How to Borrow Library Books on Your Kindle

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Great news for Amazon Kindle owners. E-book downloads are now available from over 11,000 libraries around the country. Borrowed books sport many of the same features that come along with books purchased from Amazon—synching, notes, highlights—but the books must be found via your local library’s website, not through Amazon’s e-book store.

Amazon’s simple instructions: “To start checking out Kindle library books, visit your local library’s website.” Great idea, except some library websites aren’t exactly case studies in interface design. I, myself, popped over to the Boston Public Library website to see what was available and couldn’t find any mention whatsoever of Kindle books at first glance.

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So I searched for “Kindle” in the search box. Again, nothing. Then I hovered over “bpl catalogs” in the navigation bar and chose “Electronic Books.” Getting warmer! Under the “eBooks” section, we’ve got six different e-book catalogs. I remember Amazon mentioning that it uses the OverDrive system for book lending, which I found as one of the six catalog choices.

If you’re looking for e-books to load up on your Kindle, a far easier step is to just go to the OverDrive website and enter your zip code right there on the main page. Then choose your closest library and it’ll kick you off to your branch’s respective OverDrive catalog where you can start borrowing.

My branch currently shows 5,364 titles available for borrowing, though the number of available copies for each book is limited. Another tip: If you know the exact title of your book, put it in quotes when using OverDrive’s search box. My test search for “Eat, Pray, Love” without quotes turned up 132 books. Using quotes, I got just the one actual book.

Unsurprisingly, you’ll also have to have a library card number, so check with your branch to see if you can sign up for one online. Kindle books can then generally be borrowed for 14 days. Find the one you want, input your library card number, and you’ll be whisked off to Amazon’s site where you can have the book sent to your Kindle via Wi-Fi or transferred via the USB cable. That’s not great for those of use with first- or second-generation 3G Kindles that don’t have Wi-Fi chipsets in them (“Library books will not be delivered via your Kindle’s 3G connection,” says Amazon) but, hey, free books, right?

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