Updated: Library Ebooks now Available for the Kindle

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Do you recall how last month a rumor went around that the Kindle was supposed to get library ebook support some time in September? Guess what: it wasn’t a rumor.

It’s been just over 5 months since Amazon announced that the Kindle would get library ebooks, and it is just about to happen. Unfortunately for us, the system isn’t actually live just yet. It’s in beta at a couple libraries in the Seattle area. It’s not available elsewhere just yet

Update: Amazon have expanded the beta to include all OverDrive partners in the US. The new service is slowly being rolled out to the 11 thousand participating libraries. I can now see that something like 50 or so libraries support the new service (as of Wednesday at Noon).

Note that not all will be getting the service right away. Also, not all of the 11 thousand libraries mentioned in the press release actually support ebooks; some are like my local library (which only has audiobooks). But whne they do, it will be offered as an additional service at no charge to the libraries.

I found an ongoing discussion over on MobileRead this evening where several Kindle owners are trying (and succeeding) to download ebooks from their libraries. Several have reported seeing Kindle ebooks listed and I have one report of someone actually downloading an ebook to their Kindle.

The Kindle hasn’t gotten a firmware update recently, so this would suggest that there might be some unseen conversion going on to change the Epub/PDF to Kindle, and then wrap the ebook in the expiring DRM. Edit: On the other hand, one commenter pointed out that he doesn’t think the conversion is happening, and he could be right. Amazon might be serving up the relevant Kindle file from their own catalog.

Update: The commenter also made me catch something I had missed. There are thousands of Kindle ebooks in each library system. I seriously doubt that they had the funds to buy all those new ebooks, so they must be using the existing license to cover for the Kindle copy when it is loaned. That was one of the details hinted at back in April and it’s good to see it confirmed.

Update: The Kindle is also spuuposed to have a new firmware update, v3.3, which enables the new service. It’s not avaialble yet but some people in the Seattle area report that they got it as an over-the-air update.

Neither Amazon nor OverDrive have announced anything, and in fact I’m still waiting to hear back from my contacts at Overdrive. But I do know that Amazon’s help pages now refer to the library ebooks as a current feature, and OverDrive already list the Kindle as having beta support. The service is indeed live.

You can see proof of the new support on the website for the King County Library System. Their website promises that the new support is up and running right now. The other library is the Seattle Public Library.

So this news isn’t as great as you being able to download the library ebooks today, but it’s still a big deal. It means that fairly soon you will be able to download ebooks from any of OverDrive’s 11 thousand plus partner libraries in the US and read them on your Kindle. According to Overdrive, all 3 generations of the Kindle are supported (see the screen shot above). Unfortunately, you’ll need a wifi equipped model for direct downloads; you cannot download a Kindle library ebook over 3G (no one wants to pay the data cost).  Go dig out that USB cable; you’ll need it. BTW, if you check with Amazon, all the apps are supported too.

If you really want library ebooks on your Kindle, I would suggest that you go ask your local OverDrive  library partner. They can then bug Overdrive about the new features.

P.S. I will add an update here when I hear back from Overdrive.

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Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Timothy Wilhoit19 September, 2011

    There is no conversion. In the link from the King County library you post, when you click the “Get from Kindle” button, it opens the Amazon website. Then it says “If you’re signed in to your Amazon account, select the device (Kindle, iPhone, etc.) on which you want to read the book. Click ‘Get library book’ and sync your device to download the book.” The Epub/PDF license is all you’re checking out through OD…Amazon does the rest.

    1. Nate Hoffelder19 September, 2011

      You’re probably right. I had assumed that the Epub would be turned into Kindle format, but it’s just as likely that Amazon will serve up the Kindle version of a given title when you check it out. No conversion necessary.

      But they might be converting the files. We won’t know for sure until I hear back from Amazon and OverDrive.

      1. Timothy Wilhoit19 September, 2011

        The reason I never thought conversion was a possibility is that Amazon was always clear that highlights and notes would be saved to the cloud for later use. I don’t think they are able to do that with a book unless it’s one of their books. I know they don’t…but I don’t think they can.

    2. Mike Cane20 September, 2011

      That is exactly the effing way I said it would work from the beginning. Will people remember they argued with me over that? Eff no!

      1. Joe20 September, 2011

        I remember arguing with you over that, Mike. You thrashed me soundly and I owe you a beer to thank you.

  2. Sherri19 September, 2011

    I’ve checked out and downloaded a book from KCLS. Not every book is available for Kindle (though most are.) When you select a book, you select the Kindle version to add to your “book bag”, and when you check out, you’re redirected to Amazon for the download. I didn’t have to download any software to deal with anything – all I needed was my KCLS library card number and PIN and my Amazon account.

    You don’t need a KCLS account to browse; just go to http://www.kcls.org and click on “downloads” to peruse things for yourself.

    1. burger flipper20 September, 2011

      Sherri, does the Kindle give you the option to return the ebook early like the Adobe software does?

      Great that everyone is getting access to books the community pays for, but I am not looking forward to the waiting list tripling.

