Our Kindle ILL Model

Our Interlibrary Loan Office was recently approved to officially start a pilot loaning Amazon Kindles to our university faculty.


We looked at the number of requests facutly requests which we had to cancel, either because they were too new or too popular (no other library would lend them). We found that about 10% of these requests could have been filled by purchasing a Kindle Book. Why not try to fill these in a faster, and often, cheaper way?

An interesting sidenote: almost half of the requests we could have filled through the Kindle Store were scholarly monographs.


So far we are limiting the service to faculty only but this is just to keep the demand down. If it takes off we will buy more devices and open it up to other university populations (staff, grad students, etc).

Basic Checkout and Checkin

The ILL staff search for any book that is a popular title or too new to see if Amazon has a Kindle version. If so, the item is purchased, uploaded to a device, the device is then deregistered (this prevents users from purchasing on our Amazon account) and delivered along with a charger through our faculty delivery service to the patron.

Upon return, the device is emptied of all titles (except for the Kindle user guide), reregistered to our ILL Amazon account, and plugged into a charger, to await the next request.

So far this has worked ok. We are excited to provide a new service which will hopefully fill a need and prevent over-lending and borrowing of popular/too new titles, as well as (eventually) saving money.

— UPDATE 6/16/09 —

Since Amazon has continued to deny any written agreement with us, we have decided to discontinued our (brief) pilot. I hope to update further in the future.


15 Responses to Our Kindle ILL Model

  1. […] Library Loans Kindles to Faculty…06.05.09 5 06 2009 Gerrit van Dyk of Shaping Libraries shared the following […]

  2. […] A bit more about the program via the Gerrit van Dyk’s Shaping Libraries blog. […]

  3. […] A bit more about the program via the Gerrit van Dyk’s Shaping Libraries blog. […]

  4. Paul R Pival says:

    Unfamiliar with what happens to purchased titles (Kindle not available in Canada). I assume if someone requests the same book a few weeks later you’ll be able to re-download to any of your Kindles to “re-loan”? So are you in effect building a virtual library for distribution on the Kindle? Neat! Too bad it’s locked in to that specific device – it would be even neater if you could allow users to read on the device of their choice, but great first step – way to push the envelope!

    • Gerrit says:


      You are right about the limitations to a certain platform. Much of the decision to proceed came out of the new app for the iPhone. We felt that this was a first step in the open device direction, particularly considering the popularity of the iPhone. It is my hope that eventually Amazon will adopt a similar app model for future eReader generations (of course, the other devices would need to be okay with this).

      You are correct about the acquisitions aspect also. Essentially we are building a secondary library for our institution; one that takes no space and is easily managed. If we choose to go full circ and not just ILL support, we will likely need to add some indicator in our library catalog of our “new” holdings via Amazon. All this is just my personal speculation of the future. Very exciting times!


  5. Free and good: Screencastle and Greenshot (and Jing too)…

  6. Heather Brown says:

    If you haven’t already talked with them, my colleagues at another library in our system have been doing this for well over a year http://library.unomaha.edu/

    • Gerrit says:

      Thanks Heather. Yes, I have been in contact with Joyce for a while now. She has been very helpful.

      We never wanted to give the impression that we were the first to do this!

      We certainly are not. Joyce and other librarians around the country have all been a great help in trying to work out our system.

      I hope more libraries will be open about this new opportunity in the future!

  7. […] Van Dyk of BYU Library also talks about it at his blog, Shaping Libraries. They were only lending it out to faculty. They had verbal confirmation of sorts. However, they […]

    • Gerrit says:

      The pingback from ireaderreview is a fantastic list of other libraries lending the Kindle. We always knew there were others out there (like UNO) but I had no idea who. Thanks for the link!

  8. wayne martin says:

    The Sony PRS 500/700 devices offer a viable alternative to e-book readers. While the Kindle is designed for almost effortless wireless downloading of books from Amazon Central (in a Kindle format), the Sony offers more formats, and the ability to download “best sellers” and other books from the Sony e-book store, but also any e-book (.rtf, .doc, .pdf, .epub, .lrf, .txt) that you can make for yourself.

    Moreover, Sony has recently obtained support from Google, which has formatted about 500,000 of its previously scanned books into .epub format, which can be easily downloaded from the Sony e-book store.

    The Sony devices offer about 250M of on-board storage, a 2GB SD slot and a 16GB Sony duo-Pro slot. This offers storage for well over 20,000 e-books. The Sony also will play .mp3 files (music or talking books).

    Both the Sony and Kindle have multiple fonts, so that people with vision disabilities might be able to use the expanded font rather than depend on “big print” books.

    How Many e-Books Can A Sony PRS 505 e-Book Reader Hold?

    At some point in time, institutions would be better off looking at trying to negotiate site-licenses for Sony and Amazon titles, and let people buy their own Kindles. The cost of handling them is non-zero. The whole idea of a Kindle/Sony is to distribute information via the WEB all over the world. The Library/Loaner model just isn’t viable against the distributed model that e-book readers are bring to the world.

    A New Generation of E-book Readers:

    • Gerrit says:


      One of the reasons why the Kindle is so appealing is the management. It is very easy to manage your collection of books online and wirelessly send them to a device. You don’t even need the device in hand to do this. Can the Sony support that?

      You mention that it would be better to have licenses where libraries just offer the content to the user on their own device. I completely agree. It would be far more useful if we could send content to the user where ever they are rather than have them come get our devices. However, once again, can the Sony do that? How could a library “send” a title to a Sony Reader remotely? The only other option is to let them authenticate from their home/office and download from the web/their desktop to their device which is an ok second option.

      Difficulty: this will likely cost a fortune. Essentially we would be allowing our users to have full access to content forever. We do this to a certain extent with articles and database subscriptions (the user can download the pdf once they have access to it). Now, it seems like Google’s new project is actually getting around this by not letting the user download the ebook but instead offers access only through the web–so again, can the Sony browse the web at this point? You imply that they can, so that is great.

      Anyhow, I appreciate your info on the Reader. We will definitely try not to be tied down to one platform but Amazon really does make purchasing and managing the titles easy. I imagine that in the future most devices will read a variety of formats and it will not really matter what device you have so users can purchase the reader that they feel most comfortable with (at least, that is what I am hoping for).

  9. […] van Dyk from Shaping Libraries reports that his interlibrary loan office approved pilot program for loaning Amazon Kindles to […]

  10. […] van Dyk from Shaping Libraries reports that his interlibrary loan office approved pilot program for loaning Amazon Kindles to […]

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