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Amazon starts offering Kindle e-books via subscription

Amazon.com

Amazon.com is rolling out a new “Kindle Owners’ Lending Library” — a virtual book-borrowing service for its Kindle devices. Not for Kindle apps on other devices, but only for Amazon’s own Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablet.

It’s a no-extra-charge addition to the company’s existing Amazon Prime subscription service, adding digital-book lending to streaming video and free shipping as a benefit of the $79/year subscription.

Amazon says the available library for lending consists of more than 5,000 titles, including more than 100 current and former New York Times bestsellers.

In his traditional note on the Amazon home page, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos touts examples including "Water for Elephants," "Moneyball," "Fast Food Nation," "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and "Kitchen Confidential."

Bottom line, it’s a big move by Amazon in an attempt to give its Kindle devices an edge against Apple’s iPad and Barnes & Nobles’s Nook, and boost Amazon Prime subscriptions at the same time.

Here’s how it works, via the help page for the new service: “One book can be borrowed at a time, and there are no due dates. You can borrow a new book as frequently as once a month, directly on your registered Kindle device, and you will be prompted to return the book that you are currently borrowing.”

In other words, only one book at a time, and only one new book a month.

Sounds pretty good, at least to the ears of a Kindle-owning Amazon Prime subscriber. The major book publishers don’t like the idea as much.

“None of the six largest publishers in the U.S. is participating,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “Several senior publishing executives said recently they were concerned that a digital-lending program of the sort contemplated by Amazon would harm future sales of their older titles or damage ties to other book retailers.”

The announcement follows Amazon’s rollout in September of a U.S. public library lending program for Kindle e-books.

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