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Amazon.com recently launched its Kindle library-lending service in the United States. Millions of users of the Kindle reader and app can now borrow Kindle books from their local public library. The company is working with OverDrive, a leading supplier of e-books and other digital content to libraries. The service will be available through the websites of more than eleven thousand local libraries across the country. Users of other devices including the Barnes and Noble Nook and Sony Reader have already been able to borrow library books. Experts say Amazon’s entry is likely to reopen a debate between publishers and libraries over e-book lending. Bill Rosenblatt is president of Giant Steps Media Technology Strategies, a consulting company. He says “Publishers and libraries are enemies that occur in nature like snakes and mongeese. Libraries would like to be able to make books available to everyone, all the time, with no limitations. And publishers, of course, would like to sell more books to the public.” Mr. Rosenblatt says the debate in the United States centers on what is known as the law of first sale. “Once you buy any kind of media product such as a book or a CD or a DVD or anything like that, you can do whatever you want with it. You can read it, you can give it away, you can lend it, you can resell it, you can burn it, you can use it as a Frisbee — whatever you want.” This law of first sale is what permits libraries to lend books over and over again without having to pay publishers each time. But it does not include digital products. Technology known as digital rights management can make e-books unreadable once they have reached a certain time or user limit. Bill Rosenblatt points out that one of the major publishers made an announcement several months ago. Harper Collins said it was only going to allow e-books to be lent out twenty-six times, and then they would have to be purchased by the libraries again. HarperCollins says it took the action to protect the growing e-book industry and its own book sales. But Bill Rosenblatt says critics did not see it that way. They think “because a digital book lasts forever, as long as it’s stored somewhere in digital form, that it should be lendable forever.” He says the debate over e-book lending will likely end up in court. For VOA Special English, I’m Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 26Sep2011)


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