Why buy when you can borrow? That's what Amazon is asking.
Amazon.com's Kindle Library Lending feature, due later in 2011, will embrace that philosophy, allowing readers to borrow Kindle e-books from more than 11,000 libraries in the United States.
In addition to checking out e-books, customers will have the ability to make annotations within the text. "Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no," Jay Marine, director of Amazon Kindle, wrote in an April 20 statement. "Your notes will not show up when the next patron checks out the book. But if you check out the book again, or subsequently buy it, your notes will be there just as you left them."
Kindle Library Lending will work with Kindle e-readers and the Kindle app for mobile devices and PCs. Amazon's partner on the venture, digital-content distributor OverDrive, already offers a searchable directory of libraries hosting digital content. An exact release date for the feature, however, remains unclear.
In October 2010, Amazon introduced a feature that allows Kindle users to share e-books for 14 days, following in the steps of Barnes & Noble, which was the first to introduce lending as part of its Nook e-reader platform.
Amazon has also sought to broaden Kindle adoption with an ad-supported device that retails for $114-slightly cheaper than the basic Kindle at $139 and the Kindle 3G at $189. Although Amazon continues to dominate the e-reader market, it faces competition from not only Barnes & Noble's full-color Nook, but Apple and Google, which have introduced e-reading platforms for tablets and smartphones.
Analytics firm In-Stat predicted in September 2010 that e-reader shipments will grow to an annual 35 million units by 2014. "Tablet PC shipments are taking off, fueled in particular by the Apple iPad introduction," Stephanie Ethier, an analyst with In-Stat, wrote in a research note. "Yet there will still be a revenue opportunity for e-reader suppliers and OEMs since tablet PCs and e-readers target different consumers."
Analysts have also theorized that Amazon could eventually build an Android-based device to tackle the iPad and Google Android tablets head-on.
"Amazon could create a compelling Android- or Linux-based tablet offering easy access to Amazon's storefront (including its forthcoming Android app store) and unique Amazon features like one-click purchasing, Amazon prime service, and its recommendation engine," Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps wrote in a March 10 blog posting. "More consumers considering buying a tablet say they would consider Amazon (24 percent) than Motorola (18 percent)."
Should Amazon actually produce such a device, it could also leverage its massive customer base.
"A Kindle-Android device could prove popular, building on the large installed base of Kindle users," added analyst Jack Gold. "And Amazon clearly has the largest -store' out there (bigger than the iTunes/app store world) so that could be a swaying factor if they got aggressive with offering special deals on their own device."