Borrowing a Book on the Kindle Fire: Hit and Miss - and Money

Categories: Books

Kindle 1209 2011.jpg
Photo by Olivia Flores Alvarez
Our Kindle Fire is sitting on our desk, taunting us. It's daring us to try to muddle through the complicated maze of borrowing a book. We're no push-overs, we're up to the challenge (gulp!).

There are several ways to borrow a book on Kindle -- from the Kindle Owner's Lending Library, from an Kindle book owners exchange, and from a friend. All those choices are managed by Amazon. There's also the public library; that's managed by Overdrive. Let's start with the Kindle Owner's Lending Library. We went to Amazon's home page and searched for Kindle lending library. It gave us a list of 121 books we could buy. We searched for Kindle Library; we got a list of 146 books we could buy.

Tired of typing on our Kindle's littlescreen, we turned to our PC and entered "How do I borrow books from the Amazon Kindle library?" That sent us to the Kindle Owner's Lending Library. We went through the first few steps but got stuck when the the instructions told us to click on a button that wasn't appearing on our Kindle. A help button took us to a page where we could ask for an Amazon support rep to call us. We entered our phone number (twice, because of the Kindle's unresponsive keyboard) and within a few seconds our phone rang. Cool. Uh, kinda. It was a recorded message asking us to stay on the line for a real person.

A very nice woman came on the line after another minute and talked me through the process. After explaining that we weren't seeing the same screens and buttons she was seeing, she said, "Oh, are you actually on your Kindle? (long pause) That makes it more interesting, I can walk you through this on your PC, but on the Kindle, hmmm. Let me see."

It took us 10 minutes and 46 seconds, from the time we said "Hello," and the time we were able to borrow a book. By the way, there is no actual Kindle Owners Lending Library page -- at least not one the representative could help me find. There's a page with a lot of books that are available free of charge to Prime Members (a $79 a year annual fee), mixed in with books that aren't available for lending. The page we found had a total of 26 offerings -- not the thousands and thousands of books Amazon touts.

Prime members can borrow one book a month, a whopping 12 books a year! Woo hoo! Oh, no, wait - that sucks!

Next we went to ebook Exchange. This was much easier to manage than Amazon, but after we registered and selected our book, we saw there was a price tag attached to the form. (Back to that in a second.) After selecting our book, we got an e-mail saying Amazon would handle the whole process once we were approved.

Now, back to that borrowing fee -- it's a suggested donation. Turns out you don't have to actually pay anything if you don't want to, but it's suggested.

We had the creepy feeling that if we worked up a reputation for borrowing and not paying, we might be bumped to the bottom of the requests list. There's an explanation for how lending decisions are made in the case of multiple requests for one book; it doesn't specifically say a history of no payment will impair your ability to borrow, just a reference as to "the member's ranking in the community." There's also a note that says the site's founder has agreed to take a $1 a month salary for the 2011. Ah, 2011 is about to be over, right? What's the salary going to be in 2012?

To be fair, there's a note about 100 percent of the profits from ebook Exchange going to "charities focused on childrens' literacy and fostering a love of reading as an education multiplier." We couldn't help but notice that none of the charities were mentioned or that ebook Exchange isn't a non-profit.


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8 comments
amazon kindle coupon
amazon kindle coupon

You just need to get the hang of it. Kindle maybe kind of annoying the first time but it really helps a lot.

Olivia Flores Alvarez
Olivia Flores Alvarez

Thanks for your comments. I'm glad to hear someone is finding the Kindle Fire easy to use. Believe me, I want to like the Kindle. I was looking forward to getting mine for weeks before the release date. Maybe with the upcoming updates, the kinks will be worked out. 

 

Sunyoung Park Williams
Sunyoung Park Williams

Sorry to hear you had this experience. I think both representatives did you a disservice. I got my Kindle Fire a few weeks ago. I can't say that it hasn't been without problems, but I've had great luck using it to check out library books, from the Amazon Kindle Library, the Harris County Public Library, and Houston Public Library. I happen to have a Amazon Prime membership, so maybe that's why it was easier for me to borrow from the Kindle Library. For Houston Public Library and the Harris County Public Library, it's much easier to use the advanced search, where you can mark the check box that says "Only show titles with copies available" (and select Kindle Book as the format) to find all ebooks available for the Kindle currently. I've found that there are quite a good number of titles available to download. The bestsellers have long waiting lists, but that's fairly typical for any popular book from a public library system. Once you choose your book, you can add it to your cart and check out. Then the website will prompt you to choose the library system (for HPL)  or direct you to sign in with Amazon and you can wirelessly send it to your Kindle Fire to read. It's a number of steps more than what it probably should be to be more user-friendly, but I think it's not too bad. I hope this helps?

Olivia Flores Alvarez
Olivia Flores Alvarez

Yep, it looks like we get what we pay for when it comes to Kindle Fire content. 

To add to our disillusionment with the Kindle Fire, updates have already been announced. It sounds as if the Fire was pushed to market in time for the Christmas season, even though that meant leaving a few kinks unresolved. 

Vincent Aurelio
Vincent Aurelio

The Kindle is still pretty new to the e-book borrowing game, but even for the other readers that have been supported by the library via Overdrive, the selection is hit-and miss, and waiting times are a drag. Free is hard to get unless you're really into the classics.

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