Can A Library Lend A Kindle?

from the copyright-questions-for-fun-and-for-profit dept

Michael Scott point us to a fascinating question that an increasing number of libraries are starting to ask: is it legal to lend out a Kindle with some ebooks? Amazon says no — and claims that it’s a violation of the terms of service, but libraries are claiming that isn’t true. The terms only bans lending out the ebooks themselves… not the device that has a purchased ebook on it (an important distinction). So, some libraries have been buying Kindles and purchasing a series of books (usually best sellers that are in high demand) and lending out the device. However, Amazon claims that it won’t discuss “enforcement” on this issue, which might mean that it’s not doing any — or might mean get ready for the lawsuits. Of course, this isn’t an entirely new issue. Years back, we talked about some libraries lending out audiobooks on iPods, but it seems like the Kindle situation could get a lot more attention… including the legal kind of attention.

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Comments on “Can A Library Lend A Kindle?”

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Citizen Greyface says:

Re: Consumers

Part of the problem is the fact that *we* have morphed from citizens into consumers. Time to morph back… and, while we are at it, to cease and desist in commercialization of education (s/b free to anyone who wishes to attend/learn… a better society would evolve – not one based on greed, litigation, manipulation). But excuse me; it is just me dreaming again.

mike42 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

We consumers will kick this to the curb. Licenses have been legally questionable from the beginning, but as they have been generally reasonable and used in reasonable ways,(basically to limit their liability if the software had a bug) they have not had an issue. Now that companies are trying to control their products after purchase using licensing, we WILL see a backlash.

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Librarys get what there local population wants

Some books are only released as Ebooks, this leavs librarys with a few choices, you could possably use a Keyserver to let your readers read at home (the server enforces the limit on copys purchaced) Or you could just buy a kindle and a collection of books and loan the Kindle out.

From a technical standpoint the Kindle is vary easy, one trained person sets it up and anyone can loan it out just like a book.

Side note, after trying to deal with the kindle publishing staff, I dont think thay exsist anymore, its almost impossable to get a responce because its email support only and so many news papers and other daily/weekly/monthly publishers want there products on the device that Amazon dident know what it had when the device was made. Sueing your readers would stop this cold and send those publishers to look for something else.

Michael Ward (profile) says:

Libraries with e-Book Readers

Libraries have been doing this since 1999, when the LIBRARY JOURNAL featured some libraries who were already lending out Rocket eBook readers with books on them. These days, many libraries lend e-books via download, using Overdrive’s technology, thus getting around the hardware cost issue.

It’s only Kindle’s atavistic focus on a specific piece of hardware that makes this a news story; if Amazon e-books could be read on any other platform, then the books could be lent via download.

The infamous Joe says:

So silly.

The terms only bans lending out the ebooks themselves… not the device that has a purchased ebook on it (an important distinction).

It’s really *not* an important distinction, from a logical point of view. Allow me to explain:

They are saying it is *not* okay to allow me to take an ebook from the library and put it on my non-kindle ebook reader (Cybook Gen 3) but it *is* okay to put it on a library bought ebook reader (presumably a kindle, but I doubt it has to be) and loan out the kindle with the ebook loaded onto it. That’s ridiculous. What they’re basically saying is they don’t mind if everyone in the city reads the ebook, as long as they don’t do it at the same time?

I just don’t get it. If I go to the library to check out a book, the only reason I wouldn’t be able to is if the library didn’t have the book at all, or if someone had checked it out already. Now, in the digital age, libraries are supposed to pretend the digital copy that anyone can read *for free* is still scarce?

Please, please, please explain this to me. I gotta know.

Andrew says:

Re: Re: Re: So silly.

The distinction is the difference between waiting a DVD at my home and setting my projector up in the park for my neighborhood to watch with me. Though not the same as a public performance, lending an ebook out to multiple parties violates the license (whether this license is fair or logical is a separate issue). The legal hair to split I think is whether the ebook is licensed to the kindle hardware or to the owner of the kindle (the library. If the license is tired to the hardware libraries seem to me to be in the clear. If the license is for the library, Amazon may technically have a stronger care. The public relations cost woudl never make up for winning (if they even did)

The infamous Joe says:

Re: Re: Re: So silly.

