Amazon Launches Free Book Lending Service

November 4, 2011
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If youโ€™re among those who are still on the fence about getting the latest Android-based Amazon Kindle Fire unveiled in late September, we have just one more reason that might make the scales tip in favor of getting the new gadget.

What could be more heavenly to book hoarders than the ability to borrow as frequently as one e-book a month for free and without due dates? Book lovers everywhere will rejoice as Amazon.com has announced a new e-book lending service called the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, exclusive for U.S. Amazon Prime members for a US$79 annual membership fee.

Under the program, customers can check out one e-book at a time and can keep it for as long as they wish. However, if they want to check out more titles, the borrowed e-book will have to be returned first. Only one e-book can be borrowed at a time, within a month. Notes, highlights, and bookmarks in borrowed e-books will be retained so that users can still access them if they wish to check out the same book again.

Choices abound in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, with a wide range of publishers under various terms. Amazon has dropped hints that “thousands of books to borrow” are available, but while it also appears that there is a 5,000 e-book limit in the library, the company did not disclose a specific list of publishers.

The Wall Street Journal, has, however, said the six largest U.S. publishers are not signing up under the scheme as they’re concerned the program will hurt future sales or ties with book retailers. Other publishers remain optimistic that this new feature will help spur sales for popular titles and even for authors not on best-seller lists.

For most of the titles, Amazon has entered into an agreement with the publishers to include titles for a fixed fee. A more limited group of publishers, however, are paid a wholesale rate for every book borrowed, making it equivalent to a sale.

To drive Kindle sales, this service is only available on all Kindle E Ink devices and the Kindle Fire, so iPad and other smartphone users will have to bid their time.

Are you getting an Amazon Prime membership or a Kindle device soon? What do you think of the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library?

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