Amazon’s bringing free Kindle e-book rentals to Amazon Prime members, but a bunch of restrictions make the service less attractive than it could be.
The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, as it’s officially called, lets Amazon Prime members check out one book at a time in one-month increments. If the member switches to another book when a month is over, the old book disappears from the device. Amazon Prime costs $79 per year, and also includes free two-day shipping on retail items, $3.99 overnight shipping and, as of last February, free streaming movies and TV shows.
Certainly, the addition of e-book rentals makes Amazon Prime an enticing service, but take note of the fine print, as reported by the Wall Street Journal: The service is not available through Kindle apps on non-Amazon devices, so you can’t read lent e-books on iPhones, iPads or Android devices. Amazon hopes the lending service will drive people to its Kindle e-readers and upcoming Kindle Fire tablet.
Also, Amazon’s e-book lending program only includes about 5,000 e-books. Although the rental selection includes more than 100 past and current New York Times best sellers, the six largest U.S. publishers aren’t participating. As you might expect, they’re afraid an e-book subscription service would cut into book sales and hurt their relationships with other book sellers.
Still, I’m glad someone is pursuing the “Netflix of books” concept. If major publishers some day come around, and if a competitor—say, Barnes & Noble—can bring e-book subscriptions to more devices than its own hardware, this idea could take off.
To access the rentals, select the “Kindle Owners’ Lending Libary” category in the store on a Kindle device, or look for the “borrow for free” option on individual e-book pages.