November 03, 2011, 1:06 PM — Earlier today Amazon sweetened the pot for their customers who are both Kindle owners and "Prime" subscribers by adding a "1 e-book a month" lending program to the list of Prime Perks. You can read more about the Kindle Owners Lending Library at Amazon.com.
You can't borrow just any book but Amazon says there are 'thousands' to choose from (I haven't found a comprehensive list). Once you borrow a book, you can keep it for as long as you like, but you can't borrow another book until you return the one you have out. And in any case, you get at most one book per month.
Of course, you can also borrow Kindle books from public libraries. The differences? Borrowing from a library is free (Amazon lending requires a $79/year Prime membership) and you're not generally limited to a single book at time, but there is a due date so you're time limited. And of course, selection is going to vary from library to library.
But the biggest difference between Amazon lending and library lending? Amazon's new service only works with Kindle hardware.
As far as I can tell, this is the first time Amazon has rolled out a piece of the Kindle ecosystem that requires actual Kindle hardware (as opposed to a Kindle app on a phone or tablet, or Kindle software on a computer). I wonder if this represents the beginning of a new philosophy at Amazon, changing "Kindle" from a kind of service or platform into something that's just a piece of hardware. I hope not; one of the smartest things that Amazon did with the Kindle brand is make it so ubiquitous.
I decided to try out the new service and found that, in fact, I couldn't even access it from a computer. When I choose a book to borrow (in my case, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins) I saw in the price listings "Prime Members: $0.00 (read for free)" but the "Buy" button listed a price of $4.69. I clicked it anyway, choosing to have the book delivered to my Kindle, and was charged $4.69.
So it seems like you have to do the borrowing on your actual Kindle, too. Oh well, $4.69 is still a pretty good deal; I've heard the book is good.
As grumpy as I am that the Kindle Owners Lending Library is limited to people with Kindle hardware, I'm also delighted that Amazon is once again adding value to its Prime service. I've been a Prime member since 2005 and found it to be a good deal when it was just about free 2-day shipping (I shop there a lot). Six years later, the price is the same but now I also get free streaming videos and now a free book every month? (Granted, I don't get to keep the book.) It's hard to stay grumpy for very long.
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