Amazon launches Netflix-style ebook loaning service for Kindle owners

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Amazon late Wednesday unveiled the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, a Netflix-style service for borrowing ebooks. The new service is another add-on to Amazon’s Prime program, but comes with a few limitations.

As part of Prime membership—a $79 per year service that already includes free two-day shipping, discounted overnight shipping, and access to thousands of streaming movies and television shows—customers now get access to the new Kindle Owners’ Lending Library as well. Eligible customers can “choose from thousands of books to borrow for free,” Amazon says, including more than 100 current and former New York Times bestsellers.

About those limitations: Customers can borrow at most one book per month, and borrowing is limited to Kindle device owners; if you only use an iOS or desktop app to read Kindle books, you won’t be eligible for the service. On the plus side, Kindle device owners who borrow books needn’t feel rushed, because books have no due date—you keep your borrowed title for as long as you want, until you’ve finished reading or are ready to borrow another book.

As with the Kindle library lending service launched earlier this year, you can make notes, highlights, and bookmarks in borrowed books, and all that data remains if you later purchase the ebook. You borrow and return books directly from your Kindle device.

Among the launch titles eligible for lending are Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Big Short and Liars’ Poker by Michael Lewis, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.

Amazon says that for most books, it “has reached agreement with publishers to include titles for a fixed fee,” but that “[i]n some cases, Amazon is purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader under standard wholesale terms as a no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents.”

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