One of the legal rights a copyright holder has is the right to control the renting or lending of a work to the public. Copyright in a work is not infringed by lending by an educational establishment, as provided for by s.36(A) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. However, a restriction on lending might be contained in the content purchase agreement, and make any lending a breach of contract (even though it is not an infringement of copyright). A copyright holder also has the right to control the copying and communicating of the work to the public. Each time a work is downloaded and accessed by an individual, this is likely to be deemed ‘copying’ for the purposes of the UK law (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988). Using a copyright work (e.g. copying it) is not an infringement under UK copyright law if it is used fairly and with acknowledgement for the purpose of non-commercial research, private study, criticism or review. However multiple copying, even for educational purposes, does not fall within this fair use definition in the UK unless it is for genuine criticism and review or current affairs reporting, and requires permission which is often granted via licences e.g. the CLA licence.
In addition an FAQ on their website confirms that at the present time Amazon does not have a mechanism for the library style lending of e-books by institutions in the UK to users having their own Kindles, although we understand that this is now an option in the US for some material.
For more detailed information on copyright visit the JISC Legal website at http://www.jisclegal.ac.uk/LegalAreas/CopyrightIPR.aspx