I didn’t want to go so far as to call them “stupid”, but yes, that was what I was getting at.

I think I need to brush up on how libraries work: are the books given to them? Do libraries purchase whatever book they feel like and just lend it over and over? Do they have a special license? Do they *need* a special license? I’m largely ignorant as to how, on a legal level, libraries work.

Just trying to think about libraries in the light of the current pro-ip culture we’re in is making my head hurt. 🙂

Da BISHOP says:

Amazon has a logical choice.

Why would Amazon be upset? If libraries lend out Kindles, that is x number of people that actually got their hands on one when they might not of otherwise. And that means they might LIKE it, and might BUY a Kindle for themselves.

If Amazon sues over this I will boycott them forever, just on principle.

Rob R. says:

Re: Amazon has a logical choice.

Yes, boycotting them would be an excellent idea. Someone has to take a stand and show these companies exactly what capitalism is and what the free market can do. If enough people did a boycott and told them about it, this kind of thing would not happen 50 time per day.

I am going to boycott if they sue one library, let’s all do that as well.

RD says:


Right of first sale, tough shit Amazon.I am getting sick of these big corporate copyright nazi’s thinking they can control EVERY aspect of the product they sell even AFTER the sale. Guess what? Once you have given possession of something to someone else for a price, you no longer have any rights over how its used. Stop trying to twist the laws and inventing license terms that dont apply.

Eponymous Coward says:

Not so new a concept.

There are a couple of independently-maintained sites out there that make ebooks available to anyone, and ask that you abide by a ‘lending library’ policy – feel free to read any book in the collection, but please return (delete the .lit file) when you are done. As I can always re-download if I want to re-read, I abide by this practice, and feel very justified in it. As long as the honor system is followed, it’s the exact same as borrowing a friend’s book, as opposed to Xeroxing and binding your own copy.

I think that these libraries are being rather stand-up about this by actually purchasing the Kindles, and that Amazon should STFU on this one. Some money is better than none, and in this case the good in question is simply being lent to others. Of course, Amazon will most likely not play nice, thus encouraging many to say eff them and go pirate the files to keep things simple.

Final thought: Mike, I’m gonna keep pushing on the use of ‘Onerous’ to describe dumb IP laws, so you should just give in, already.

Vidiot (profile) says:


“This is STEALING, plain and simple. These folks that are reading this [HARDCOVER BOOK] are less likely to go out and buy one themselves. The libraries are stealing from [BOOK PUBLISHERS]…”

Errr… ummm… isn’t this what libraries have always done? And am I stealing if I lend my paperback to a friend or neighbor? (That’s the origin of public libraries, you know… we all get together and contribute toward the purchase of a boatload of books.) If the criterion is “… less likely to go out and buy one…”, then lock us up.

Anonymous Coward says:


“Errr… ummm… isn’t this what libraries have always done? And am I stealing if I lend my paperback to a friend or neighbor? (That’s the origin of public libraries, you know… we all get together and contribute toward the purchase of a boatload of books.) If the criterion is “… less likely to go out and buy one…”, then lock us up.”

Oh sorry, forgot to put the [WeirdHarold][/WeirdHarold] tags around it.

LadyGrey says:

