UPDATE: Read the latest instructions for sharing a Kindle book: How to share your Kindle books
How to share e-books among as many readers as possible is a matter of great interest to educators. Right now, there are basically three ways to leverage e-books to increase distribution of titles in schools:
1. Sharing (books among devices on one account)
2. Lending and Borrowing (books among all users)
3. Library Lending (books to patrons of the library)
Sharing E-books among Devices on One Account
When Amazon came out with the Kindle, the company realized that book-buyers would want to be able to load their purchases onto more than one reading device. So the company made it possible for customers to load their purchases onto as many as six devices, in most case, if the devices were registered to the same account. As schools began to implement ereader programs, educators saw the benefit of this policy: if a school purchases six or more Kindle, every book they buy can be distributed to six devices, effectively cutting the cost of an already lower-priced e-book by a factor of six. It is like buying six copies for the price of one. And with a little extra management, this “sharing” of books among devices registered to the same account has worked well. Here is how it works for the three major booksellers:
- Amazon Kindle: You can download up to six copies of each book to different platforms.
- Nook/Nook Color: You can download each book within devices on an account, limit six.
- iBooks: You can share among i-devices registered to the same iTunes account. (More info here…)
But…once you have shared the maximum number of times, sharing e-books stops (at least for Kindle and Nook). This means that once you have assigned the book to the allowed number of devices, those devices “own” those books and they cannot be pulled back into the archive and assigned to other devices. If they could, each book could be downloaded to different devices infinitely, which is clearly not what the publishers want.
Lending E-Books to Someone Not on the Same Account
When the Nook came out, the LendMe feature, which allows anyone to “lend” or share e-books they own to another Nook owner, was unique, but now Amazon has finally matched the feature for Kindle. Lending an e-book means allowing another reader with the same type of ereader to read a book in your library for two weeks.
But there are rather strict limits to this feature:
- You can only lend or share e-books once, period.
- You can only lend for a two week period, period.
- The book is unavailable to you for the two week lending period, period.
- Not every e-book is lendable—publishers decide. Period.
Still, this means that an e-book you purchase behaves just a little bit more like a print copy of a book. Heck, half of the books we lend our friends never come back at all! But consult the purchase details about each book you buy to see if it qualifies for lending. Surveys show that only about half of the e-books you can purchase qualify for lending/borrowing.
So how can I find a book to borrow?
A small cottage industry has sprung up in matching lenders with borrowers. Services to link the two over the Internet began when Barnes and Noble introduced the feature over a year ago, and has gained momentum now that Amazon has joined the party. Here are just a few:
You can read a brief description of each of these services (and more) by clicking here.
Library Lending of E-Books
Finally, there is regular old-fashioned library lending of e-books. Most e-book library lending is based on devices that support Adobe Digital Editions software, which manages the digital licenses that allow books to be distributed to different users for a specified lending period.
Any computer can install the free Adobe Digital Editions software and borrow books from a lending organization, like your local public library. Often, a service like Overdrive is used to manage the whole process, which supports placing a hold on books that are currently checked out. (E-book lending, like physical book lending, restricts the use of the book to one reader at a time.)
For schools, finding a reader that supports library lending and borrowing could vastly expand the number of books available to your students. Right now, among the popular readers, the following do support this feature:
- Nook and Nook Color
- Sony, all models
- iPad (if you install the Bluefire Reader)
- Others, including Android, may be included soon…
So, those are your choices. As I survey the landscape, it seems to me that these strategies offer differing value to educators, so I have ranked them here for your consideration:
- Lending and Borrowing (books among all users) – value to educators? 4 out of 10
- Sharing (books among devices on one account)– value to educators? 8 out of 10
- Library Lending (books to patrons of the library) – value to educators? 9 out of 10
This informationis the subject of a 30-minute webinar, which you can view by clicking here.