Kindle Book Lending – Some Thoughts

One of the more eagerly awaited Kindle features lately has been book lending.  While lending was announced a while go, of course, it’s only just been turned on.  Guess what?  It works!  There’s still some question, however, as to how much good this is going to do for people in the long run, or the short run for that matter.

The Nook has had its lending feature available pretty much from the start, of course.  A lot of people have held it up for quite some time as a major selling point in favor of the supposed superiority of Barnes & Noble’s offering.  In practice, we’ve not noticed a whole lot of use.  The problem in both cases is the limitation of a single borrower per book purchase even on those books that offer it as an option at all.

Book lending is simply something that lends itself to the physical exchange of materials.  You take something off your shelf, hand it to somebody, and hope to get it back later on time.  Sure, you get added wear and tear that way and the possibility of never getting the book back, but that’s an accepted risk.  The point of this observation is that it is a risk taken on by the owner of the book.  Such loans aren’t considered a slight to the author or a major impediment to the success of book sales, right?  So why is it necessary, I wonder, to prevent such things from taking place in the book market of the future?

Apparently lending is one of the many things undermining the very fabric of the book production industry today.  This current state of publishing in the eBook marketplace provides us with this little bit of paranoia in addition to the already widely “loved” pricing model that puts new releases at a slightly higher price than their physical counterparts on many occasions.

It’s not all bad though.  On the plus side, many people have never really been big book lenders in the first place and may well get everything they need out of this.  Given the wonders of the internet, many people may even get a chance at books they are uncertain about buying.  Successful communities have sprung up for Nook owners allowing for exchanges between complete strangers with similar interests, and those like the GoodReads Kindle Lending Group are already finding uses for this recently activated feature.

You  can’t say this is a bad idea (the popularity of the Nook’s LendMe stuff speaks to that), it’s just not quite there yet.  The technology obviously exists to make sure that a single instance of a digitally purchased book can be restricted to one device at a time, so the first step to a larger system is taken care of.  All we need to wait for is the hopefully inevitable loosening of restrictions on text lending once companies realize how little good it’s doing to keep a tight hold on them.  I like that the feature is there, but until more is done with it, I can’t help but view it as basically a trial run for a much more useful potential Kindle feature further down the line.

5 thoughts on “Kindle Book Lending – Some Thoughts

  1. As an author, I have a problem with unlimited lending. You see, if you have a physical book, your lending is going to be limited to a small amount of people in your physical area. I’m OK with that. But with digital lending, and these Lending Groups online, their is the potential to destroy an author’s sole source of income: sales.

    People will argue that others may find out about your book by lending, and maybe buy more books from the same author (if you’ve written more). But you know as well as I that they’ll first check to see if a book is available for FREE on a Lending site before they’ll buy it. The internet is much bigger than your neighborhood block. This could be devastating to authors, especially independent authors whose only source of income is the book-by-book sale.

  2. Victor,
    I’ll admit that you have a point there, but I think that it would be offset by the simple inclusion of a clause saying a borrower can only be the recipient of a particular book once. While some people will certainly finish a book in their allowed 2 week period and never care to see it again, I doubt that would cover the majority.

  3. I agree with Mathew. When I first heard about the lend option I thought it was a great idea but 14 days for me is too short. I’m not a particularly fast reader and the books I read tend to be lengthy affairs. 14 days wouldn’t cover any of my fictional reading.

    I can see it being of some use for educational reading though.

  4. At the moment we can get a sample. Some samples are so short that one does not get the flavor of the book and so has no idea if he really wants to buy it or not. On the other hand a two week read into a book and then it gets returned, would probably generate more sales than lost sales, especially for indie authors who suffer more from anonymity than anything else. For those authors who feel that repeated lending of a book will destroy their sales have only to figure out how long it would take a two week at a time lend to see that it would be years away doing it more than two weeks at a time. I have had physical books not returned to me and so no longer allow my paper books out of my possession. On the other hand if it were returned automatically at the end of the two weeks, then I wouldn’t hesitate on loaning it out. Of course, if I can loan it only once, then I am going to hang on to that one time loan for that special person, who of course is never going to show up, so this one time loan only is not only no threat to an author, it is of no value to me as a reader either.

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