Re: you truly are a coward

Congratulations – you’re accusing the people who staunchly defend your First Ammendment rights and provide all possible resources to everyone in accordance with people’s civil rights thieves. You should stay an anonymous coward for your own safety!
Just in case people are interested – this has been discussed and settled in most libraries a few years ago when Kindle’s first came out. (I can speak with some authority as a librarian who looked into it at the time for our college library. Amazon made their position clear despite libraries asking them to consider established models that allowed for purchase of the reader and discount for bulk purchase of the books, themselves, for use on the reader or a form of site license that would allow “trading” books for a fixed number of downloads – Amazon refused to entertain the idea.
So, several libraries took matters into their own hands. Some did what was described in an earlier post, and several more purchased the Kindle reader and loaned it out. To help defer the cost of the reader and its maintenance (as well as to circumvent Amazon’s prohibitive policies requiring a single _person_ purchase an e-book – as opposed to an organization), the libraries request individuals who check out the Kindle add one item to the collection it contains. Thus serving the library’s purpose of collection development and materials stewards. The final group of libraries decided that enough was enough from Amazon, since they ALSO have MAJOR issues with charging a purchase order properly, despite accepting them as a form of payment. Those libraries don’t order much of anything through Amazon anymore – it’s just not worth the headaches!
Hope that helps illuminate the point. And, anonymous coward who thinks that libraries are stealing – remember – libraries and librarians are some of the few people/organizations that would go to jail to protect your right to disagree and express it!
Yours in freedom,

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Libraries were started when books were HARD to copy, Pree Printing press (and even after the first few came out) you were lucky to have 1 Bible in a given town that wasent hand copyed. Thus the library model is based on this. Up till 20 years ago or so books were hard to come by, a centeral place that hold, hands out, and takes back in books is a good thing.

In fact, in the story there doing what thay aways did, buying a book, (this time its digital) and only leting that book go to one person at a time, if thay were to buy 100 copys of that book then 100 people could read it at the same time.

In fact there still making people have a social experance, you have to go get the book reader and bring it back when your done. Just because the cost of each copy is 0 does not mean the cost of writing the book was 0 and in fact the author is geting paid for each copy that goes out.

Shawn says:


“anonymous coward who thinks that libraries are stealing – remember – libraries and librarians are some of the few people/organizations that would go to jail to protect your right to disagree and express it!”

It was both wonderful and disturbing to see Librarians as the almost sole voices of liberty fighting the early constitution trampling of the Bush Administration. Who knew such a quiet and unassuming profession was full of such freedom fighters . . . thanks guys!

MadCow234 says:

Revenue sharing?

What I don’t understand is how much money Amazon really gets from the sale of an e-book anyway. Doesn’t most of the money go to the author and the publishing company? Or am I wrong here and does Amazon get some kind of ludicrous 30% revenue sharing like Apple gets? Apple makes a little more sense taking such a large percentage because it is condensing what would be a HUGE, ridiculous expanse of applications over the internet (like how mobile apps used to be purchased before the iPhone app store, and everyone following Apple’s lead, and how WinMo phones still work until WinMo 6.5) and allowing developers the opportunity to get their work out to every single person that has an iPhone or iTouch…but with Amazon, aren’t they just reselling a book that someone else has written and then yet someone else has typed up? Or does Amazon do the transcribing themselves and that’s why they get paid per e-book? In which case, if they are doing the transcribing themselves, I can understand how they consider this to be a loss of revenue…that being said, does Amazon really want to stifle the ability for Americans to learn? Don’t we need a huge company like Amazon to agree to disagree with public libraries and take the profit loss while allowing the public to further knowledge and enlightenment. It’s kind of sad to me that a company as huge and rich as Amazon may take legal action against the advancement of our own society.

A Kindle Owner says:

What's to stop a library patron. . .

What is to stop a library patron from buying hundreds of books and adding them to the Kindle. My Kindle makes it VERY easy to buy a book. One Click and the book is on the machine. My credit card is charged in less than a minute, too. Just let a few patrons take advantage of the library and they will stop lending out the machines.

MattP says:

Re: What's to stop a library patron. . .

So somebody’s buying books from Amazon; adding them to a machine purchased from Amazon, and this is a problem?

What if I buy a book and donate it to the library? Is this a problem? Not exactly the same; I know, due to the whole finite/infinite goods distinction, but if you can buy the kindle version on Amazon you can find it in the wild.

If anything, Amazon should be embracing this idea as it gets the unit into the hands of consumers that may not want to drop several hundred dollars on something they may not like. If the experience is positive then they have the potential of increasing sales.

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