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Kindle Lending Library, an early review.

Amazon announced today the Kindle Lending Library which allows Kindle users to "borrow" books.

This is a concept I've been hoping for, but I think Amazon is doing it wrong! In order to borrow books you must be a member of Amazon Prime, their annual fee VIP shopper's club.

I've always disputed the value of Amazon Prime. At $79 a year, it's pretty easy to save. You get free shipping on every order. You also get downloadable television shows and movies (fewer than Netflix, but a reasonable selection of 13,000 titles) for unlimited viewing.  But let's face it. If you love TV shows and movies, Netflix is a better service at a comparable price (for instant watch).  If you read a lot, free shipping is nice, but you get free shipping on every order over $25 anyhow. I don't know about you, but I've never walked away from Amazon with an order less than $25.  Prime members get priority shipping,  but I've never been disappointed with the timeliness of Amazon's regular shipping.

You have to own a Kindle device. Today you can get them as low as $79, but I paid $400+ for my first Kindle, and my current Kindle was around $200.

You must own a Kindle and be a member of Amazon Prime to use the lending library. I'm sure there is lots of overlap between these two groups of frequent customers, but there are certainly many frequent customers, like myself, who are one or the other.

Here's the kick in the teeth, in my opinion. You can only "borrow" one book per month. If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, your cost is a little over $6.50 monthly. There are thousands of books available on Kindle, including top sellers for less than that price. Furthermore, the lending library is a very limited selection compared to the overall potential. They are currently boasting "100 current and former New York Times bestsellers".

I'm not bashing Amazon. I absolutely love the company, and I love what they've done for Internet commerce overall. However, in my mind they haven't established any value for their Amazon Prime service, and this first version of a Kindle Lending Library is almost insulting.

I think there are three reasonable alternative variations to a Kindle Lending Library.

  1. Larger annual fee -- unlimited downloads, large selection, no due dates
  2. Small annual fee -- downloads limited by popularity (i.e. xxx copies available at the time) with a waiting list or queue, due dates with one-time renewal, large selection
  3. Free for Kindle owners -- one free download monthly, smaller selection

Kindle owners are generally frequent readers. Additionally, there are quite a few very low cost or free books available. A good lending library would reward frequent customers, and give opportunities to authors to get wider audiences for their books, without giving them away.

I like the Kindle is a marketplace leader, but they won't be there for long if other e-book readers offer better lending libraries.

For a company that's always done a good job of demonstrating value, Amazon Prime and the Kindle Lending Library are pretty poor representations in my opinion.

Share your opinion below, please.


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