Hey, Muggles! Soon, you can borrow Harry Potter on your Kindle!

Amazon announced today that all 7 Harry Potter books would be available in the Kindles Owners Lending library as of June 19, 2012.

According to Amazon’s press release:

 Owning a Kindle just got a whole lot better for magic-loving Muggles. Starting June 19, Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is adding all seven Harry Potter books (in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish) to the Kindle Owners’Lending Library (KOLL). Harry Potter is the all-time best-selling book series in history, andAmazon has purchased an exclusive license from J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore to make the addition of these titles possible. The Kindle Owners’Lending Library is a benefit of Amazon Prime membership—Prime members also enjoy free two-day shipping on millions of items and unlimited streaming of more than 17,000 movies and TV episodes. The Kindle Owners’Lending Libraryhas now grown to over 145,000 books that can be borrowed for free as frequently as once a month, with no due dates.

“We’re absolutely delighted to have reached this agreement with Pottermore. This is the kind of significant investment in the Kindle ecosystem that we’ll continue to make on behalf of Kindle owners,” saidJeff Bezos, founder and CEO ofAmazon.com. “Over a year, borrowing the Harry Potter books, plus a handful of additional titles, can alone be worth more than the$79cost of Prime or a Kindle. The Kindle Owners’Lending Libraryalso has an innovative feature that’s of great benefit for popular titles like Harry Potter – unlimited supply of each title – you never get put on a waiting list.

This is an exclusive deal between Amazon and Pottermore.

News Bits and Bytes for February 9, 2012

Lots of news happening today:

Reports are saying that E-ink revenues are down for the month of January. A lot. However, downloads of digital media jumped in 2011. 

A big shake-up in the library lending world today. Penguin is terminating their agreement with Overdrive to supply library books. With Harper Collins still only offering libraries the crippleware 26 loan contract for books, Random House is essentially the only Big Six supplier of library books. If you pay attention to the subtext in the article about the meeting between publishers and the American Library Association, this should not come as too much of a surprise, unfortunately.

If you have been following the reaction to Amazon’s foray into the publishing world, the responses are still coming in. Today, Indie Commerce joins Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Indigo in boycotting Amazon titles. Interestingly, this article from Paid Content says they’re not – well not exactly, that is.

Mike Shatzkin has a very thoughtful take on the Amazon vs Barnes & Noble saga that I highly recommend reading!

And finally, from  Evo Terra (Podiobooks) and Jeff Moriarty’s “It Isn’t Rocket Surgery” broadcast, a rather extreme point of view on the quality of self-published ebooks on Amazon.com. Here’s the video:

Penguin Restores Access to Library Books, but…

My, how one day changes things! Penguin has restored access to Kindle versions of their ebooks, but still has concerns, including some that (surprise) need to be worked out with Amazon.  New ebook titles are still not available in OverDrive.

But now, Random House has announced that it is reviewing its own library ebook policies.

As the story evolves, Twitter users are labeling Tweets about the issue with the hashtag #penguinod.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was a day of a lot of speculation on possible reasons for Penguin’s actions. It was also a day of reactions from both librarians and patrons.

An article in the Library Journal’s Digital Shift detailed how complaints from angry patrons surprised librarians who had no advance warning that the books were being pulled. The tension between Penguin and Amazon, along with a past history of difficult negotiations is also cited in the article as a possible reason for the books’ removal from the OverDrive System.

OverDrive’s initial announcement mentioned “security concerns” with the ebooks. The Digital shift article also reported that patrons has stated that, at least in some incidences, books are remaining on the patrons’ Kindles after the lending period is over.

And from Paid Content, there’s a thoughtful article by Laura Hazard Owen that offers answers to its own questions in  Why Might a Publisher Pull Its E-Books From Libraries?

In a piece from Teleread, InfoDocket’s Gary Price points to a February 2011 letter by OverDrive CEO Steve Potash  published on Librarian by Day as a possible explanation for Penguin’s actions:

In addition, our publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content. Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.). [EMPHASIS ADDED] I can assure you OverDrive is not interested in managing or having any say in your library policies and issues. Select publisher terms and conditions require us to work toward their comfort that the library eBook lending is in compliance with publisher requirements on these topics.

When this letter was originally written back in February during the licensing change demanded by Harper Collins, it seemed that this paragraph seemed squarely directed at concerns over libraries like The Free Library of Philadelphia.

