Lending Kindles at the Library

Hey baby. I'm at your local library.I admit, I’m terribly curious to find out what the Kindle on-device library lending will look like, whenever it arrives this fall. But I learned recently of another library lending program that totally knocked my socks off. At the Cudahy Family Library in Cudahy, Wisconsin – where is that, you ask? It’s right here – the librarians have the Most Interesting Lending Program.

They lend Kindles.

No, really, they lend Kindles. Preloaded with a ton of books, each device devoted to a different genre.

I will let Michelle Gibbs, the Adult & Administrative Services Librarian (or, as I called her, Superpowered Librarian), explain the program.

Michelle Gibbs:  We’ve got 6 Kindles that we loan out for 3 weeks at a time, and each is pre-loaded with 30-50 titles within a particular theme: Mystery and Suspense, Romance, Book Club Favorites, Nonfiction and Memoir and two Young Adult (different titles on each one).

Each Kindle has unique content; we made sure that we only loaded one copy of each book that we purchased, and if we had wanted the same book on more than one Kindle, we would have purchased a second copy.  We put them out at 9:00 on a Saturday morning with no previous publicity, and they were all claimed by 10:00.  We’re quite pleased with the program, as are our customers!

We were the first library in Milwaukee County to offer Kindles to check out, but not the first in Wisconsin – that honor goes to the Frank L. Weyenberg Public Library in Mequon.  And there were other libraries in the U.S. before that. 

The library buys the digital books from Amazon using a library credit card? Or do you have a different purchase method?  All the Kindles are registered to the library on one account? 

Gibbs:: We use a credit card.

All the Kindles are registered to the library on one account? 

Gibbs: Each Kindle has its own account, to make things easier for us to track and to prevent the books from being automatically shared from one Kindle to another.

Did you know that multiple Kindles on the same account can access the same books? It’s totally allowable under the Kindle terms of service – or did you want to make sure you bought individual copies of each book for other reasons? 

Gibbs: We’re following the one book/one circulation at a time policy because that’s in line with what we do with both our print books and our eBooks.  Since Amazon hasn’t explicitly said that it’s o.k. for us to be loaning Kindles (although they’ve danced around it enough that we’re confident that it won’t be an issue), we thought we’d better err on the side of caution.

How do you decide which content to load? Are there books that are requested or that are very popular?

Gibbs: Once we figured out the genre or theme for each Kindle, we chose mostly new releases or enduring works in the field.  We figured that would be another way for people who were searching the catalog to find the Kindles – if they were looking for the newest James Patterson book and saw it listed on a Kindle, they might be interested enough to request one.  You can see what titles are on each one if you’re interested by following the links on our homepage, http://www.cudahyfamilylibrary.org. 

[SB Sarah says: Click “More Details” on this page to see the list of romances on the Romance Kindle.]

We’ll certainly add new books and books that people have requested when the demand dies down enough that we can get our hands on them for a few hours to load the new titles. 

How many patrons have gone on to purchase their own? Do you know?

Gibbs: Unknown at this point.  Many people wanted to try out a Kindle before they purchased one, so we were happy to be able to help them out.  Since the beginning of the year, we’ve had a tremendous amount of people in with their own e-readers trying to figure out how to download library books onto them – which can be rather cumbersome, especially if they aren’t terribly tech-savvy.

What made you choose Kindles, since Kindles aren’t (yet!) compatible with digital library lending? 

Gibbs:  They’re very easy to de-register, which would prevent people from loading them up with titles that may (or may not) be appropriate.  Of course people can still register them to their personal Amazon accounts and load books onto them that way, but it’s definitely a deterrent.  We do check to make sure that nothing has been added or removed before we check them back in.  It will be interesting to see how people will use them once Amazon and Overdrive are working with each other.  We are restricting patron downloading to the Kindles at this point for a couple of reasons.  1. The catalog record for the Kindles lists what books are on each of the devices, so any changes would not be accurately reflected in our library catalog. 2. The materials that people load onto them may not be appropriate for our customers, especially the teen Kindles.

HOLY SMOKE is that not COOL? I love this idea! Jennifer Lohmann, RWA’s Librarian of the Year 2010 and general purveyor of awesome, told me that her library in Durham, NC, has Barnes & Noble nooks that they lend out as well to book clubs – though they aren’t very strict on how many people constitutes a “book club.” The nooks are pre-loaded with titles that are common selections for book club discussion groups.

So what do you think? Does your library lend digital reading devices? If they did, would you be tempted to borrow one and try it out? I think this is a brilliant program, and it gives me epic giddypants to ponder the possibilities of setting up digital device lending programs in my local public library. Thank you to Ms. Gibbs and to Kate Fellowes for their time in answering my nosy questions, and to Angela James for connecting us. 

And to the board at the Cudahy Family Library: Your librarians are made of awesome! Way to go!


Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Wow, 30-50 books without having to go back to the library? What a brilliant idea. It would be nice to see my tiny English library take this up, but I think they’re just concentrate on staying open right now :(

  2. 2

    *concentrating* D’oh!

