Librarians around Newburyport were buzzing with excitement last month when news broke that Amazon.com announced that owners of its e-book reader, the Kindle, will be able to download e-books from 11,000 libraries across the country starting this fall.
In an age when the relevance of public libraries is constantly questioned by cash-strapped taxpayers, just the thought of increasing circulation by tapping into the millions of Kindle users has librarians gushing.
Amazon's announcement comes at a time when many of its competitors — smartphone users, those with iPads, along with the Barnes & Noble Nook and the Sony Reader — already allow those who purchase its e-readers the ability to borrow from public libraries.
But starting this fall, Kindle owners will be able to start downloading through OverDrive, the platform that runs e-book systems for public libraries so that books are compatible with the Kindle.
Amazon has not revealed how many Kindles it has sold since its release, but executives have used the term millions in press releases, and reports in various blogs and news stories have the figure ranging from 5.5 to 8 million as of this January.
With the potential of millions of readers soon being able to access free books at public libraries across the country, librarians are readying themselves for what may be a sea change in terms of how patrons access available material.
But ask a Greater Newburyport librarian whether it will be a game-changer or not, and opinions vary.
Amesbury Public Library director Patty DiTullio agreed there has been a lot of buzz about Amazon's news, but said if there's an impact, it will be a gradual one.
"(It) won't transform the way we do business overnight," DiTullio said.
A potential roadblock is that OverDrive requires multiple steps, and patron feedback suggests the interface can be challenging, DiTullio said.