CHICAGO (STMW) – Smile Kindle users. You can now check out electronic books from the Chicago Public Library.

Kindle-friendly “e-books” became available Tuesday at thousands of libraries across the country. Readers in Chicago quickly began checking them out by clicking a link on the library’s website that requires a library card number and zip code to download a book.

“It’s really cool!” said library spokesman Ruth Lednicer. “Readers never have to leave their homes. They’ll have three weeks to read the book before it electronically returns itself to the library — there are no late fees.”

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E-books have been available to users of other electronic reading devices, such as the Barnes & Noble Nook or the Sony Reader, for several years. But Amazon, which makes the Kindle and has been very proprietary with it’s product, “just realized they were missing a big piece of the market,” said Lednicer. “It had been a stumbling block for us because the Kindle seems to be the most popular e-reader.”

Kindle users can choose from 3,536 different titles, a list that’s set to expand — saving readers the ten to thirteen bucks it would cost to buy each e-book themselves.

The book “The Help” has been popular,” said Lednicer, who noted the library pays licensing fees for each electronic copy of the book. “We have 44 licenses for “The Help” — meaning there are 44 copies on our electronic shelf,” she said. Waiting lists are growing.

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