Earlier this year Amazon announced that the Kindle eBook reader would be joining the ranks of digital book devices that you could use to read books from your public library. Last night it looks like at least a few libraries flipped the switch, because the Seattle Public Library and King County Public Library are both offering eBooks for the Kindle.
The service is powered by OverDrive, the same company that’s been making library books available for the Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble NOOK, and a number of other eReaders for the past few years. But up until now OverDrive offered EPUB and PDF eBooks as well as WMA audiobooks — and the Kindle doesn’t support any of those formats.
Public libraries that lend eBooks use a system that’s reminiscent of the way paper books are loaned out. Each library gets a limited number of licenses for each book that’s available. If there are only two licenses for a book, only two people can have it checked out at a time. As soon as they’re done reading they can “return” it to the library and someone else can check it out. You can also place holds for books that aren’t currently available so that you’ll be notified when it comes in.
I’ve been using the OverDrive Media Console app for iOS to read eBooks on my iPod touch since last year and while I’m not generally a fan of digital rights management software, I do like the way OverDrive uses DRM to make library books available — especially now that the company is working with Amazon to make sure that library books are available on an even broader range of devices.
Update: Amazon says the service is now live at more than 11,000 libraries across the US. It also turns out that you can checkout a book for Kindle and access it on any device that runs the Kindle software.
In other words, this isn’t just for Kindle devices. You can checkout books and use them on a device running iOS, Android, or webOS. You can even use the new Amazon Cloud Reader to view eBooks on most devices with web browsers. This is great news for HP TouchPad owners looking for a way to read library books on their devices, since the TouchPad comes with a pretty decent Amazon Kindle app.
Kindle books checked out from your public library also have all of the usual Kindle goodies including the ability to read the book on multiple device (your iPhone, tablet, and Kindle device) and sync the last read pages, bookmarks, annotations, and other data between devices.