have a Kindle 3 now and a Kindle Fire on order. However, Sedagive? has a Kindle 3, and I currently do the majority of my Kindle eBook reading via my rooted Barnes and Noble Nook Color running the Cyanogenmod 7.1 AndroidOS package. This means I can read my Amazon eBooks just fine through the official Amazon reader, but I can’t check out any of the books in the Lending Library unless I do so from my Kindle 3. Major bummer.
  • Only the main Amazon Prime account holder gets the benefit. The person who originally purchased the Prime membership — the prime Prime, if you will — is the only person who can check books out. Sedagive? can use the 2-day delivery benefits of my account, but she can’t check any books out. Minor bummer.
  • Only one book per month. Wow … this is a terrible limitation. I work a full-time job, play StarCraft 2 a fair amount per week, write this blog, and do a fair amount of firearms training, but even I chew through several books a month. Gojira reads several books at a time and gobbles them up like candy. There’s no way this will satisfy most book readers, especially if you’re into reading to the point where you’d buy a dedicated eBook reading device. Major bummer. Amazon is unclear when the month timer starts — is it the start of every month, or when you check out your first book? Also, you rentals don’t store up, so if you didn’t check out a book last month you’re out an opportunity.

Usage

If you understand the limitations ahead of time (which I didn’t) then the lending process is straightforward. You can navigate to a list of eligible books on your Kindle device and then select a specific title. Once you do so, you have the option of buying the book as normal, or checking it out by selecting “Borrow for Free.”

IMG_1537

All Lending Library eligible books have the Amazon Prime logo next to them, like this:

IMG_1536

It’s a shame you can’t navigate to the books via the Amazon Web site and check them out. I buy all of my eBooks this way. I have never purchased a book via the Kindle’s built-in storefront. Checking out books would be easier from any other interface besides the native Kindle interface.

Conclusion

I figured it would be an uphill, if not impossible, battle to get publishers to re-think their paper book sales channel. Any step towards checking out eBooks, whether it be through a public library system ala OverDrive or Amazon’s lending system, is a good step.

However, I hope that the limitations will be removed or relaxed over time. The system is better than nothing — especially since it’s an added benefit to the Prime membership I already enjoy — but I don’t expect to use the service with any frequency.

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