3 Things Your Kindle Can’t Do….But Other Ereaders Can

Once again New Zealand libraries are fighting to remain relevant, this time in the provision of ebooks.

We’ve just celebrated the launch of two major ebook lending initiatives and now this has been overshadowed by the sale of Kindle ereaders in New Zealand stores.

Paul Sutherland from Christchurch City Libraries provided a  succinct overview of the dilemma on the PUBSIG listserv last week.

Hi all

Overlooking the issue of the good and evil of DRM and the
relative merits of vendors such as Overdrive, Wheelers etc
many New Zealand libraries have invested in E-books from
Overdrive, and three Public Library consortia are about to
enter into that investment with Overdrive. And many more
will with Wheelers new platform.

Currently these two platforms and others such as the less
Public Library orientated players such as NetLibrary all
have common file formats.

They all offer PDF of ePub - with or with out DRM.

You may know that the Amazon Kindle does not play PDF
- or ePub.

There may be ways to get these onto a Kindle - a quck
google will reveal some tips - but we as Libraries cannot
recommend such measures that may circumvent the DRM layers

Earlier this year Overdrive announced a partnership with
Amazon that would see Overdrive titles usable on Kindle
And the rumour is that this will happen in September -
and possibly coincide with the release of the Harry Potter
franchise into the eBook world

But only in the US - for now! (for probably a long while...)

So why does this matter to us?
Well Dick Smith and Woolworths (in Australia) and Countdown
supermarkets in New Zealand, had announced that as from the
end of August they will be selling Kindle ereaders in
their stores. And now they are here.

So my question is how do we tell our customers - something
like - "Don't buy a Kindle if you want to use the library
 - buy a Kobo, or Sony or an Ipad or an Android."

"Or sorry that you bought a Kindle without asking us
first... It just won't work with the library."

We have some info on our website, directing people to
the Overdrive compatible list.

What have others done - or will do?

Or do we just not worry?


In my view, it’s time to stop being so polite and apologetic. If libraries are to remain relevant and a part of society, we need to aggressively promote our ebook collections. (We need to do lots of other things too, but that’s for another post. :-))

There are enough alternatives in the NZ ereader market to satisfy our reading public. You don’t even need a dedicated ereader to read ebooks. We must help our customers make a decision.

This is a perfect opportunity to tell our customers that you can’t use your Kindle ereader to borrow ebooks from the library because Amazon won’t let it. It’s not the fault of libraries. But if libraries don’t let customers know, then who will? Some Dick Smith salespeople may for the first week, but not all. And after that who will?

Now is not the time to rely on customers finding the ereader guides we have on our websites. We must be visible and we must have a simple message. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Because it may be too late by then.

So here’s a suggestion:

3 things your Kindle can’t do….but other ereaders can

  1. Borrow ebooks from the library
    Your library has a wide selection of ebooks that you can borrow – bestsellers, business, languages, and more. Amazon doesn’t allow your Kindle ereader to download these books, but all other ereaders will work.
  2. Share ebooks with friends and family
    Ebooks from your library can easily be borrowed by friends and family, just like any other book. Amazon doesn’t allow your Kindle ereader to borrow these books, but all other ereaders will work.
  3. Buy and read ebooks from other stores
    Your library doesn’t play favourites. It purchases ebooks from many publishers and checks that they can be read using a variety of ereaders. Unfortunately Amazon doesn’t play so nicely. Amazon won’t let New Zealand libraries buy their ebooks, and they also won’t  allow your Kindle ereader to purchase ebooks from other stores.

Use your Kindle ereader for buying new books, and another ereader to borrow books from the library.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your views in the comments below or via email and please feel free to use the bits that you find useful.

Other articles that may interest you:

A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 7 September 2011.


  1. Bea says:

    I have a kindle and I love it. However, I am very frustrated with Amazon…there are many books we can not download here in New Zealand from the Amazon store….not to mention libraries. I was shocked to see what is available in the States and not here. I love Amazon too…but lately I feel that they really need to be a little more generous with their products. Unfortunately marketing in the USA seems to be for Americans only. I am an American by birth so I do not say this lightly. Wake up Amazon..there are other countries out there with passionate readers …you are losing out on a very good market. I have been turning to my I pad for books that kindle can’t receive.
    The letters on my kindle are no longer visible or working…I was hoping to replace it with a touch…of course Amazon is making this very difficult as well…the international shipping does not include New Zeland so that means I will have to buy locally and pay over $100 more….
    Not to mention that I was charged $5 more for a Donna Leon book from my hotel room in California because I have a nz email address….
    Wake up Amazon!

