The eBook lending service Overdrive has been distributing digital content via the web for over a decade now, and has gathered an enormous arsenal of digital content in the form of eBooks, audiobooks, music and video, that amounts to over half a million titles. For years now, it has focussed intently on the eBook arena, and offering an old-fashioned library-style approach to lending books in the ePub format – an open and widely adopted format for eBooks – in contrast to the Amazon Kindle‘s proprietary system based on the Mobipocket format. There are many issues with this, namely the debate over DRM restrictions placed on them. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Amazon is now partnering with Overdrive to offer US users, at least, the opportunity to borrow books for a set period of time in the .mobi format for their Kindles.
So what does this mean? Well, the news has arrived and brought with it mixed reactions, with Martin Hoscik, who runs the website ‘eBook Magazine’, being left slightly underwhelmed and unimpressed, claiming “This is a me too move, There is no innovation here. It is like congratulating Channel 5 for broadcasting their pictures in colour when everyone else has been doing it for years.”
It’s a fair point, Overdrive has been offering this same service for many years, for many forms of eReader, so why should this news have any bearing on you at all? Well, the simple fact is: the Kindle is the world’s most popular eReader. It is the best selling item on Amazon.com, and having such a huge userbase will simply mean that users have more, and cheaper access to books. “I am in favour of anything that gives readers an opportunity to read more books via a library system,” said Phil Bradley, vice president of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.
Not only that, the Kindle app is available on iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7, Mac and Windows, so the userbase is not limited to just a single type of reader. The user base is enormous, phenomenal and pretty much unstoppable. The platform is so vast compared to its rivals, that it really is the pinnacle of the industry, and this deal will certainly raise the profile of not only Overdrive, eBook lending as a whole.
The answer you’re all waiting for, though, is whether the system will be coming to the UK. Is this going to be another case of Brits looking on in envy whilst our US friends revel in the magic of the latest tech? Hopefully not, as Overdrive is currently in operation in 33 out of 151 library authorities in the UK, which tells us there is a great amount of interest in the UK market.
The system isn’t perfect, though, as many features of the Kindle can interfere with the service as it is right now. You see, with a Kindle as many of you know, you can make notes within books as well as highlights, and questions have been raised by skeptics of this proposed system, demanding answers on how these will remain private, as the book is returned digitally in an almost identical fashion to how we all used to return physical books to our library, many of us still do.
So, the question is, would you approve and buy into such a service if it were to arrive here in the UK? Or would you still prefer to buy your books for permanent storage on your Kindle account? I know which I’d prefer, but such has been the popularity of library lending in the past, a digital alternative could benefit not only Kindle readers, but establishments such as schools, colleges, and youth clubs, so who am I to reject such a potentially invigorating service for young people?