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On this blog we will track down the latest Amazon Kindle news. We will keep you up to date with whats hot in the bestsellers section, including books, ebooks and blogs... and we will also bring you great Kindle3 tips and tricks along with reviews for the latest KindleDX accessories.

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October 2016
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Penguin Tentatively Returns eBooks to Libraries, but Not Kindles

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.

Amazon Brings Harry Potter to Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

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.

Amazon Launches its own Kindle Lending Library

Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) just announced a new service for Amazon Prime members called Kindle Owners Lending Library.  It is a Netflix for books of sorts.  As a voracious reader, I am really excited to have all of these book lending opportunities at my fingertips: Kindle Library Lending, lending through friends and peers, an the new Kindle Owners’ Lending program.

The catch is that you have to be an Amazon Prime member.  There is a free month long trial that gives you the time to decide whether you want to fork over $79 annually.  For me, it is worth it because I do a lot of my shopping on Amazon, and it is really nice not to have to wait on super saver shipping.  There is also the new instant streaming service to consider as well.  I also saw that some of the movies and TV shows that I have been wanting to see are on the new Instant Streaming list.

The lending program contains over 5000 titles, and I’m sure that will grow by leaps and bounds as it catches on.  Over 100 titles include New York Times bestsellers of the past and present.  A few examples include the Hunger Games series as well as Michael Lewis’s The Big Short.  Two of my favorite books, Water for Elephants and The Last Lecture are available for borrowing as well.

You can only borrow one book a month, but you can have the book for as long as you need it.  So, it is better than the Kindle library lending program in that respect.  It also eliminates the added step of having to go through the library’s website and their digital library site in order to get the Kindle book.

I took a look at the procedures for downloading a book via the Kindle Owner’s Lending program and right now, it looks like you can only download it from your Kindle device itself, and not from Amazon’s page.  The program’s official page and the Help section can provide more detailed instructions on how to borrow and return the books.

Kindle book prices vary widely, and can get pretty expensive if they’re on the bestseller list.  Look for some to be on the lending program list.  Sometimes though, you just have to be patient and wait for prices to drop or for the book to appear on the list.

E-books are the way of the present and future.  Amazon has definitely been busy with a lot of awesome new opportunities this year!

Kindle Library Lending Has Begun (In Seattle)!

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.

Kindle Book Library For Amazon Prime Members Coming Soon…Maybe

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.

Considering An Extreme Possibility Of Kindle Book Lending

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.

Kindle Books and Lending: The Complicated Relationship

Over the course of the eReader race so far, one of the biggest points of contention has been the potential for book lending. For quite a while, this was a major factor in the Nook’s favor when people considered the Kindle vs Nook question. Later, when the Kindle managed to get an equivalent to the long-standing Nook Lend Me feature, it pretty much because a moot point.  Now the focus with regard to lending has shifted in large part from an individual concern to questions of institutional lending.

At the moment, it is significantly easier for somebody to walk into a library and get themselves an eBook loan if they have an EPUB compatible eReader.  This is a pain for Kindle owners, but overall it makes sense given the current state of eBook formatting and such.  It just makes more sense to go with the more widely accepted, more advanced, and more likely to last of the available options when you think about the problem from the point of view of eBook lending system developers.

Putting aside Kindle-specific concerns for a moment, eBooks in general have problems involving the lending concept.  Take the recent issue with HarperCollins.  They’ve decided to put an arbitrary cap of 26 checkouts on their eBooks on the assumption that this is roughly equivalent to the average number of uses a paper book will see before needing to be replaced.  Even assuming this is correct, which seems doubtful, this is nothing short of ridiculous.  It works to highlight an important point, however.

Can we truly expect to treat eBooks the same way we do their paper counterparts?  There are arguments on both sides, but most of the pro-lending ones seem to stem from either the idea that the improved circulation will be inherently good for a given author or that given the long-standing precedent for lending which goes along with books it will be impossible for eBooks to be a comprehensive replacement for many people while lacking this ability.  I admit scepticism.

The fact of the matter is that as eBooks gain popularity, certain changes will have to be accepted.  Among these will be a reinterpretation of the appropriateness of unrestricted lending.  I don’t agree with the publisher reaction on this one, but I do think that you need to either have your books be freely lend-able or remove the option entirely.  It is impossible to productively compare the durability of a paperback to the period over which a purchased license to lend a Kindle book, or any eBook, should retain its value.

The problem I run into is that I can’t think of where to draw a better line.  Time-based licensing is out, because it would force libraries to repeatedly pay to maintain access to books which may never see use. If you’re going to have a checkout-based system, it should obviously account for the inherent lack of publisher expense involved in re-granting a license, but where do you draw the line fairly for consumers while still making sure authors get the money they deserve for their productions?  Overall, more questions than answers, but I think that for now the issue of lending is going to be more trouble than it is worth for everybody while people get over the idea that free book lending is a necessary part of the reading experience.