Long before the Kindle allowed library lending, the Free Library had long been discussed on sites like Kindleboards.com and the MobileRead.com forums as a source of library ebooks. The library allowed out-of-state residents to get a library card for a fee.  Users could then use their computers and the OverDrive system to access the ebooks.

Because of its large collection, the Free Library has been very affected by loss of Penguin ebooks and is keeping its patrons updated on its blog.

This whole situation is making it confusing for consumers who have bought or were planning to buy ereaders as gifts for the holidays. The prices of Kindles have come down significantly ($79 for the entry-level e-ink,  $199 for the Kindle Fire). But many consumers have been adamant that lending and library books are an essential part of the equation.

Competitor Barnes and Noble has already announced that its Simple Touch Nook will be only $79 on Black Friday. Kobo is selling its Touch at more retail stores and plans to offer wi-fi Kobo readers for only $59. Ereaders and tablets will likely be big sellers this holiday season.

Sarah from the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog did a nice write-up on this whole situation yesterday and summed it up succinctly: ” Holy crap in a sidecar, you cannot make up lunacy this frustrating. I need to read a romance. STAT.”

Yeah, Sarah, save one for me. I am sure we haven’t heard the last of this….

Penguin pulls Kindle Books from libraries

I wanted to sit down and write my impressions of the Kindle Fire now that I have had a few days to play with it. Instead, I was shocked to find that Penguin has pulled its Kindle books from the OverDrive system.

According to OverDrive:

Last week Penguin sent notice to OverDrive that it is reviewing terms for library lending of their eBooks.   In the interim, OverDrive was instructed to suspend availability of new Penguin eBook titles from our library catalog and disable “Get for Kindle”  functionality for all Penguin eBooks.   We apologize for this abrupt change in terms from this supplier.  We are actively working with Penguin on this issue and are hopeful Penguin will agree to restore access to their new titles and Kindle availability as soon as possible.

The Digital Shift is reporting that Penguin is saying the new policy is not specific to Kindles, but governs all versions of their ebook titles across the board.

Libraries and patrons are telling a different story, however. In an Amazon forum on the subject, some patrons are pointing out that only Kindle versions are disappearing. Some libraries have had as many books vanish from their digital shelves. It is important to note that those are books purchased with library funds (generally taxpayer funded).

I don’t think that it is coincidental that this is happening when Amazon is trying to start a Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. There has been a lot of tension about ebook lending since Big Six publisher Harper Collins limited libraries to only 26 check-outs of their titles.  Many people (myself included) are still boycotting Harper Collins  until that limitation is resolved.

Penguin has already been facing criticsm over its Book Country “service,” which many authors believe does nothing but take more money from authors.

But to single out the popular Kindle smacks not only of fear and greed, but a form of censorship as well. And that’s not something that sets well with me. Sure, I could read books on one of my other devices: I’ve got an iPod, a Nook. I could read any format on one of the apps on my android tablets. But I will not be told which device I have to read their ebooks on. I already boycott MacMillian and Harper Collins because of their practices. I already boycott books priced over $9.99. I will be happy to add Penguin to the list as well.

News Bits and Bytes for November 3, 2011

There’s lots of news today on the Kindle and Nook fronts….

There is a lot of buzz today about the Kindle Lending Program.  None of the “Big Six” publishers are yet on board with what is rumored to be the start of Amazon’s “Netflix for books” lending program for books. This article from Paid Content fills in some of the details.

There is already a list of categories for the books in the lending library, and I predict that you will see lists of the books available soon.

There’s also  a thought-provoking article in Publisher’s Weekly that talks about Amazon’s program and how libraries may fit into the future of lending.

On the Nook front:

According to Engadget, The Nook Simple Touch price is being reduced to $99, effective November 16, 2011. And, B & N is pushing the fact that there are no ads!

B & N is also reducing the price of the original Nook Color to $199. In addition, they are adding apps for Hulu plus and more streaming music options for the device.

Engadget is also reporting that B & N’s new Nook Tablet (the successor to the Nook Color) will retail for $249. The tablet, which launches November 7, is touted as having everything the current Nook color has plus “the best in HD entertainment.” In-store demos start on November 15.

Kindle Lending Library Details

Amazon explains the Kindle Lending Library program in more detail on their help page for the lending program.

A few main points:

  • The program is only for Amazon Prime Members
  • The program is only open to U.S. Kindle and Fire owners
  • The books can only be read on devices, not the software apps. They cannot be read on an iPod or iPhone.
  • The device must be registered to the same account as your Prime membership
  • The program does not begin until Thursday, November 3, 2011.
  • You can only read one book per month with no “roll-overs.”

