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Kindle library lending: a peek at a digital future

Kindle library lending: a peek at a digital future

Kindle owners, already drowning in e-books, now have even more options, as the Kindle library lending program kicks off at Baltimore's Enoch Pratt and more than 11,000 other libraries nationwide. It has some interesting features such as allowing readers to leave bookmarks and make margin notes. (This is the place to search for participating libraries and find books.)

The Pratt has been experimenting with e-readers already. For the past three years, patrons have been able to download virtual books onto some e-readers, including the Barnes & Noble Nook and Sony Reader, for the three-week loan period that is standard for hardcovers and paperbacks, the Baltimore Sun reported last month. At some branches, it's also offering more than two dozen Nooks that have been preloaded with 22 fiction and nonfiction best-sellers, classics and children's favorites.

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Such experimentation bodes well for libraries, which must find ways to stay relevant in a world where e-books are increasingly popular. Not everyone can afford an e-reader, so it's important for libraries to provide a technological gateway. Walk into the central branch any afternoon and you'll see dozens of people hunched over desktop computers, usng the Pratt to connect to the Internet. E-reader programs offer simillar advantages. That's a great way to ensure your survival.

Here's how Amazon describes the service, which began Wednesday: Customers will use their local library's website to search for and select a book to borrow. Once they choose a book, customers can choose to "Send to Kindle" and will be redirected to Amazon.com to login to their Amazon.com account and the book will be delivered to the device they select via Wi-Fi, or can be transferred via USB. Customers can check out a Kindle book from their local library and start reading on any generation Kindle device or free Kindle app for Android, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac, BlackBerry or Windows Phone, as well as in their web browser with Kindle Cloud Reader.

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