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How to Borrow Library Books on Kindle


Amazon Kindle -- Now working with libraries

The list of free Kindle books just got a lot bigger!

Last week saw an event at our library that left be feeling both exceedingly jolly and curious about the future of libraries. Amazon began allowing library patrons like you and me to check out books from the collection and put them on our Kindles. So today I want to give you a quick primer on how to borrow library books on Kindle.

Then we’ll briefly get into the philosophical side of it.

Not all libraries offer Kindle capability yet

I imagine that they’ll all have to get there eventually, but not yet. Ask your local library. Force them into it. Scream and howl!

My library uses the software Overdrive to handle all of our ebook capabilities. Overdrive seems to be the industry standard, and while it’s not perfect, industry standards can get away with a lot when everything else sucks.

So when I want to check out a library book on my Kindle, I don’t go to the Salt Lake City Public Library catalog. I go to the Overdrive side of the SLCPL site. Here it is.

As you can see, it pretty much just looks like another library catalog. And it is, but everything in here is part of our digital collection, which started out with about 6,000 titles.

Signing in to my library account

My library card number is 2112…just kidding. Your felonious fingers and minds were starting to itch, weren’t they?

Once I’m signed in, I have to find a book I want. I can search by title or by genre, using those tabs over on the left hand side of the screen.

I’m going to search for this example. Let’s pretend we’re sophisticated connoisseurs and look for some Cormac McCarthy. I’m going to search for Child of God.

Now I’m here. You can see that just below the first part of the record there is a Kindle edition available. If you can see the Kindle icon, it means it has Kindle capability. Duh, you might say, but you aren’t the one fielding these questions at the library. “Duh” is a luxury I’m not allowed at work.

Add to overdrive book cart

That’s what I click on next. It’s in green letters to the right of the Kindle icon.

Proceed to checkout

If I’m done putting books in my cart right now I click on Proceed to checkout, which is buried in green letters at the bottom of the next screen.

Get for Kindle

On the next screen, click on “proceed to checkout.” I will wind up at a screen that shows the cover of the book and the words “Get for Kindle.” Then we are whisked away into Amazon’s site.

Sign in to your Amazon account

If you have ever bought something off of Amazon, you have an Amazon account. If you haven’t, it’s pretty simple. Just follow the prompts.

The next prompt in my case is a big yellow button on the right side of the Amazon screen–I’m on the Amazon page for the title of the book I checked out.

Get for library

The button I want says “Get for Library.”

Below that button is a dropdown menu where you can select which device you want to deliver it to. In my case, the first option, and the only one I’m interested in, is “Josh’s Kindle.”

Then you are taken to a screen where you have two options for downloading your book. I’ve tried one of them.

Download options

You can follow the prompt to transfer to your device via USB or if you want to do it wirelessly. I haven’t tried the USB option, but here is how the wireless option works.

At this point the book has actually been delivered to my Kindle. I was a work when I tried this, however, so I had to call home and ask Janette to see if the book was on the device. It wasn’t yet. The Amazon screen states that “The next time you connect to wireless, your book will download.”

I didn’t see that the first time I tried, so I choose to go into the manage my Kindle link on the same page with the other download options.

From Manage my Kindle, it was as simple as navigating to my Kindle library and finding the title I had checked out.


If you have ever been in that screen, you know that it shows all of the actions you can apply to any given title in your library. For instance, if you know how to lend a Kindle book, one of the actions makes this possible.

For my checkout, all I did was select “Deliver to Josh’s Kindle.”

I called Janette, asked her to turn on wireless on the device, and the book was there. Pretty cool.

Checkout periods

For some reason, Overdrive does not allow you to return books early. Or if you accidentally check one out that you didn’t want.

Your only leeway here is to determine the amount of time that the book will check out for. I was given the option of 7, 14, and 21 day checkout periods. After that, I’m assuming the books evaporate and go back into the system.

Placing holds

The books can also be placed on request, just like hard copies. Some people have the idea that because it’s digital there are infinite copies. Not so. If we have one digital copy of Blood Meridian, and I have it checked out (I do!), then nobody else can have it until my return period is up.

But you could get in line for it, not that many people besides me are cool enough to want it on their Kindle.

What does this mean for libraries?

I know lots of people who think this is the end of the public library as an actual place. Maybe it is? I don’t know and I don’t particularly care.

I think libraries will always exist as a concept, whatever they eventually look like.

I do know this, if I could get any book I wanted on Kindle, for free, I have no idea what would get me to set foot in the library again…besides my 40 hours a week, of course. There are probably programs I would go to, but think about this…a library that needs to rely on programs in order to get people in, because it’s no longer that place with all the paper books, is a different sort of animal.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Just something different.

I hope your libraries have this option. I really do. It made my week. Now that the Kindle is my preferred way to read, I could not be happier about this development.


Also, if you’re on the fence about buying a Kindle, they’re getting more affordable all the time. And now you may not have to buy a bunch of books just to read what’s new!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Heather September 28, 2011, 12:08 pm


  • Casey September 28, 2011, 4:57 pm

    Maybe this is wrong of me to say, but using Overdrive with my Nook is far more simple… I don’t have to deal with Amazon at all.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 28, 2011, 5:07 pm

      You’re right, you’re way out of line! Come up to SLC and say it to my face.

  • Casey September 28, 2011, 5:20 pm

    Oh, ok… I’ve got to go to the airport on friday to pick up my brother! Never been to the Salt Lake library, just my run down little Ogden one. (Probably half the reason I transitioned to ebooks)

    At least we can both agree that ereaders are awesome! I’ll be honest and admit the Kindle Fire is WWWWAAAAYYYYY better than the Nook Color.