  3. 3
    LG says:

    I hope Amazon never tries to sue libraries that lend out Kindles (same with B&N and libraries that lend out Nooks) – it wouldn’t be in anybody’s best interests for so many reasons. I would have loved it if any of the libraries in my area had e-readers to check out – in my opinion, it benefits the companies that created the readers, too, because it gives people a chance to really try out the tech and see if they like it enough to get it for themselves. One of the reasons I bought a Nook and not another kind of reader is that I got to borrow a friend’s Nook and try it out for several days, not just a few minutes in a store. Had a library near me been lending Kindles, would I have ended up with a Kindle instead? Who knows.

  4. 4
    BookwormBabe says:

    I think this is a brilliant idea! 

    I still haven’t figured out digital lending at my library but my relationship with my kindle hasn’t suffered.  The only barriers to our happy romance are those of geographic restrictions imposed by idiot publishers – but I digress.

    I think the only thing that would make this idea even more brilliant would be if Amazon decided to sponsor the libraries and either donated some kindles or gave a hefty discount to the library cause.  (They make enough money off me.)

  5. 5
    Amy says:

    What a fantastic program!! I hope that more libraries start doing this as well!

  6. 6
    Suzannah says:

    The Kindles would all be stolen from my library within about five minutes, but I think it’s a great idea for a library with patrons who wouldn’t do that ;-)  The only problem would be choosing what to read first.  I’d want a couple of weeks off work to get through everything that looked good!

  7. 7
    Kellie says:

    Awesomesauce, indeed! On every possible level.

  8. 8
    Michele says:

    The high school I work at lends out Kindles and Nooks for 2 week periods- the librarians will preload whatever books you want, or you can ask them to surprise you.  This is especially popular right around a long weekend or school vacation.  It has been extremely popular, and they have expanded from just a couple e-readers to 8 in the last year alone. 

    I really like the idea of customizing them by genre- it gives the reader an opportunity to explore and also have a dialogue with the local librarian.

  9. 9
    hollygee says:

    When I was on one of my rare trips to the mall, I was checking out the Nooks at B&N when I recognized the other woman talking to the salesperson—from my library. She was checking out how it might work to get Nooks for the library. Such a great idea.

  10. 10
    Denise says:

    Go Cudahy!  I’m hoping this happens in my county’s library system.  We’re just next door to Milwaukee County.  I love the idea.

    secret decoder word: months97 – I wish my summer break lasted that long

  11. 11
    Laura (in PA) says:

    This is an amazing idea. I love this library. The kindle-by-genre set-up is inspired.

  12. 12

    FANTASTIC idea! I hope it catches on with more libraries! I had a small giggle when reading what authors were on the Romance Kindle…not sure Mr. Nicholas Sparks would be happy with that designation. *snort*

  13. 13
    Emily says:

    This is a fantastic idea and would probably help sell those e-readers. I just bought a kindle last week and would’ve made the purchase a lot sooner if I’d had been able to borrow one and test it out.

  14. 14
    nextgenlibrarian says:

    This IS a great idea, HOWEVER it it illegal. Sadly, lending Kindles violates Amazon’s terms in the license agreement for the digital content on the devices. Our library tried to do this a year or so ago, publicized it on the web, and then Amazon sent a nice cease and desist notice. Hopefully, things are loosening up, because I really think this is a good model for ebook reader circulation, but it still is technically illegal.

  15. 15
    Mikaela says:

    I read somewhere that the library in Gothenburg does this, but they use Cybook Opus instead of Kindle, since Kindle is available in Sweden.

  16. 16
    LG says:

    @nextgenlibrarian – I knew I’d heard about Amazon cracking down on at least one library! Very sad, because I do think that library lending of Kindles benefits Amazon as much as it does the library’s users.

    Do you know if there are similar restrictions for the Nook, Kobo, and Sony readers?

  17. 17

    Two other blogs I visit have been tossing this back and forth.  So we have documentation that there is actual device lending.  This is very valuable fodder for some.  Not so much for me, but now I get to put my two cents in again.  Cudahy is close to me, but I don’t need to go there and check.  I am totally taking this is as bible.

    Don’t take this is written law, but I think a library would check out the legal ramifications very carefully before doing the lending.  Otherwise, who knows what the borrower could put on the device.  Or perhaps give the material to other people.  Purchasing a device gives you rights to use dedicated software.  You don’t own the software.  Just the hardware.  This would have to be clarified at purchase.

  18. 18
    CarrieS says:

    Sacramento Library is doing this with the Nook, in partnership with Branes and Noble.  Kindle has been adamant that we can’t lend kindles or loan an ebook to a kindle device (this is my understanding and it may be inaccurate since I find the whole thing confusing).  As a result, when I finally buy an ereader, it will be a nook in thanks for B&N’s support.