  2. unclegarf says:

    Interesting debate. Particularly regarding Horowhenua library. I have eleven of my titles going through Wheelers in the next few days and I know Horowhenua are keen to run with some of these. The evolution / revolution with ebooks, particularly with Indie writers, makes this an exciting time. I hope we can get it together regarding compatibility with devices. I have encouraged one or two others to explore the possibility of listing with Wheelers as a means of promotion. Perhaps it is a two way street and will gather its own momentum with Indies becoming keener to develop a relationship with the libraries and vice versa. I think we will look back at 2012 as being a tipping point for ebooks and Indies. All good

  3. James says:

    One of the problems with the ‘other readers’ is arguably the same as for the Kindle in reverse – You can’t read kindle books on the kobo or sony, unless you’re willing to break DRM. And the stores that sell books in Australasia for kobo and sony charge almost exactly the same as for the print versions – Buy one of those, and you’ll make almost no savings whatsoever on book s you buy.

    my personal thought is to get a kindle, and be patient. We can suffice with paper for our library books for a little while, and Amazon -want- to get into the libraries. But the Publishers are trying to hold them to ransom. It won’t work. Give it a year, and Amazon will be bursting into overdrive and libraries in general, and we will all get to live in a wonderful literary utopia!

  4. Kindle NZ says:

    Kindle now can borrow the books from libraly already guys.

    1. That is a spam comment from “Kindle NZ ereadernewzealand.com” who is in the business of trying to sell parallel imported Kindles.
      The Epukapuka library files are not compatible with Kindles at this point.
      The list of compatible devices is here: http://www.overdrive.com/resources/drc/

      1. Sally says:

        That’s right. A Kindle ereader cannot be used (it is not a compatible device) to borrow ebooks from New Zealand libraries at this point.

  5. Greg Scowen says:

    The attitude taken here is extremely short-sited. Thank goodness that at least Tom has given reasonable consideration to the situation.,

    I am an author and a develop working for Switzerland’s largest library and involved in an E-Lending project. I’m also a Kiwi.

    Kindle is by far and away the biggest selling e-reader and puts the other devices to shame in every aspect. Furthermore, it is altogether possible to offer your users e-books in a Kindle format (.mobi) however, your aggregators (Wheelers and Overdrive) are not offering this to you. Amazon is not to blame for this, the publishers are, by stipulating ridiculous licence terms and forcing DRM on the majority of books.

    As an author, it is obvious to me that the Kindle sales of my books far surpass those of all other eBook formats. I am talking in the thousands of percents here. So, should we pushing users away from Kindle when they clearly like the device so much? No, as a library, if you want to offer your readers eBooks in the format they want then you need to do the work to make it happen.
    If you don’t, as Amazon further develops it’s own lending programs, libraries will not be able to compete, will become obselete, and probably deserve to.

    I would suggest you go back to your e-lending vendors and ask them if they can do anything about offering eBooks in a .mobi format or if the publishers are screwing them over on eBooks the same way they are on packages of journals etc.

    As a developer and a user of various e-reader products and having tested over 20 different tablets and eReaders, you couldn’t pay me enough to accept another device over my Kindle3. And with Kindle4 on the way, the future is rosy.

    1. Sally says:

      Hi Greg,

      You raise some excellent points and I agree with all of them. Kindle is the ereader of choice and libraries must work on making these resources available to readers in order to remain relevant. In my view, NZ libraries should be pushing for this to happen on several fronts: through a global body such as IFLA, ebook vendors and publishers.

      The intention of this post was to provide some immediate and practical suggestions for NZ libraries who may be struggling with how to promote their newly acquired ebook collections against the highly publicised launch of the Kindle ereader to New Zealand stores.

      1. Greg Scowen says:

        It is good of you to make the effort, Sally. Unfortunately, it is probably also a losing battle.
        Rather than telling patrons that the eBook collections wont work on Kindle and suggesting they buy something else, I would tell them ‘We are doing everything we can to make our eBooks available on Kindle.’
        Make no promises, but if libraries take a stance like this, eventually publishers will have to play ball. If they don’t, this issue is just going to be another nail in the coffin (that which is being rapidly lowered into a grave’ of traditional publishers.

      2. Sally says:

        Maybe it is another nail in the coffin, but you won’t know unless you try, right? I like your suggestion saying we’re doing everything we can too.

