Your Local Library, Now on Your Kindle

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) - If you’re sick of getting shushed at the library, there will soon be a new way to take the library with you.

Amazon (Stock Quote: AMZN) announced Wednesday that it will launch a new lending feature for the Kindle later this year that will allow users to borrow e-books from more than 11,000 libraries around the country.

The Kindle Lending Center will grant users access to the library’s e-books on any of the Kindle models, as well as on most major smartphones through the free Kindle app. According to an Amazon spokesperson, users will be able to check out the books for up to two weeks at a time, depending on the lending policies of their particular library, but will need a library card from one of the branches in order to do so.

But where Amazon’s lending feature really shines is in its ability to let Kindle users customize and personalize the borrowed e-books, as readers will now have the option to add bookmarks and notes in the margins of the digital books. These marks will then be visible to the reader who made them each time he or she checks out the book again from the library, but the beauty of it is that no other user will see the marks when they check out the book themselves.

"Normally, making margin notes in library books is a big no-no,” said Jay Marine, director of Amazon Kindle. “But we're extending our Whispersync technology so that you can highlight and add margin notes to Kindle books you check out from your local library. Your notes will not show up when the next patron checks out the book. But if you check out the book again, or subsequently buy it, your notes will be there just as you left them.”

The lending feature may prove to be a win-win for both Amazon and the libraries it partners with. Even before the first Kindle was released in 2007, libraries in the U.S. were trying to promote their e-book offerings to attract interest from a more tech savvy audience, but until recently, their efforts were met with minimal demand as there were few devices capable of checking out the books. The new Kindle feature takes care of that issue and could bring library e-book lending closer to the mainstream. Plus, libraries (and borrowers) will no longer be limited to the physical books on its shelves.

At the same time, this new feature lets Amazon make the case that users get an even better deal for their money. In the past year, Amazon has lowered the price of the Kindle multiple times, most recently by offering an ad-sponsored version of the device with a lower price tag. Once Amazon launches the lending option later this year, it will also be able to advertise the e-reader as coming with an endless number of free e-books, courtesy of the libraries they partner with.

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