    Also, much to my surprise, all the laptops and ereaders we’ve let people check out are returned.  I’m frankly amazed but also delighted!

  19. 19
    Jessica says:

    We do this at my local library too, in Menomonie, WI.  I thought we were the first in the state to try it out last year!  Go cool Wisconsin libraries!

    The library owns 18 Kindles, 17 of which circulate.  All have the same 100 or so titles on them (we buy 3 copies of each book for now, although we might need to try some genre Kindles), and new titles are added regularly. 

    It has actually been a great way to customize the digital collections, pretty much we’ll buy a copy of any book that a patron requests for the Kindle (within reason).  Kindle 18 has all the state and local newspapers and stays in the library where it gets used regularly.  It was getting too expensive to get the Milwaukee papers in print, and the patrons have actually adapted the e-versions pretty easily.  It helps that the selection is bigger on the Kindle than it ever was in print. 

    Menomonie (as in the one in northwest Wisconsin) is quite small and so far in over a year of use we’ve had no problems with theft or loss or any legal troubles.  And they are advertised on the webpage.  I think the fact that Amazon is opening up the Kindle to library lending later this year is one reason they have loosened up about this. 

    So for my library Kindle loaning has been a huge success, the patrons love it, and they can get faster easier access to bestsellers (any book with a long hold list in print gets bought for the Kindle), and while it takes a little bit of librarian time to manage as they go in and out, it is completely worth it.

  20. 20

    On the website Goodreads there has been a lengthy thread going for a while because some of the people lend out their books through email.  People have been wondering about the legality of this and have weighed in about Kindle stating you can lend your ebook but don’t have access to it while it is lent and there are time limits and number limits.  Apparently there are ways to get around this as they actually have lending shelf forums.  I don’t own an ebook and only know one person who owns and uses it.  She has not looked into the lending thing and has only purchased so far.  I do know that the maker of such a device has legal rights to the software that the purchaser does not then own, only has access to.  This is true of any computer I think.  I would think this tangled legal issue is only complicated by the day to day changes in the market.

  21. 21
    Rebecca WS says:

    What a great idea! Now that e-readers have come down in price, this seems like it would be a viable option for libraries. And lending the e-reader for newspapers is an interesting idea as well. I have to wonder how that would affect the library’s archives, though. If a patron wanted to access older copies of the newspaper, would s/he have to check out the Kindle if that particular edition was electronic?

    Lots of food for thought.

  22. 22
    SusannaG says:

    This is a great idea.  I’m pretty sure my library doesn’t do it, but I would certainly try it if it did.

  23. 23
    Amanda Ryan says:

    My own local library is about to offer this as well.  I’m interested to see how it works out. I think it’s a fantastic idea, though I’m leery of how often they’ll be, erm, stolen.

  24. 24
    Sharon says:

    Like Suzannah, I live in a city in which the Kindles would be gone in 60 seconds…forever.

    I’m so over Amazon and their BS. I finished reading the last unread book I had on my Kindle a couple of weeks ago and I tossed it in a drawer and bought the new Nook. Buh-bye, greedy b @ stards.

  25. 25
    Jessica says:

    The newspaper Kindle never gets checked out for just that reason.  Its’ for in library use only, like the reference collection.

  26. 26
    Karen H says:

    If this was my library, the first thing I’d do is tell them they don’t know much about romance.  Nicholas Sparks?  He is so far from romance I not only won’t read his books, I won’t even watch the movies they make out of them.  The most important feature of a romance to me is the HEA and he keeps killing the hero!  What does that say about him?  I personally wouldn’t include Sophie Kinsella either as I categorize her as chick lit (not a bad thing but not romance).  A better name for this collection might be “Women’s Fiction” though that’s not all that great either.

    Still, a great idea for a library!

  27. 27
    Lilian Darcy says:

    Very, very interesting.  Re the theft thing, do they only lend to people they’re pretty confident about – i.e. long-time library users with reliable addresses on file?  Or is it just the right sort of town?
    Also the legality re Amazon.  It will be fascinating to see how this all unfolds.
    @Karen H – laughing and agreeing about Mr Sparks.

  28. 28
    Vicki says:

    My library lends Kindles, Nooks and Sony e-readers.  In addition, the children’s department loans out iPads in-house.  It’s a great way for the children to see and test out this new technology and play with all the awesome book apps that are out there.  Plus, I then get to use them in my storytimes with the little ones! 

    Amazon has been notoriously lenient on the fact that libraries have been lending out their devices.  While it technically violates their license agreement I don’t know any library that has had a problem with it.  Besides, it really is more of a lending program so people can test out the device before they buy it.  Amazon should look at it as advertising for them!

  29. 29
    CarrieS says:

    The Sacramento library has been doing this with nooks and laptops in low income parts of the city.  You have to have a library card, and you have to show proof of address to get a card.

  30. 30
    Cialina says:

    Very cool! I hadn’t heard of this program before. It does make me worried about theft and damages. I wonder what the libraries do for insurance?

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