Can You Read Library E-books on the Kindle?

Updated March 23, 2017

E-book readers, like the Amazon Kindle, have exploded in the last four years. Today, many retailers offer e-books in addition to their hardback and paperback editions. Even libraries have climbed on the bandwagon, and you can borrow e-books through your library's Website. However, the Kindle stands apart from many other readers in that you cannot borrow library e-books and read them on the Kindle. This is mainly due to Amazon maintaining its own proprietary standard. However, with a new feature from Amazon, individuals can borrow and lend Kindle e-books.

Kindle Standard

Amazon Kindle e-books are in the .azw format, a proprietary ebook format based on one of the first e-book standards, Mobipocket. Amazon bought its developer and used its standard for the Kindle. The .azw format is proprietary for the Kindle, meaning no other readers can use it. However, other readers can use versions of mobipocket (files saved as .prc or .mobi). Other readers use the ePub format, which is the industry standard format.

Digital Rights Management and Library e-Books

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a form of encryption attached to CDs, DVDs and e-books to prevent unauthorised copying. The Kindle has its own form of DRM, as do the other e-book readers. Public libraries typically distribute e-books as PDF files with DRM that is incompatible with the Kindle. So, while the Kindle can read unprotected PDFs, it cannot read most PDFs distributed by libraries. Other e-book readers do not have this limitation.

Lending Kindle Books

Amazon will let you lend one of your purchased Kindle books to another Kindle owner for up to 14 days. While your e-book is borrowed, you cannot read it yourself. However, you can read it again when your friend returns it.

To lend an Amazon Kindle book, go to your Kindle library under your "Manage Your Kindle" page and click on one of your books.

Click the "+" next to a book. If you see a "Loan This Book" button next to the book's cover, you can lend it.

Click the "Loan this book" button. A form opens.

Enter the "Recipient E-Mail Address," "Recipient Name," your name in the "From" field and any "Personal Message" you want to write.

Click the "Send Now" button. Your friend will receive an e-mail notifying him of the lent book.

Lending Clubs

Since Amazon enabled lending, sites like Booklending have set up a clearinghouse of Kindle e-book borrowers and lenders. On Booklending, you set up an account where you list the books you have to lend and what books you want to borrow. When another readers offer a book you want to borrow, the site tells her to lend it to you through Amazon. You get the email from Amazon telling you that someone lent you a book. If the site matches you with a user who wants to borrow one of your books, you get a message with this user's e-mail address, and you lend her the book through Amazon. The service is also available for other e-book reading devices and PC e-book reader programs.

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About the Author

Andrew McClain has been writing since 1994. He has written several articles for various websites and writes user guides and software manuals for several freelance clients. He has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Missouri.