Reactions to Amazon Lending Announcement

Wednesday’s announcement by Amazon that they will finally allow library lending for the Kindle has caused quite a stir on many of the various ereader discussion boards.

Reactions to the news was both mixed and interesting.  Here’s a sampling from some of the forums:

The shock and disbelief crowd: “………..runs off to check the thermometer in HELL!!!!!!”
The cynical crowd:  “Welcome to the 21st century, Amazon!”
Great in 20 years when my library finally gets ebooks I will be all set. I wonder if my kindle will last that long….”
“Good. Now maybe those folks will stop complaining about it.”
“You need to sticky post this over in the Q & A forum as well where the “Why can’t I get library books while every other eReader can?!?!” complaint gets posted just about daily.”
The grateful crowd:  “I am SUPER excited… THANK YOU AMAZON for listening your consumers!”
“Inability to check out library books is the ONLY thing I dislike about my Kindle.”
“This is awesome news! Guess I will finally have to get a library card again.”
“Now my kindle will be perfect!”
“The now I’ll buy a Kindle” crowd:   Now I will buy a Kindle.”
 “I’ve been waiting for Amazon to do this before I’d buy a kindle. Guess I’ll probably be getting one now!”
The too late crowd:  “Oh, finally!!! If only I had known two months ago before I bought a Nook so I could borrow library books!”
The “I was going to buy a ____ so I could read library books” crowd:  Fill in the blank with Nook, Sony, Kobo, etc.
The wanting more and can’t make ’em happy crowds:
“Now if there was only a color version of the Kindle…”
“This is terrific!! Thank you so much 🙂 Please let there be text-to-speech on the library books too, please!”
“Great news. Hopefully the ability to lend your own books to friends more than once will follow.”
“Unfortunately this won’t help the fact that my library has a really poor collection of ebooks and that many major publishers won’t release their ebooks for libraries or severely limit them. But it is definitely a step forward.”
 
The altruistic crowd:
“Fantastic! Hey Mr. Bezos, one more idea from your customers: when I buy a book from you, after I’m done reading it can you work with Overdrive to figure out a way I can relinquish the e-book and donate it to a library of my choice? Library budgets are tight, and that would be a great way for you, and your customers, to help libraries keep up with technology.”
 
Concerned for other readers and the libraries crowd:
“Definitely not good news for the other readers – their one big advantage was library books.”
“I do hope it won’t add too much to library expenses. And it will take awhile before many libraries offer this. As it its my local library is not set up for lending to e-readers (I do know about other lending libraries). But I foresee Kindle getting the lion share of business (in the USA) once it happens. I know more people with Kindles than other e-readers.”
Librarians’ reactions to the news show more concern than excitement, as this article from the LibraryJournal.com website  shows. You can follow the ongoing discussion on Twitter under the hashtag #AZOD.
So, what about you? How do you feel about the news?
This blog entry composed while listening to The 99 Darkest Pieces Of Classical Music.

Lendle Axed by Amazon

The Kindle lending service Lendle had its access to Amazon’s API shut off today.  Lendle has made a statement on the situation on their website, saying that:

The letter we received from Amazon states that the reason our API and Amazon Associates accounts have been revoked is that Lendle does not “serve the principal purpose of driving sales of products and services on the Amazon site.”

Lendle goes on to say:

We do know that we’re not the only eBook lending site who had their API access revoked today, so we can only speculate that it wasn’t anything about Lendle specifically that caused Amazon to act today, but rather something a bit bigger than us. We know publishers have been skittish about lending, and aren’t yet seeing how much value it brings them, so we might speculate Amazon was acting on pressure from them. [Emphasis added]

Personally, I don’t think that it is all that difficult to speculate what that pressure might be about. This is happening almost exactly a year since Macmillan boycott and the Agency Model went into effect. If, as I surmise, Amazon is once again in negotiations with publishers then lending and ebook rights are almost certainly on the agenda. That, coupled with the sudden rise of several services facilitating the loan of ebooks (with some even charging a fee for the service), does not bode well for readers’ rights in the future.

I also think that it is highly unlikely that it is a coincidence that this situation and the Harper Collins limit on libraries lending eBooks are happening at the same time. Harper Collins has been strangely silent on the library lending issue which may mean that it has some bearing on larger negotiations with retailers.

Watch this space; we are going to hear a lot more about these lending issues.

This blog entry composed while listening to American VI: Ain’t No Grave by Johnny Cash