Okay, as someone who writes and reads a lot of science fiction, I have no problem speculating about the future. So if you allow me a few paragraphs to do just that, you can always tell me how wrong you think I am in the comments.

The big news this week is that OverDrive is now offering Amazon Kindle books through its eContent collections. I don’t really use the Kindle as a device, but I’ve got the app on the iPad and my Droid and my iPod Touch. So when a co-worker of mine wrote up some fantastic instructions for how to use the new hotness, I took them for a test drive.

I’ve used OverDrive quite a bit and my experiences usually range from “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THIS DAMN THING?!” to “Well, that was easier than I thought it would be.” Case in point, a few days ago I tried to download an eBook from the service. I used the OverDrive app on the iPad, got the book, checked it out, but then I was not allowed to download the book to the iPad directly. Why? Hell, I don’t know. Something in the licensing said I had to download it to my PC and then sideload it to the iPad.

Then, a couple of days later, I was able to download another book straight to the iPad. Guess which one I’m actually reading?

So I sat down with her instructions, fired up various devices, and ran through them. In the face of other tribulations I’ve experienced, it was almost obscenely easy to download and read a Kindle book through OverDrive. And I not only had it on the iPad but I was able to access it through Kindle Cloud Reader and my phone and iPod apps.

And that’s where OverDrive has a problem. There are a few key truths that make the Amazon/OverDrive partnership sound like a Hollywood marriage, in other words, doomed from the start.

  1. Amazon doesn’t need OverDrive.
  2. Amazon is kind of like Apple. They’re not really into this whole “partnering” thing when it comes to distributing content. When you get something from Apple, there’s no go-between, you’re getting it directly from Apple. The same is true of Kindle content.
  3. It amazes me how many librarians aren’t aware that Amazon.com has Library Services which include cataloguing, processing, and MARC.
  4. Amazon is getting some fantastic media attention from this and that only helps to increase its branding in the eReader world.
  5. Very soon, Amazon will be debuting a new tablet Kindle, with a colour screen and touch interface running a custom Android OS.

So, here’s what I see happening within the next two years. Definitely in the next five. Possibly sooner, but I think two years is a good time frame.

Amazon dissolves its partnership with OverDrive and launches something along the lines of Amazon Kindle for Libraries. Using their Kindle and Kindle apps, you’ll be able to check out Kindle books through your library and then get them directly through Amazon just like you can now, but there will be no OverDrive go between. Amazon will brand it with their own name and it will work directly with your Kindle (or Kindle app enabled device).

Amazon already has the facilities in place to deal with library cataloguing, so getting these Kindle books into an OPAC is no problem. Since Amazon uses BISAC classification anyway, it’s well equipped and positioned to deal with Deweyless facilities.
And finally, given the beating that Amazon has taken in library journals and trade presses for their rumoured “Netflix for Kindle” model. What better way to smooth things over a bit than offering a similar service directly to libraries?

Honestly, Amazon could launch such a service now. There’s nothing stopping them other than a lack of digital infrastructure specifically for the service, but they could tailor their existing services to make do until the other stuff was ready.