Amazon Kindle can now check out e-books from 11,000 libraries

Following competitors' lead, Amazon opens up book borrowing on the Kindle e-reader.

Amazon Kindle users can now check out books from their local libraries. Here, a man in New York reads from a Kindle e-reader.

Kindle users can now check out e-books from 11,000 community libraries across the country, Amazon announced today. The process is a simple one: Navigate to the website of your local library, enter your library card number, select a title, click "Send to Kindle," and plug in your information. Your book can then be transmitted wirelessly or via USB – any gadget with Amazon software will do, including an iPhone or Android handset.

The availability of the e-books will vary from library to library, but most titles should be available on your Kindle for about two weeks. After that, they'll disappear. In a press release, Amazon exec Jay Marine called libraries a "critical part of our communities," and framed the initiative as the natural next step for library lending.

"We're even doing a little extra here – normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no," Marine said. "But we're fixing this by extending our Whispersync technology to library books, so your notes, highlights and bookmarks are always backed up and available the next time you check out the book or if you decide to buy the book."

And indeed, e-book lending makes sense across the board – for Kindle users, who get free access to a large swath of books, and for Amazon, which can now match features with the Barnes and Noble's Nook and Sony Reader, which already offered this bullet point. Meanwhile, libraries, those vast repositories of dead-tree titles, can maintain a connection – albeit a virtual one – with local readers.

"This is a welcome day for Kindle users in libraries everywhere and especially our Kindle users here at The Seattle Public Library," Marcellus Turner, city librarian for The Seattle Public Library, said in a statement. "We're thrilled that Amazon is offering such a new approach to library e-books that enhances the reader experience."

So is this the future of e-book lending? Drop us a line in the comments section. And for more tech news, sign up for the weekly BizTech newsletter, which ships every Wednesday.

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