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Amazon To Allow Book Lending On the Kindle 280

Posted by timothy
from the glad-this-isn't-how-physical-books-act dept.
angry tapir writes "One of the oldest customs of book lovers and libraries — lending out favorite titles to friends and patrons — is finally getting recognized in the electronic age, at least in one electronic book reader: Amazon has announced that it plans to allow users of its Kindle book reader to 'lend' electronic books to other Kindle users, based on the publisher's discretion. A book can be lent only for up to 14 days. A single book can only be lent once, and the lender cannot read the book while it is loaned out." Kindle may be the best-known e-reader, but the similarly featured Barnes & Noble Nook has had this ability (complete with 14-day timeout) for several months, if not from its introduction.
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Amazon To Allow Book Lending On the Kindle

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  • by Ndkchk (893797) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @06:59PM (#34007072)
    By 'lent once', does Amazon mean that you can lend a book to one other person at a time, or that you can lend it to one other person, once, for each purchase? If the latter, it's not exactly that useful; if the former, I look forward to the websites letting people legally trade ebooks with one another.
  • by Enry (630) <enry@wayg a . net> on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:05PM (#34007104) Journal

    In some ways, yes. I really like my Kindle. Mostly because it allows me to carry a good portion of my library in my bag. I have about 4 books on it that I'm currently reading along with one that I'm currently reading to my daughter.

    I've bought almost all the books (some were PD, so didn't cost anything) and are books I may not have bought otherwise since they were impulse buys from the store. I'm looking at you "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo".

    Do I still buy physical books? Sure. Do I miss lending? Sorta. Books I lend out rarely return. My copies of "Snow Crash" and "World War Z" are somewhere on the East Coast of the US, but I can't get much more specific than that.

    What I would love to see for the Kindle and iTMS is a family account, where my wife and I can each have a Kindle managed separately under our own accounts, yet share books between us without having to repurchase the book. She has her preferences, I have mine, and neither one of us wants our suggestion list 'spoiled' by the other, though there are times we like the same book and would each like to read it.

  • by socsoc (1116769) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:16PM (#34007168)
    That's a pretty great idea. I usually don't read books again after my initial read, so the ability to gift, trade or sell them appeals to me.
  • by brit74 (831798) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:27PM (#34007232)
    In response to the comments about the 'lend once' model: the major issue is maintaining the profitability of the book business. One could imagine a future where all books are read electronically. Now, if all books were just copied from a library server, then what's the point of buying ebooks? While some people might find the 'non-copyable digital copy' to be kind of an onerous restriction on something that can be infinitely copyable, and react with disdain towards the "why restrict what we can do with books for their own profit?", I'd say that "profit" is really a spectrum between bankruptcy (and we don't want authors to go bankrupt) and 'getting rich' (which we might justly or unjustly have a problem with).

    What is the solution? One possibility would be if society - as a whole (not just small segments of the population) - was very generous about donating to authors. This way, authors wouldn't be forced between: (1) having copy restrictions on their work and getting paid vs (2) having no restrictions on copying their work, but not getting adequately paid for their work / going bankrupt.

    And, to anticipate all the "Doctorow" arguments: there's a variety of reasons he continues to make money. First, most people still want printed books (this is changing though), and authors get paid for those printed sales. Second, he's famous, in part because of his role as a political activist, being the guy who gets mentioned whenever free-books comes up (which means lots of free promotion), and member of one of the most popular websites - which he can tap for free promotion, and people want to support him to promote his activism. Third, people appreciate that they can get his work for free despite the fact that most everyone else doesn't allow that - which influences people towards donations. He's also hinted at times that he really doesn't make much money from books - which is why I see him writing magazine articles and turning up in other places. I'm convinced that if all books were allowed for free - thus, that was "the norm" rather than "the thing that *this* author does when everyone else doesn't do it" - that people would pretty quickly forget about donations, or would suffer from donation fatigue (I donated to author W, so I've done my good deed - no reason to donate to author X,Y,Z). I'm pretty sure no students would be donating to textbook publishers - and while they may or may not be overpaid, that doesn't mean they won't be drastically underpaid with a "free for everyone, please donate" model.

    So, there's your solution to a "free digital media" society: convince society that they should donate so that creators don't feel like they have to restrict their work in order to pay their bills.
  • by guyminuslife (1349809) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:33PM (#34007258)

    I look forward to the websites letting people legally trade ebooks with one another

    This is what will kill this plan; or rather, what will convince publishers to never, ever, ever allow ebook lending. It would be possible to set up a site, or a protocol for lending books, where you share the unused books you have licensed in a big pool with a bunch of other people; members who share will simply check out books from the pool. Then, it's fishes and loaves: if you have 2 copies of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", and 100 people who want to read it, they can all read from those two copies, 2 at a time. That would call for a queue, but a less popular book might not. And even if you don't want to wait in queue, if you purchase a copy, then there will be 3 books in the total pool....and eventually there will be more copies than there are interested readers at any given time, and no one will have to buy the book.

