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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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Timothy Wilhoit September 19, 2011 um 11:11 pm

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.

Nate Hoffelder September 19, 2011 um 11:14 pm

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.

Timothy Wilhoit September 19, 2011 um 11:48 pm

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.

Mike Cane September 20, 2011 um 8:56 am

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!

Joe September 20, 2011 um 10:02 am

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

Sherri September 19, 2011 um 11:49 pm

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 and click on "downloads" to peruse things for yourself.

burger flipper September 20, 2011 um 7:37 pm

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.

Timothy Wilhoit September 21, 2011 um 1:22 am

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

Kerry September 20, 2011 um 12:29 am

Any idea if this will go international?

Nate Hoffelder September 20, 2011 um 12:44 am

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

How to Read Library eBooks on Your Kindle – eBookNewser September 20, 2011 um 2:31 pm

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

Alexander Inglis September 20, 2011 um 4:33 pm

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:

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

Kerry September 21, 2011 um 12:53 am

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

Now you can check our Kindle eBooks from (some) public libraries – Liliputing September 20, 2011 um 5:16 pm

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

AJ September 21, 2011 um 9:09 am

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.

AJ September 21, 2011 um 9:12 am

Oops. I meant Alachua County library.

Alexander Inglis September 21, 2011 um 9:26 am

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

Amazon PR here:

Josh September 21, 2011 um 12:33 pm

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.

Kindle library lending in beta September 21, 2011 um 9:33 am

[…] 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. […]

Kindle Library eBooks Now Available at US Libraries – eBookNewser September 21, 2011 um 9:49 am

[…] 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 […]

Timothy Wilhoit September 21, 2011 um 9:52 am

Amazon has a press release:

Josh September 21, 2011 um 12:51 pm

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.

Alexander Inglis September 21, 2011 um 1:10 pm

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: including training announcements.

Nate Hoffelder September 21, 2011 um 1:14 pm

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.

Josh September 21, 2011 um 4:04 pm

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.

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Mario September 21, 2011 um 3:28 pm

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

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[…] 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. […]

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