While I love my Amazon Kindle, one thing that’s always bugged me about it is that you can’t borrow library ebooks on it, as you can with other ereaders like the Kobo and Sony Reader. So I was excited when, a few months ago, Amazon announced that it was planning to offer public library book lending on the Kindle in the near future in partnership with Overdrive.
Overdrive is the same company that offers ebook lending on the Kobo and Sony Reader at many Canadian libraries — including in Vancouver — so I was hoping that meant library lending would be coming to Canadian Kindle users too.
Unfortunately, when Amazon and Overdrive formally launched the library lending service late last month, it came with one big caveat: the service would only be available through U.S. public libraries. Not Canada. Not Australia. Not the UK.
OK, I thought, Amazon is a U.S. company so it makes sense that it would launch in the U.S. first. But surely a Canadian service is just around the corner, right?
I emailed both Amazon and Overdrive about when they planned to offer library lending for Canadian Kindle users and the response was not encouraging.
Here’s Stephanie Mantello from Amazon:
” Customers can now borrow Kindle books from more than 11,000 local libraries in the United States. Unfortunately, I can’t speculate on what we may or may not do in the future “
And here’s David Burleigh from Ovedrive:
” At this time, Amazon and OverDrive have announced the compatibility of Kindle with library eBooks only in the U.S. Unfortunately, there is no news to announce at this time regarding other countries ”
I’m sorry I can’t be of more help at this time.
No “we’re working on it”. No “we value our Canadian Kindle users and hope to announce something soon”. Just a simple no comment — which, to my mind, suggests library lending isn’t in the cards for non-U.S. Kindle users anytime soon.
Unfortunately, the lack of library lending for Kindle users in Canada is part of a worrying trend.
As I’ve written before, the Kindle’s ebook selection is significantly worse in Canada than it is in the U.S. — including, in some cases, popular ebooks disappearing from the store altogether after a few weeks. And it clearly isn’t a problem with Canadian publishers, as many titles that aren’t available in Canada on the Kindle are available on the Kobo.
And there are other ways in which Amazon snubs its Canadian customers.
The ability to lend someone your ebooks on Kindle for a couple of weeks is available only to Kindle users in the U.S. And while Amazon announced a whole new line of Kindles last week, the two best ones — the Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire — are available to U.S. customers only.
Canadians only have the choice of the original Kindle 3 (now called the “Kindle Keyboard”) or the cheapest, most basic Kindle which reminds me of the original, lame one-button Kobo.
As Paid Content has argued, Amazon really isn’t a global company in the same way Apple — which makes its iPad available in 64 countries — is. Amazon appears to build its devices and services for a U.S. market first and foremost, with the rest of the world just an afterthought.
This raises some important questions for those shopping for an ebook reader. I still believe that, as a device, the Amazon Kindle remains the best ebook reader out there, better than the sometimes-buggy Kobo Touch. But ereaders are part of an entire ecosystem that includes things like overall ebook selection and library lending.
And, increasingly, at least in Canada, Kobo’s ecosystem beats the Kindle’s hands down. As a result, if someone were to ask me today whether they should buy a Kobo or a Kindle, I’m not sure which I’d recommend.