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Kindle books now ready for borrowing from public libraries

Some 11,000 libraries add Kindle e-books to electronic collections

Users of the Kindle e-reader and Amazon's e-reading app for other devices can now borrow e-books from more than 11,000 U.S. libraries, the online retailer said Wednesday.

Barnes and Noble Nook and Sony e-readers have allowed open e-book library borrowing, a missing Kindle feature that has concerned some librarians.

A spokeswoman for Amazon.com said in an email that about 11,000 libraries will offer Kindle versions of all of their e-books that use OverDrive technology. The number of e-books available varies at different libraries, she noted.

She also said that e-books will be delivered to users via Wi-Fi or USB technology, making Kindle the only e-reader to offer wireless delivery of library e-books.

Amazon.com is also offering other unique features to Kindle book borrowers, including the ability to make margin notes on an e-book. The notes are backed up and available the next time the person checks out the book, or decides to buy it, Amazon.com officials said.

The process for borrowing a Kindle book requires a few steps.

First, a user must go to the e-book Web site of their local library, then select a book to borrow and click on "Send to Kindle." Users are then redirected to Amazon.com to login to an Amazon.com account and the book, after which the book will be delivered via Wi-Fi or USB.

The e-books borrowed from libraries can be read on any Kindle device or on desktop and handheld computers running the Kindle e-reading app, Amazon.com said. The free app can run on many products, including Android devices, Apple's iPhone, Research in Motion's BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows Phone-based offerings.

Amazon.com also supports reading an e-book in a Web browser via Kindle Cloud Reader.

The library borrowing project is a joint effort of Amazon.com and OverDrive, which has long provided scanned books and other printed content to U.S. public libraries and schools.

Many librarians have embraced e-books, despite the concerns of some that the OverDrive approach is too complex. They note that Overdrive requires going online to see if a book available, and then downloading the e-reader software and loading the book on the device.

"It's cumbersome," said Deborah Ervin, head of reference for the Framingham Public Library in an interview in May. The complex process causes many e-readers to buy e-books rather than borrow them, she added.

Still Ervin said she and her library embrace the new technology and have begun replacing some print reference books with e-books.

One library, Massanutten Regional Library in Harrisonburg, Va., on Tuesday debuted e-books that use the using the OverDrive technology.

The library today posted a note on its Web site announcing that e-books for Kindle would be "coming soon."

Massanutten limits e-book users to three titles apiece of mostly popular and recent releases.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen , or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected] .

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