April 21, 2011
Earlier this week, Amazon announced they will be launching a Kindle Library Lending feature that will allow users to “check-out” an e-book from a local library. At initial glance, one could question if this could actually hinder Amazon’s e-book sales going forward. However, this is just another case of Amazon being a consumer driven company, and in this case, catering to the casual or budget-limited reader who still wants to experience e-books and the Kindle platform. This focus on the mass market consumer is also evidenced with the recently announced $114 ad-supported version of the Kindle. While it is an odd price point for them to choose, it has driven the entry price for a consumer ever so-close to the magical $99 price target.
As someone who tends to highlight and mark up a book, this library lending service does provide an easy avenue to reduce my e-book purchases. If users mark up a loaned out e-book, the marks will stay in place if a user checks-out the book again. This is perfect. I’d be curious to hear about other readers’ usage patterns, but I tend to mark up books so that I can quickly review the key points of a book sometime in the future when I may have forgotten the details. With this program, if I want to review the key findings or look for a specific note, I can simply re-check-out the e-book and all my notes would be there.
It is still unclear on what the restrictions of this library program may entail. The library has always been a great outlet for local community members to browse and read books for free. With the normal 3-week check-out time periods, it provides enough time for most readers to get through a book. In the peer-to-peer book lending program that Amazon offers, it allows a 2-week loan period but the lender can’t read the book while it is loaned out to someone else.
It is also unclear how many books will be supported in this program initially. Since this is a partnership with OverDrive, who already has a similar program in place with other e-readers, it is likely the offering will include titles in the existing OverDrive catalog. However, with Amazon now behind this, you would expect the number to ramp up quickly as publishers look to get their titles exposed to the vast Kindle user base. They have stated 11,000 libraries will be participating. There are roughly 9,200 public libraries in the U.S., so it appears that the program will include educational institutions as well.
It will be interesting to see how this program affects the average e-book purchases for Kindle or Kindle app users. Will it lower the purchases made by normal Kindle users? Will it bring a new segment to Amazon that has traditionally not purchased books, into e-reader fanatics who then turn to Amazon for future e-book purchases?
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