When Amazon launched its lending library on November 3, the collection had only 5000 titles. But the collection has grown exponentially since then, as the Public Libraries blog points out, with 66,037 titles available the morning of December 28.
Some of this growth is undoubtedly because Amazon decided on December 8 to expand the collection beyond titles from established publishing houses and also to include works from self-published authors, but the size of the collection and the speed with which it has grown is, nevertheless, impressive. Amazon says on its website that the library also contains “more than 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers.”
The Columbus Metropolitan Library in Ohio has a very active ebook program under the direction of Robin Nesbitt, but its collection is dwarfed by what Amazon is offering: A search of the Columbus catalog this morning for “all ebooks” returned 17,077 titles.
The Amazon library, of course, is limited to Kindle owners and subscribers to Amazon Prime, the company’s fast shipping and video streaming service, which costs $79 a year. Kieth Fiels, the executive director of the American Library Association, has pointed out that $79 is $40 more than the average per capita library support (based on 2009 figures).
An Amazon customer can borrow one book a month, with no due date, and any notes or highlights are saved even after the book is returned in case the book is later re-borrowed or purchased. When a new book is borrowed, the previously borrowed title disappears from the device.
Amazon’s program has stirred strong opposition from some authors and publishers who question whether their works have been legitimately included in the library. The Big Six — Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin, Random House and Simon & Schuster — have all refused to join the lending library.
“Amazon is embarking on new initiatives that could put file security at risk and that would be not good for anyone,” Penguin Chief Executive John Makinson told the Reuters Global Media Summit earlier this month, speaking about the lending library. Penguin recently also cited security concerns as the reason for its decision to reconsider the loaning of ebooks through OverDrive’s Kindle lending program.