Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Amazon’s Lending Library as Competition

At some point I speculated that if there were ever a Netflix service for ebooks, libraries as places to get books would be a thing of the past. Or at least I think I wrote that, because I’m too lazy to Google myself to find out.

One possibility for such a service is the Amazon Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. This is a service where people who own a Kindle and have an Amazon Prime account can supposedly “read for free.”

“Choose from over 145,000 titles, including all 7 Harry Potter books and more than 100 current and former New York Times Best Sellers, to read on your Kindle.” I saw that and thought, woo hoo, former NYT best sellers! Sign me up, baby!

On the website, it says “you may borrow one book at a time,” but that’s okay, because I can only read one book at a time.

I’d been resisting all this ebook hype, since I like to own the books I pay for , but I figured what the heck. Reading for free? Who can resist.

Free, after you’ve paid $80/year for a Prime membership and at least $70 for a Kindle, but what’s $150 these days? Besides, I already had the Prime account because I haven’t left my apartment since starting to write this blog, so I have everything delivered to me via Amazon. They sell Campbell’s chicken noodle soup and Fancy Feast, and what more do I need.

For those who haven’t tried it, it turns out the Amazon Kindle Owner’s Lending Library isn’t much competition for real libraries, because the Lending Library kinda sucks. If real lending libraries were this bad, no one would use them.

First, let’s look at the information not contained on the website. You can check out only one book at a time, but they don’t tell you that you can only check out one book per month. I only found out about that when I got burned checking out a book that wasn’t at all what I thought it was, removed it, then browsed for something else and saw a tiny little note reading “monthly limit reached.”

And why was I burned? Because there’s a lot of crap in the Lending Library that looks like a book, sounds like a book, but is really something far short of a book. Without paying attention, I downloaded one of these based on the title and found myself in some self-published garbage of a document. There seems to be a higher percentage of this stuff in the Lending Library compared to regular Amazon. Lesson learned.

Oh, and forget searching for a book, because you can’t do it, or at least I couldn’t figure out a way. The only way to find books is to browse by  24 categories, with lists of books arranged by the most popular to least popular within that category. Go through that list of 7,000 mysteries 6 at a time, which is how many show up on my search page.

Literary fiction, science fiction, mysteries, and romances all get their own categories, putting them on an equal footing with “science.” The fiction categories actually worked pretty well, but nothing else did.

If you’re interested in science, history, politics, or travel, your choices are considerably more limited than people who are interested in business, religion, “advice & how-to,” or “lifestyle & home,” which together take up over ¾ of the nonfiction titles.

The most popular title in “science,” and thus the one that comes up first, is The Worst Hard Time: the Untold Story of Those who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, which from the description has nothing whatsoever to do with science. 5th on the list is a book about a murder trial. Most of the popular books are exercise books of some sort.

The 10th book on the list is about how the government secretly benefited from UFO technology while keeping the rest of us from enjoying the benefits so that they could control us better. Science!

There’s a book on coding that also shows up in the much more appropriate category “computers & internet.” Needless to say, the subject analysis leaves something to be desired.

The 5 most popular books on computing are books about the Kindle Fire, so if you don’t care about those you have to keep clicking through to find winners like Proof You can Make a Full-Time Income with Ebay.

The reviews for that book are so excited that I was tempted to plunk down 99 cents instead of waiting until my month was up and reading it for free. The guy must know what he’s talking about because he self-publishes lots of books on Amazon .

One thing the Lending Library is useful for is sociological studies. Not finding or reading them, but conducting them. Clicking on “politics & current events,” I didn’t expect much, “current events” being a high schoolish way of talking. I expected a bunch of books bashing Obama or Romney or liberals or conservatives and saying how evil people are who don’t agree with the book’s author. There are books like that, I’ve heard.

The first thing I discovered was that a bunch of paranoids and conspiracy nuts like the Lending Library, probably expecting that Amazon’s Whispernet will be the only thing that survives the apocalypse, perhaps confusing it with Skynet.

Of the first 6 books or the first page of the list are three books about disaster preparedness, with “urban preppers” contending against a “doomsday prepping crash course.” On the next page are 2 (!) books on creating a “bug out bag,” plus another disaster survival guide.

Plus a book about how the UN is creating a one-world government, which will probably spark the doomsday disasters wherein bug-out bags will be needed. And another book about how Obama will somehow eliminate Fox News if he’s elected a second time, because that seems likely. The big choice we all have to make in the next election: get rid of Fox News or Big Bird? Tough choices!

I know there are natural disasters that happen in the United States, but these books are all assuming some massive apocalyptic event, probably caused by political intrigue, is really a likely scenario. It’s the black helicopter brigade who are now free to tell the truth about the darkness overcoming us now that the main stream media with their “facts” and “evidence” don’t stand in the way of publishing.

At least libraries are safe from the Amazon Lending Library. It’s completely useless as a substitute for a real lending library, but it is a good place to corral the crazies so that they don’t hang out in our real libraries whispering conspiracy theories as they drool on themselves and our furniture. That’s something, at least.



  1. Andrew Walsh says:

    Hi, I read your “Annoyed Librarian” blog entry after googling for an easier way to search the Kindle Lender’s Library. Personally I think real libraries also “kinda suck” when it comes to borrowing eBooks for the Kindle. In fact disatisfaction w/ the experience is what led me to try Amazon Prime & the Kindle Lenders Library. Sure, you can have 3 books checked out at one time vs 1 w/ the Kindle library. And yes, as far as I know w/ the real library there is no “monthly limit”. But generally I find I have to wait months to check out a book from the real library (you get put on a waiting list) whereas w/ the Kindle Library it can be checked out instantly. #2, you can take as long as you want to read the book w/ the Kindle Library whereas w/ the real library you get only 2 weeks to finish. 2 weeks is just not enough time for me to read many of the books I would like to read, they are too long & I have a busy work schedule. #3, searching for ebooks at the regular library is just as bad as searching for books using the Kindle library, they both offer inadequate search tools at this time. Note: I use the New Hampshire Downloadable Books website for my regular library book searches (if there’s a better way, I would love to know of it). My last & maybe biggest gripe w/ the regular library is that they won’t put you next in the queue if you want to delay downloading a book until the next copy becomes available. This can happen if you see yourself having a busy work schedule in the next 2 weeks (too busy to read, yes it happens). No, instead they make you wait months again by putting you at the end of the queue. That is a really annoying & unnecessary artifact of the regular library’s lending system IMO. So long story short….so far as I can determine, I see no advantage the regular library has over the Kindle lender’s library when it comes to the eBook (Kindle format) category. JMHO, of course :)

    • Way Barra says:

      “My last & maybe biggest gripe w/ the regular library is that they won’t put you next in the queue if you want to delay downloading a book until the next copy becomes available.[…]That is a really annoying & unnecessary artifact of the regular library’s lending system IMO.”

      In the system where I worked, it was just the opposite. Users could ‘suspend’ their physical holds in situations like the one you described, either with help from staff or by themselves through their online account. Of course, our eBooks used the OverDrive framework, where suspending holds is not an option. Along with support of renewals, it’s one of the two features we’d most like to see in the future.

    • Way Barra- I saw your suggestions for adding the “suspend holds” and “renew” functionality to OverDrive’s digital library platform. Thanks for the ideas! I’ve passed them on to our development team! -Mike (OverDrive social media guy)

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