      1. Timothy Wilhoit21 September, 2011

        On MobileRead, a library book recipient from King County Library says that it can be done through the MYK page:

  3. Kerry20 September, 2011

    Any idea if this will go international?

    1. Nate Hoffelder20 September, 2011

      Probably not until the other Kindle features (like Kindle games) go international as well.

  4. How to Read Library eBooks on Your Kindle - eBookNewser20 September, 2011

    […] broke late last night that the a couple libraries in Seattle are currently testing the new Kindle eBook library support. […]

  5. Alexander Inglis20 September, 2011

    Overdrive and Amazon, when they announced this Kindle collaboration in April were very clear it was US libraries only.

    The Amazon press release is here: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1552678&highlight=

    Nothing is likely changed from that time since neither Overdrive nor Amazon have put out a clarification.

    1. Kerry21 September, 2011

      Thanks. Bah to that, but thanks for the info.

  6. […] The Digital Reader If you're new here, you may want to subscribe to our RSS feed, follow us on Twitter, or "like" […]

  7. AJ21 September, 2011

    I think the Kindle library lending program is starting to show up in other places besides Seattle. I’m in Gainesville, FL and the Alachua Country library is showing Kindle books.

    1. AJ21 September, 2011

      Oops. I meant Alachua County library.

  8. Alexander Inglis21 September, 2011

    This service is now live in 11,000 US libraries.

    Amazon PR here: http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=176060&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1608874&highlight=

    1. Josh21 September, 2011

      Nope, it isn’t actually available at 11,000 US libraries. The Amazon press release is wrong. The overdrive release says it correctly, that they are starting to roll it out to all 11,000 US Libraries today, not that it is rolled out.

  9. Kindle library lending in beta21 September, 2011

    […] Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader has been closely following any news of Kindle library lending.  He has a really good post about the new service on his blog. […]

  10. Kindle Library eBooks Now Available at US Libraries - eBookNewser21 September, 2011

    […] just announced that it is expanding the library eBook beta-test from the 2 libraries in the Seattle area to include all Overdrive partner libraries in the […]

  11. Timothy Wilhoit21 September, 2011
  12. Josh21 September, 2011

    Overdrive didn’t give any prior notice to my Library system about this change, or to another system across the river from us. We both learned about it when customers called this morning after reading Amazon’s press release that incorrectly states that the service is available now at all 11,000 overdrive libraries in the US. So don’t be too surprised if your local library has no idea if you ask them about this. There will be no way for us to train staff in time to be able to guide users through this feature (Although it looks like it will be dead simple so that shouldn’t be too big of a problem). I feel like this was a poor way for Overdrive to handle the rollout.

  13. Alexander Inglis21 September, 2011

    Not a single one of the 11,000 libraries in the US that use Overdrive to manage their ebook service should be “surprised” by this development. It has been public news since Apr. Overdrive and Amazon have both been fairly vocal about it.

    There have been literally a few months of postings at Overdrive Library Blog: http://overdriveblogs.com/library/ including training announcements.

    1. Nate Hoffelder21 September, 2011

      Are you sure there have been training announcements? I’ll go look again but I cannot recall very many.

      But even so, there was no advance notice that this was launching today. I’m clued in to a dozen different librarians. They were all surprised.

    2. Josh21 September, 2011

      Alex, Sorry if I led you to believe I meant that I was surprised that it happened at all. I would agree that all the Overdrive sites knew that Kindle support was coming. Just that it happened this morning was a surprise.

      I see a small mention of a peak at kindle in a Sept 13 post about training courses. I’m sure Overdrive would have no problem having 11,000 libraries attend courses between the 13th and the 20th.

      Part of my angst was because we received no notice from Overdrive this morning, which I just found out was not Overdrive’s fault. Constant Contacts servers that were sending out the email got added to the spamcop blacklist early this morning, which caused us to block the message from them.

      So Overdrive did try to notify us this morning, with a very detailed message about the rollout.

  14. […] · library ebooks, TouchPad // I’m sure you caught the news this morning that Amazon and OverDrive have started rolling out Kindle library ebook support today. They’ve already enabled about 60 libraries from OverDrive’s 11 thousand partner […]

  15. Mario21 September, 2011

    …and Kindle 3 got 3.3 firmware update according to some mobileread forum users…

  16. […] I knew by email. Steve confirmed that OverDrive have been rolling out the Kindle library ebooks over the past few days and that all of OverDrive’s partner libraries should now have the new service enabled. I also […]

  17. […] KCLS was a good choice for a partner. It’s one of the biggest library systems in the US, and it supports a population of over a million residents. That population was also why KCLS was chosen as a beta test by OverDrive and Amazon when the Kindle got library ebooks back in September. […]

  18. […] the near future.But which is going to be the lucky one, do you think?It’s been 6 months since OverDrive added Kindle support, and there’s been nary a peep from Amazon (or anyone else) on when OverDrive’s […]

  19. […] and OverDrive have worked together to support library ebooks on the Kindle since September 2011, and I would expect it to continue. If Amazon did abandon library ebook support, they would be […]


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