In case you haven’t already heard, Amazon recently announced the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Unlike borrowing books from a public library (free! Well, your taxes pay for it), in order to borrow books from Amazon’s library, you must (a) own a Kindle, and (b) have Amazon Prime membership, which unless you get the student deal is $79/month. Is this bad for libraries? Actually, probably not.
While I don’t want to generalize, I will say that people who belong to categories (a) and (b) above may still visit public libraries, but they probably don’t rely on them as their only source of information/entertainment. Even for those who do have a Kindle and Prime membership, public libraries still offer a much wider selection of e-books for the Kindle and other e-readers than Amazon’s “library,” which offers just over 5,000 titles. And, none of the Big Six – the six largest U.S. publishers – have jumped on the bandwagon yet, so although some bestsellers are available, many are not.
This isn’t a ploy to compete with libraries; it’s a ploy to sell more Kindle devices. The one advantage Amazon has is that it can lend any title instantly; there’s no wait time, unlike libraries, where – even with e-books – the library has a limited number of copies and only one patron can borrow any given copy at a time (i.e., library owns 10 copies of The Hunger Games, 10 patrons can borrow The Hunger Games at a time – just like print). However, Amazon pays publishers for this privilege – mostly a flat fee, but sometimes per item, as it’s borrowed. So Amazon isn’t making money on lending content – they’re just trying to make Kindle ownership and Prime membership as appealing as possible.