    People complain about first-sale doctrine with digital goods, and I understand, but the fact of the matter is that the potential for a streamlined secondary market for digital content is a much larger liability than it is for physical goods. Even having to make the trip to GameStop to sell your copy of Prince of Persia is prohibitive compared to being able to purchase a game, immediately license it out to people on the cloud, and then license a different copy whenever you feel like playing it.

  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mordejai (702496) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:36PM (#34007276)

    I've lent several books to friends and relatives.

    Most of them had the books for months or years, returned something that didn't look at all like the book I gave them, or didn't return them at all.

    So, this new "feature" is not at all like lending books!

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:47PM (#34007356) Homepage

    True. Paper books don't provide convenient means and permission to make temporary partial copies. You have to loan out the whole book. Just as you have always been able to loan out your Kindle.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2010 @07:53PM (#34007392)

    If all books were copied from a library server:
      Purchasing ebooks would be extremely expensive
      Ridiculous copyright infringement damages might be logically justifiable
      There would be a profitable business model for subscription libraries
      Public library servers would probably carry mostly public domain, or old copyright books.
      Bookstores might offer library services with their wifi.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 24, 2010 @08:00PM (#34007428)

    Do you gift, trade or sell the mp3s that you buy from amazon? Just as music DRM was defeated, I expect book DRM to follow. Amazon learned from Apple that to make the most money you need to initially push DRM, until your competitors can sell good variety without DRM (then the game is over). Isn't it ironic that Amazon used DRM-free mp3s to take on Apple, and now is the biggest ebook DRM supporter?

    I believe the convenience cost of a file is the effective value of a file... any other argument to elevate that value is usually false. Software that is improved and supported is different to a file, as there is real value in updates and support.

  • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @08:49PM (#34007784) Journal

    Sure it does. I own a Kindle DX, and, insofar as reading convenience goes, it's awesome. But I don't use their store except for newspaper subscriptions. For books, I go to a book store which sells me legal books in Kindle-supported format (.mobi) with no DRM for 1.5-2x less than a paper book.

  • by drew30319 (828970) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @10:13PM (#34008194) Homepage Journal

    Our corporate overlords will never allow it. Even judges are only as good as the corporations pay for.

    Fortunately the Constitution has something to say about copyrights. Check out this Congressionally-mandated report about the feared impact of DMCA on the first sale doctrine.

    DMCA Section 104 Report

    A plausible argument can be made that section 1201 may have a negative effect on the operation of the first sale doctrine in the context of works tethered to a particular device. In the case of tethered works, even if the work is on removable media, the content cannot be accessed on any device other than the one on which it was originally made. This process effectively prevents disposition of the work. However, the practice of tethering a copy of a work to a particular hardware device does not appear to be widespread at this time, at least outside the context of electronic books. Should this practice become widespread, it could have serious consequences for the operation of the first sale doctrine, although the ultimate effect on consumers is unclear. (emphasis mine)

    And here's an interesting law review article about the most significant obstacle to applying first sale to digital rights "digital exhaustion." Digital Exhaustion: UCLA Law Review, Vol. 58 [ssrn.com]

    Amazon (and publishers) are much better off if they can keep Congress from either creating legislation or the Courts from creating precedent about the first sale doctrine as it applies to digital media; one or the other is going to happen if they don't treat digital media more like traditional media.
    And that's why Amazon is begrudgingly offering this "lending" feature.

  • by mysidia (191772) on Sunday October 24, 2010 @11:54PM (#34008634)

    So, just to follow up on something a lot of people complained about when it happened, you're totally cool with Amazon having the ability to delete a book off your device without your explicit authorization?

    Service provider control of their device is a totally different matter.

    Just about any eBook maker that provides an online store would be capable of doing this -- providing a hook in their software to allow the store to perform a content delete. If not in the current version, they could easily roll the ability in a mandatory upgrade version if they wanted.

    Similarly, Microsoft could delete any program off your computer, or tamper with your Firefox config in a windows update, if they wanted.

    I am totally cool with them having the technical ability as long as they don't actually use the ability, except in a case where it can only benefit me.

    For example, I would be happy to have a feature to delete all my books remotely and move them to a new device, if, for example, someone stole my portable ebook reader.

  • by cmiller173 (641510) on Monday October 25, 2010 @09:51AM (#34011392)
    What happens if the "you" is a corporation or other legal entity that is not a real person with a real lifespan? What if the owner of the Kindle and the Amazon account is "The Ira Howard Foundation" for example?

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