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E-Book Lending Clubs

Submitted by Tom Peters on February 23, 2011 - 9:30am

As far as I can tell, Barnes & Noble started it all when, as they were preparing to launch their Nook device and service in late 2009 and wanted to differentiate it from Amazon’s existing Kindle service, they decided to allow one legitimate lending of a Nook ebook (the etext, not the device) for a two week period.  Some librarians I spoke with about this Nook lending option scoffed at it.  One opportunity to lend an ebook over the life of your ownership does not seem like much.  I even joked about how this could cause interpersonal distress.  “I thought I was your primary Nook friend.”  Most librarians I spoke with saw little or no relationship between this form of elending and the type of public good, institutional elending that libraries and library users want and need.

Then late in December 2010 Amazon announced a similar arrangement for the lending of Kindle editions.  Amazon offered pretty much the same terms:  one two-week lending period, and the owner cannot read the ebook while it is out on loan to someone else.  Oh, and the rights holders (publisher, author, author’s estate, etc.) get to decide on a per title basis whether or not an etext will be lendable. 

These sound like little baby steps toward a robust lending model for the ereading era, but things are taking off.  When librarians talk about elending models, the assumption – explicit or implicit – is that libraries will do the lending.  In fact, many interesting ebook lending clubs have sprung up, especially since the Kindle lending announcement. 

Here’s a list of eBook Lending Clubs of which I’m aware, listed in alphabetical order.  If you know of others, please comment.

  • BookLending.com:  Up until last week this service was known as KindleLendingClub.com, but I think they received a pointed cease-and-desist letter from Amazon, undoubtedly suitable for framing.   For the moment, only users with U.S. Amazon accounts can lend their Kindle editions, but users everywhere can borrow Kindle editions, unless geographic restrictions apply.   In mid-Feb. The Globe and Mail reported that this service had 12,000 registered users and approximately 600 circulations per day.   (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/books/the-rise-of-the-e-book-lending-library-and-the-death-of-e-book-pirating/article1912797/
  • Booklends.com:  This service is still in private beta. 
  • BooksForMyKindle.com:  They may be getting a friendly cease and desist letter soon, too.  Registration is free.  You have to list one of your Kindle editions as available for lending before you can borrow someone else’s.    They have a rating system for book lenders, which includes how many of their Kindle editions have actually been loaned through this service, the lender’s promptness in responding to loan requests, etc. 
  • BooksForNooks.com:  This may be the original of these ebook lending clubs, founded by “…Leonard Sixt, a self-employed technology consultant out of Tampa, Florida.” (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/02/prweb5056694.htm)  He also launched BooksForMyKindle.com.
  • eBookFling.com:  This service is powered by BookSwim, which is a subscription based book delivery system (think Netflix for printed books).  With eBookFling you can toss about both Kindle and Nook editions.  If you lend one of your etexts, you earn credits.  If you want to borrow someone else’s etext, you spend one of your credits.  If you don’t have any credits, you can pay $1.99 to borrow an etext.  EBookFling does not explain how that $1.99 is distributed. 

What I find fascinating about these eBook lending clubs is that they realized that, once Barnes & Noble and Amazon enabled the lending of etexts, a nascent market had been born.  However, it was an inefficient, disorganized market because, if I own a lendable Kindle edition, I have no efficient way to lend that etext to someone else who wants to read it, unless I just happen to know a family member, friend, or colleague who might be interested in reading one of my Kindle editions.   Also, there is no currency or system of credit that makes it easy for me to borrow etexts as well as lend them. 

There may be several lessons here for librarians.  First, as markets emerge, we need to jump in with both feet.  It often doesn’t take many resources to jump into a nascent market, but it does take constant environmental scanning and the ability to understand emerging markets and the user preferences and needs behind those emerging markets.   Second, we should not dismiss or ignore peer-to-peer and small group lending (and reading) activities in the emerging eReading era.   I’m not an historian of public library developing in the U.S. and abroad, but isn’t that the basic insight and leap of faith made by Ben Franklin and other early proponents of public libraries?  They developed and saw the benefits of peer-to-peer lending of printed books and subscription libraries, then decided to make the leap to libraries available to the public.   


Comments (9)

Update on March 21, 2011:

Update on March 21, 2011: Several reports on Twitter today that Amazon has revoked Lendle's API, effectively shutting down their site. I will try to confirm.

http://lendle.me/ is another

http://lendle.me/ is another ebook lending service I discovered today as I've been reading about the most-lamentable announcement from HarperCollins that they are going to limit libraries with their ebooks to 26 circs per licensed copy.

Possibly. But only if you

Possibly. But only if you live near such a thing as a library (I don't), and can get there during operating hours. That's a giant assumption even for the U.S. Ideally, electronic lending can also reach a global population of readers.

Sorry, I posted this twice. I

Sorry, I posted this twice. I got mixed up and thought it did not post. Barbara Henry

Not all lending clubs are

Not all lending clubs are equal. Some work very well, others are a pain. http://bookfriend.me/ does both Kindle and Nook but not very well. Some of the LendMe Nook books I own are not in the database, yet other Nook books I own that are not designated as LendMe by B&N are listed as books that can be loaned. I stopped using it. I have used the BookLending (for the Kindle) and it works smoothly and seamlessly. I list it as a resource for Kindle users in an eBooks class I do since they cannot borrow library books. I have asked the woman who started it to add a Nook component. When my library did not have a copy of the award-winning "The Finkler Question" available, I was able to borrow it for 2 weeks from another Kindle owner and read it on my Kindle for PC. I am not sure how much easier that could be. These ebook lending clubs should be seen as yet one more way we might read, not a replacement for other ways of reading. What makes it great is technology and ebooks provides so many other possibilities and choices. The future of libraries hinges on embracing and engaging those possibilities. I wish the Overdrive library ebook borrowing system was as easy as BookLending.com.

Not all lending clubs are

Not all lending clubs are equal. Some work very well, others are a pain. http://bookfriend.me/ does both Kindle and Nook but not very well. Some of the LendMe Nook books I own are not in the database, yet other Nook books I own that are not designated as LendMe by B&N are listed as books that can be loaned. I stopped using it. I have used the BookLending (for the Kindle) and it works smoothly and seamlessly. I list it as a resource for Kindle users in an eBooks class I do since they cannot borrow library books. I have asked the woman who started it to add a Nook component. When my library did not have a copy of the award-winning "The Finkler Question" available, I was able to borrow it for 2 weeks from another Kindle owner and read it on my Kindle for PC. I am not sure how much easier that could be. These ebook lending clubs should be seen as yet one more way we might read, not a replacement for other ways of reading. What makes it great is technology and ebooks provides so many other possibilities and choices. The future of libraries hinges on embracing and engaging those possibilities. I wish the Overdrive library ebook borrowing system was as easy as BookLending.com.

Two others are LendInk and

Two others are LendInk and bookfriend. Details on a similar blog post at: http://www.pafa.net/archives/2748

Honestly, though, isn't it

Honestly, though, isn't it easier just to borrow a book (molecules and all) from the library? I've been playing with a Kindle, and it's a royal pain in the nether regions. This is a great example of a "cool" technology making something so simple (and enshrined in intellectual property law) vastly more complicated.

Honestly, though, isn't it

Honestly, though, isn't it easier just to borrow a book (molecules and all) from the library? I've been playing with a Kindle, and it's a royal pain in the nether regions. This is a great example of a "cool" technology making something so simple (and enshrined in intellectual property law) vastly more complicated.