(edited 1/30: Changed post title with qualifier "most libraries.")
(Screeching brakes) Whoa. Wait a minute. Stepping back from my Kindle krush and putting aside the question of whether or not it's legal for libraries to loan them, I considered the Kindle issue through the eyes of a public library manager who has to make decisions about how to get the most out of a budget. Duh! It's a no brainer. There is no way I could justify deploying Kindles, given the present model. The machine itself is 400 bucks and can hold up to 200 titles. Let's say that the average price of a Kindle title is 10 bucks. That all adds up to almost $2500 tied up in a resource that can only be used by one person at a time. For that much money, I could buy more than 100 titles for check-out, a few reference sets, a year's access to a database, a bunch of cds, audio books, or DVDs, a couple of display units, some comfy furniture, conference registration plus travel and lodging for a couple staff members, a contract with a coffee vendor, honorarium for program speakers....
How does it make any sort of sense for a library to loan out a $2500 resource to be used by one person at a time for 2-4 weeks? That's the equivalent of allowing only one person at a time access to Ancestry online for two weeks. Or to check out the entire World Book set. Those ideas sound outrageous. Because they are. It would demonstrate impeachment-level poor stewardship. Even if the price were to come down drastically, it would still be an irresponsible allocation. Now, if Amazon or someone could come up with an affordable e-reader with the same functionality as Kindle, that patrons would want to buy, along with becoming a vendor of affordable, multi-format ebooks that libraries could offer to patrons for EASY downloading, that'd be something to text home about.
If there are practical reasons why loaning Kindles is a good thing for libraries to do (outside of trying to prove our out-of-the-boxiness), please educate me.