Library Books and the Kindle, What’s the Deal?

When the Kindle vs Nook competition began, a lot of those of us who take an interest in such things were making a fairly big deal about the advantages of the Nook’s EPUB compatibility.  This remains an advantage for the Nook and any number of other eBook readers to this day, oddly enough.  This, when it comes down to it, is really what’s behind the inability of the Kindle to pick up books at your local library.

Most of you will know what I’m talking about.  For those who don’t, here’s the basic situation as I understand it.  The standard in eBooks is currently the EPUB.  What Amazon is using for their Kindle platform is a variation on the Mobipocket format which is basically the generation previous to that.  For whatever reason, some people think it’s because it keeps the Kindle platform the focus of Kindle devices and software rather than give up any potential control over distribution, the most up to date distribution systems just don’t quite click with Amazon.   Sadly, these are the very systems in place for libraries around the country to take advantage of!

Library services, for example Media on Demand, tend to use Overdrive Inc’s software.  It’s a way to distribute their books in EPUB format, using the Adobe Digital Editions DRM (which is distinct from Amazon’s proprietary right’s management methods), in order to give people copies of eBooks that will become unusable after a set period of time. It’s a neat concept, since it allows for a single “copy” of an eBook to be sent to people without the usual risk of unauthorized copies.  It’s understandable that publishers would be somewhat concerned about that, since there’s nothing to stop people from just holding on to the files themselves, but libraries are awesome and should be supported even as the digital text option takes off.

So, for the moment, Kindle owners are still stuck waiting on the sidelines when it comes to borrowing books from libraries.  Not really surprising since we’ve only in the past month or so seen the activation of even single lending enabled Kindle Editions of books, but still more than a little disappointing for new owners who want to get the most out of their purchase or gift acquisition.

Is there hope for the future?  Of course!  Look forward to new and interesting options when it comes to book borrowing.  Eventually, somebody will figure out a good way to get the ball rolling.  In the meantime, it’s probably helpful to keep in mind that many libraries will offer at least some of their books in PDF format, or at least help walk you through the process of grabbing some public domain titles to put onto your Kindle if you’re not confident doing so on your own.  While PDF documents don’t like quite as good on the eReader display as the newer formats do, they’re still quite readable and there’s a lot out there to hold you over.  No need to be too horribly jealous of all those Nook and Kobo owners. If all else fails, check out the Kindle Lending Club I mentioned in an earlier post.  It hasn’t been going for long enough to have a great impression about reliability, but some option is better than none!

Kindle Book Lending – Some Thoughts

One of the more eagerly awaited Kindle features lately has been book lending.  While lending was announced a while go, of course, it’s only just been turned on.  Guess what?  It works!  There’s still some question, however, as to how much good this is going to do for people in the long run, or the short run for that matter.

The Nook has had its lending feature available pretty much from the start, of course.  A lot of people have held it up for quite some time as a major selling point in favor of the supposed superiority of Barnes & Noble’s offering.  In practice, we’ve not noticed a whole lot of use.  The problem in both cases is the limitation of a single borrower per book purchase even on those books that offer it as an option at all.

Book lending is simply something that lends itself to the physical exchange of materials.  You take something off your shelf, hand it to somebody, and hope to get it back later on time.  Sure, you get added wear and tear that way and the possibility of never getting the book back, but that’s an accepted risk.  The point of this observation is that it is a risk taken on by the owner of the book.  Such loans aren’t considered a slight to the author or a major impediment to the success of book sales, right?  So why is it necessary, I wonder, to prevent such things from taking place in the book market of the future?

Apparently lending is one of the many things undermining the very fabric of the book production industry today.  This current state of publishing in the eBook marketplace provides us with this little bit of paranoia in addition to the already widely “loved” pricing model that puts new releases at a slightly higher price than their physical counterparts on many occasions.

It’s not all bad though.  On the plus side, many people have never really been big book lenders in the first place and may well get everything they need out of this.  Given the wonders of the internet, many people may even get a chance at books they are uncertain about buying.  Successful communities have sprung up for Nook owners allowing for exchanges between complete strangers with similar interests, and those like the GoodReads Kindle Lending Group are already finding uses for this recently activated feature.

You  can’t say this is a bad idea (the popularity of the Nook’s LendMe stuff speaks to that), it’s just not quite there yet.  The technology obviously exists to make sure that a single instance of a digitally purchased book can be restricted to one device at a time, so the first step to a larger system is taken care of.  All we need to wait for is the hopefully inevitable loosening of restrictions on text lending once companies realize how little good it’s doing to keep a tight hold on them.  I like that the feature is there, but until more is done with it, I can’t help but view it as basically a trial run for a much more useful potential Kindle feature further down the line.