Amazon has officially cut the ribbon on its library lending program for Kindle. If you live near one of the more than 11,000 participating local libraries and have a library card, you can check out eBooks from your Kindle or Kindle app similar to the way you borrow dead tree equivalents, only you don't need to leave your couch.
While book publishers have been, for the most part, friendly to the idea of e-books – at least since the rise of the Kindle and its ilk – the shift from dead trees to lively pixels still scare many in the industry. Meanwhile, on the TV and movie front, streaming providers like Hulu Plus have been bucking heads with traditional content producers who are fearful of devaluing their content. A new report says Amazon’s looking to take all those anxieties and mix them up in one big worry stew by introducing a Netflix-like subscription e-book service to Amazon Prime accounts.
Following the recent release of the ad-enabled Kindle with a $25 price cut, Amazon today announced yet another potential cost saving feature, Kindle Library Lending. Launching later this year, this feature will allow Kindle customers to borrow Kindle books from over 11,000 libraries in the U.S. just as you would do with physical books. The new feature works with all Kindle devices, as well as Kindle reading apps, so even if you're not invested in the hardware, you can still 'check out' an eBook.
Taking a cue from Amazon, which last week announced that Kindle owners who subscribe to the digital version of The New York Times would be granted free passage through the paper's new online paywall, Barnes & Noble today announced that Nook owners will receive the same courtesy. All a Nook user has to do is subscribe to the daily e-edition and they'll gain unfettered access to NYTimes.com.
Early figures from The Association of American Publishers show that eBook sales have increased 115.8 percent for the first month of 2011 compared to January 2010, going from $32.4 million to $69.9 million. Downloadable Audio Books also jumped, though by a comparatively modest 8.8 percent ($6 million to $6.5 million).
Today's technology has us taking for granted what would seem like black magic back in the early days. Punch a search query into Google, for example, and you're presented with thousands, even millions of results in less time than it takes to sneeze. Surely some sinister force must be at work! More recently, Amazon upgraded its Kindle platform to include real page numbers, so if your book club references a murder scene on page 187, you can hop right to it on your Kindle just as if you were holding a dead tree version. That's nifty, but how did Amazon go about the mammoth task of updating its massive selection of ebooks with real page numbers? Find out after the break.
Barnes and Noble this week reported its fiscal 2011 third quarter financial results, which as you might imagine is filled with numbers, but one stands out more than the rest. According to B&N, the Nook platform now accounts for a quarter of the eBook market in the U.S. Does it really? We're not sure.
At long last, Amazon has announced a Kindle app for the webOS platform, one that's specifically geared towards the HP TouchPad and its 9.7-inch screen (lots of info and pictures of this potentially awesome tablet here). Just as with other platforms, Kindle for webOS allows customers to "Buy Once, Read Everywhere" when making purchases from Amazon's Kindle Store. And of course there's Whispersync, so you can pick up reading on your TouchPad right where you left off from your smartphone or other Kindle-enabled device.
Amazon's "Kindle Singles" sounds like an online meeting place for like-minded romantics to hook up and talk about their favorite books, but it's not a Match.com clone. So what is it? Amazon describes it as a new kind of "well researched, well argued, and well illustrated" content that's typically anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 words.
"The response to our announcement of Singles has been great," said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content. "This first set of Singles was selected by our team of editors, and includes works by Rich Cohen, Darin Strauss, Ian Ayres, and the first-ever books published by TED."
The new Kindle Singles, which have now gone live, are available to both Kindle owners and app users. Each one is priced anywhere from $0.99 to $4.99. You'll find original reporting, essays, memoirs, and fiction in the first set of Kindle Singles, with Amazon planning to launch several more over time.
Effectively immediately, any webmaster can open a Kindle Bookstore and integrate it into their website, Amazon announced on Tuesday. Amazon says it takes just a few seconds to embed the Kindle for the Web widget into a website, and once in place webmasters can begin earning referral fees through the Amazon Associates Program for sales originating from the site.
"Kindle for the Web makes it possible for bookstores, authors, retailers, bloggers or other website owners to offer Kindle books on their websites and earn affiliate fees for doing so," said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. "Anyone with access to a web browser can discover the seamless and consistent experience that comes with Kindle books. Kindle books can be read on the $139 third-generation Kindle device with new high-contrast Pearl e-Ink, on iPads, iPod touches, iPhones, Macs, PCs, BlackBerrys and Android-based devices. And now, anywhere you have a web browser. Your reading library, last page read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights are always available to you no matter where you bought your Kindle books or how you choose to read them."
Amazon's announcement comes just one day after Google unveiled a cloud-based eBookstore of its own called Google eBooks. Both services feature a reading app integrated into the browser, with the advantage perhaps going to Amazon for offering referral fees.