  6. Thanks for the thought provoking post Sally.
    Point 1. I’d say most other readers. There are still e-readers that don’t support Adobe’s DRM that aren’t Kindles. That is changing, as almost all ereaders now do support DRM. Adobe has a regularly updated list of supported devices here http://blogs.adobe.com/digitalpublishing/supported-devices
    Overdrive have their own list of supported devices here:
    Point 2.
    Are you suggesting we share library card numbers with friends and family so they can borrow ebooks? How many fiends and family can I give my library card number to? Can I post it to Facebook? My library doesn’t require a password to borrow ebooks, just library number and last name, if I posted this number to a social network wouldn’t the library mind this?
    Point 3.
    I love the Kindle store and like being able to choose my own books, the library does play favorites in the books they purchase, and through the vendors they go with, who negotiate with only certain publishers. Of course it’s hard to make publishers come to the table. I know of several academic textbooks that can be bought as an individual but the publisher won’t provide them to an ebook vendor. I don’t know what the solution is to this, but it’s a tricky situation for libraries if we can’t get the books people want to read.
    On the fiction side of the coin, I love that I can support independent authors through Kindle, and cutting out the publishing middleman makes these books less then a cup of coffee. These books won’t be on a platform like Overdrive or Wheelers, as the authors are self-publishing through Amazon. For me, that’s a huge Advantage to the Kindle store, and I’d love to see libraries able to lend indie authors ebooks. I think libraries have ceded too much power to ebook vendors who only work with select publishers. But it’s a tricky one. As a librarian, it concerns me as the freedom of choice, among other factors, is so much greater on personal ereaders then in library’s ebook collections that once patrons realize they get to choose what is available to read they won’t go back to the library. Effectively patrons set their own collection development policies, and as ebooks are a lot cheaper then print, the barriers to having any book you want at any time to keep for as long as you want, are falling away. Patron driven acquisition of library ebooks will hopefully change this but Overdrive doesn’t have it (yet), and I don’t know if Wheelers will.

    1. Sally says:

      Hi Tom,
      You’ve raised some great points, I hope I can do them justice in my response. 🙂

      1. Fair point. I wasn’t aware of any other ereaders that won’t work with OverDrive and I must say these are quite difficult to find. Thanks for this lists to devices that OverDrive and Adobe DRM does support. It would be great if there was a list of devices that aren’t supported to make it easier…

      2. I’m not suggesting library cards be shared. I’m suggesting that if you get a great ebook out from the library, your friends can too (with their library card). If you want to lend them your ereader to do that, then you can also do that too (as far as I know – please correct me if this isn’t the case).

      3. Kindle is the undisputed leader in dedicated ereaders if you prefer to purchase ebooks. However if you want to borrow ebooks from the library you’ll need another device. If Amazon allowed NZ libraries to purchase their ebooks; I’m sure we would. And that’s why I made the statement about playing favourites. Often libraries have limited choice in what they can purchase and from whom. It often isn’t the library playing favourites, but the publishers.

      I tool look forward to seeing more public libraries being able to offer patron-driven acquisitions, especially with ebooks.

  7. Ali says:

    I tweeted about this on the weekend Jo and it prompted one of my peeps to wonder whether he should rethink his choice of buying a Kindle. I like your upfront approach on this – we do have to inform people without playing favourites. People just need the info to make an informed choice.

  8. Katherine says:

    This is really interesting. What do public libraries do if their plans to deal in e-books are not firm yet – do they put out a notice as per Horowhenua (which I think is excellent) – and risk raising expectations of e-books being available which may not come to fruition? There are probably a lot of libraries in this position. Having said that, I do think libraries should have information available if at all possible.

    1. Sally says:

      Ebooks are already available in some New Zealand public libraries and will be in many more within the next month so the risk of raising expectations of ebooks being available is pretty low. There are rapid developments occuring in the ebook and ereader industry at the moment and libraries must adapt just as quickly.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Excellent post. Its great that you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks from the library, even if I’m too slow a consumer to get through them in the borrowing period.
    I’m loving my iPad although I’ve been reading the same book on it for several months (Don Quixote). However I’ve used it to listen to several audio books in the same time: plug it into the stereo and listen while you make dinner.

    1. Sally says:

      I’ve just discovered I quite like listening to an audiobook while on the exercycle. Will give it a go during dinner too. Thanks.

      1. Maria says:

        You need to make sure its in PDF, MOBI or PRC format, if they are not, you have to covenrt them, if they are from the library they might have DRM and you might have to use adobe digital editions to use it.

  10. Philip says:

    Thanks for that – I did a pre-emptive strike and was interviewed by the Oamaru Mail, that published it on Monday – and of course this week people started arriving in the library, expressing their disappointment that they can’t access eBooks. We also had an announcement on one of the local stations, warning people about the semi-proprietary Kindle.

    1. Sally says:

      Great work Philip.

      1. Ali says:

        yes great work Philip!

  11. I totally agree!

    I had put the following statement on the front page of our library website but think I might include some of the points you mention above:

    KIndle ereader warning
    Caution: The new Kindle ereaders on sale at DSE and Countdown are not compatible with the ebooks which can be downloaded from many library websites. Horowhenua will be launching ebooks within the month and they will not work with a Kindle. Most other readers will be compatible. Please ask a librarian if you are not sure.

    1. Sally says:

      See what Jo has done at Horowhenua – love it!

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