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Kindle's e-books come to community libraries

Readers with Kindles or the Kindle app can now download e-books from their libraries free of charge.

By / September 21, 2011

The Seattle Public Library in Washington tested out a beta version of the Kindle lending library program.

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

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Readers with a little less spending money may have previously shied away from Kindle e-books in favor of the free paper-and-ink books available at their public libraries.

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But now that could change: Amazon announced today that Kindle books will be available for lending at more than 11,000 public libraries for no charge – the same way you'd be able to check out any paper-and-ink book at your local branch. The e-books can be read on any Kindle device or phone or tablet that has the Kindle app.

"Libraries are a critical part of our communities,” said Jay Marine, director of Amazon Kindle, about the new service in a press release from Amazon.

While digital downloads of e-books have been available at libraries for some time now, this marks the first time that e-books from Kindle will also be available, and Bill Ptacek, director of the King County Library System in Washington, said the popularity of the Kindle device means this will be a big change for the demand in library e-books. The King County system as well as the Seattle Public Library offered a beta version of the system before it became widely available.

“It's a big deal for us because so many of our patrons have purchased Kindles, and they've been asking for the longest time,” said Ptacek in a blog item for the Seattle Times.

For library patrons who already go on their library website to see what’s available, finding a Kindle e-book will be just as convenient. In order to download an e-book from the library, readers will go to their library’s website and, if the e-book they’re looking for is available, they can simply click “Send to Kindle.” No need to visit the library in person. The website will automatically send the book ordered over to amazon.com, where they can sync up their device via Wi-Fi or a USB port to download the e-book.

E-book lending will also include the use of the Amazon program Whispersync, which syncs books across devices. So if you have a Kindle and a phone with a Kindle app, you can open your e-book on your phone after reading it on your Kindle – or vice versa – and the book will always remember what page you were on. Whispersync also saves highlighting and margin notes you make in an e-book and, if you check out the book again or buy it from Kindle, the program will retain the highlighting, margin notes, and bookmarks you added to the e-book. Services available through Whispersync also include Popular Highlighting, which shows readers what others have highlighted in their book, and Public Notes, which lets you display the notes you’ve taken in the book for others and see what they have written as well.

Like a regular library book, however, you’ll have the e-book on your Kindle only for a limited time. Kindle will e-mail readers before the due date as a reminder.

One disadvantage: Like an old-fashioned library book, there will be limited copies of e-books at libraries, so if you’re searching for a Kindle e-book of “The Help” or some other very popular title, you will have to wait until someone checks one back in. The more things change…

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor correspondent.

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