Log onto the Amazon.com website today and you'll find the announcement of a new perk - the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
Kindle eReader users now have the option to tap a button to borrow for free one of "thousands" (5,000 to start) of contemporary books (not public domain titles.) The bunch includes "over 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers" - from "Water for Elephants," "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" and "Fast Food Nation" to the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Guns, Germs and Steel" and motivational titles like "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,"
There are restrictions, though, to this giveaway.
For starters, Kindlers must participate in Amazon Prime - a $79 a year "membership" program that initially offered just free two day shipping on Amazon site purchases, then earlier this year got better with a "free" video streaming service. The latter offers instant access (at no extra charge) to nearly 13,000 movies and TV shows, overlapping a lot with the content offerings found on Netflix, and likewise delivered through computers, select Internet connected TVs and some set top boxes.
You should also know that only one book can be borrowed per month from this high tech Lending Library. But a slow reader can hold onto it indefinitely. And you know how books purchased on a Kindle normally pop up as well, in synchronized fashion, on competitors devices - iPads, Android tablets, smart phones? That cool option doesn't prevail here. The loaners only will land on your primary Kindle, as an inducement to bring new customers to the Amazon family of tablets - including the brand new Touch eReader and soon coming (Nov. 15) multimedia Kindle Fire.
There's one other small caveat. At the moment, none of the six major book publishers in the U.S. are participating in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library offering, acknowledged vp of Kindle content Russell Grandinetti. Guess they didn't like the terms. The "vast majority" of participating publishers will get a flat fee for their titles, he said. A smaller group is being paid the wholesale price for each title being borrowed - as if each loan is a separate sale. As Amazon is now in the self-publishing business too, signing up known authors directly, it will essentially be paying itself in the latter scenario.