Checking out library books with Kindle

Nate Anderson

Public libraries have long lived by the "Blockbuster model": require people to drive to a physical location, pick up a physical book, then drive home, only to repeat the driving a few weeks later when the book is due. And how well did that approach work out for Blockbuster as iTunes and Netflix made digital delivery a reality?

But books haven’t gone digital as quickly as music and then movies did. Early attempts at e-book lending were execeptionally clunky affairs involving special OverDrive software, few choices, and a poor browsing interface. Getting books onto devices involved downloads and USB cables.

Enter the Kindle. Amazon’s hugely popular e-reader hardware and apps recently opened access to public libraries in the US, which can use the Amazon account and distribution infrastructure to control and distribute time-limited e-books to library patrons. Will we ever drive to physical libraries again? After testing the new system, it’s safe to say: yes. Yes we will. But Kindle library lending provides a glimpse of the future rushing so quickly at us.

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