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Amazon Stymies Lendle E-book Lending Service 237

Posted by Soulskill
from the pulling-the-rug dept.
CheerfulMacFanboy writes "CNET quotes Lendle co-founder Jeff Croft: 'They [Amazon] shut the API access off, and without it, our site is mostly useless. So, we went ahead and pulled it down. Could we build a lending site without their API? Yes. But it wouldn't be the quality of product we expect from ourselves.' Croft also said 'at least two other Kindle lending services got the same message' yesterday.'"
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Amazon Stymies Lendle E-book Lending Service

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  • Read... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:21AM (#35569844)

    Without the functionality being sanctioned by Amazon's own API, we aren't sure if there is a legal sinkhole waiting to ruin us.

    10$ says Amazon has their own 'lending' service come online involving modest per-loan fees within 6 months.

    • Re:Read... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JeffSpudrinski (1310127) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:42AM (#35570492)

      I know a perfect way to bypass Amazon's API to loan and borrow books.

      Let's consider having a building where we can store them paid for by our taxes. Then we can go and get free memberships and atually have a real book.

      Let's call it a "library".

      Then we can borrow and lend and no one can stop us.

      In all seriousness...this very thing (and similar cases of "big brother-ishness" from Amazon and others) is why I have been anti e-reader. You're granting power to a company to control what you read and how you read it...and you are paying them to do it to you.

      Don't give up freedom for convenience. Amazon has gotten too large in this market and wields too much influence.

      While I hate to see it happen, I foresee some sort of federal regulation of "e-reader's rights".

      Just my $0.02.

      -JJS

      • by jank1887 (815982)

        But, libraries carry e-books. and you can borrow them to all you want. It's the one place where some DRM policy almost makes sense. (enforcing 'borrowing' over keeping). Almost. Of course, some people'd like to screw with that system, too:

        http://www.examiner.com/libraries-in-albany/the-upper-hudson-library-system-boycotts-harpercollins-new-ebook-policy [examiner.com]

      • by tixxit (1107127)

        Amazon is a bookstore. If you want a book not available at one bookstore you can just go to the next... or go to the library, which conveniently also has e-books you can borrow. Considering that about 1.5h of my day is spent reading during my workday commute, e-Reader convenience (purchasing, size, and weight) will most always beat out the freedom that several hundred sheets of paper gives me.

        The caveat that you (currently) can't lend out e-books bought from Amazon is a small issue for me. I VERY rarely len

      • by Builder (103701)

        Lucky you. You clearly live in a privileged part of the world (although, even your own libraries are struggling for funding). I've found every UK public library that I've visited to be worse than the one in Brakpan, South Africa and that wasn't exactly a big city or anything.

        Libraries are disappearing and unless we get a new set of political overlords, we need to find alternatives.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Lending service? Not likely. They probably feel "lending" eats into the sales profits.

      That said, I think it was foolish to use Amazon's API for any length of time without a plan to build their own infrastructure and databases. To depend on a for-profit's web API was just asking for someone to pull the plug.

      They still need to build their own service, but now they are out of action until they do. Sad for them, but that's the way it goes. Depending on a commercial entity to "not change" is just a bad idea

  • Hay guyz (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alex Belits (437) * on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:25AM (#35569864) Homepage

    Let's make a web site that completely and entirely depends on some interface provided by large perpetually hungry company!

    And compete with that company!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by somersault (912633)

      It's interesting that the "quality they expect from themselves" depends entirely on them not actually doing any work themselves. I know I could build a quality [insert product here] if I were given enough time to research and develop. The fact that they say it just wouldn't be good enough, rather than it would take too long, is kind of sad.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by outsider007 (115534)

        I think they mean that without the API, the most important features are missing. Unless your research and development includes hacking Amazon, I don't see what you could accomplish.

        • I think they'd have been better off just saying that it would be illegal to do it without the API, rather than saying "It's possible, but it would suck". I don't think they'd have to hack Amazon's servers directly, just break Kindle DRM, but that's still illegal.

          • NOT necessarily illegal if they are breaking for interoperability, especially for functionality that has been removed. The conclusion of Sony v. George Hotz will shed more light on this subject.
            • It would definitely be a breach of copyright though, as I can't see them being able to add/remove books from actual Amazon accounts at will. They'd only be able to change the contents of specific devices. In that case, it would be possible to re-download any currently "lended" book back onto your Kindle enabled devices without taking it back from the person you'd loaned it to, and so two people would be using the same "copy" of the book.

              This is making me realise that people could just register a friend's Ki

      • by morgauxo (974071)
        It's not all about work. Anything they built that would work without the api would likely require some sort of inelligant hack no matter how much work they put into it. Most likely it would stop working every time Amazon saw what they were doing and made a change. It would become a constant game where they would find a way to make it work. It would work for a few days and Amazon would break it again. Few people would use it because it would be so unreliable.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Interestingly, lots of companies have made their main communication line (E-mail) and quite a few documents run via Google. My own company will be doing this as well. This will not end well.

      • by plover (150551) *

        Interestingly, lots of companies have made their main communication line (E-mail) and quite a few documents run via Google. My own company will be doing this as well. This will not end well.

        There is a significant difference between a company using Google mail and Google docs versus one basing their service on Amazon's API. With Google, you give them a bale of money ($50/user/year) and they are contractually obligated to provide you with service. If service breaks, Google engineers fix it in accordance with the contractually specified Service Level Agreements. With Amazon's API, access to customer lending information is a feature Amazon provided for free, and were equally free to revoke at t

    • Re:Hay guyz (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:33AM (#35570428)

      Why would you buy a book that can:

      a) be remotely disabled

      b) be remotely altered

      c) decide when/where/how you read it.

      All under the control of Amazon... a profit driven company.

      It's basically sleepwalking into 1984.

      • by Amnenth (698898)
        Parent post gave me a laugh, since Nineteen Eighty-Four [wikipedia.org] was in fact one of the first things to be remote-killed.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Because I can strip the DRM convert it to epub and remove their ability to steal the book back from me.

        Every ebook I purchase is cracked and striped of DRM to protect myself.

    • by Seumas (6865)

      I'm not sure what people are expecting, anyway. The eventual goal of every content producer (even those who create physical products like DVDs, CDs, books, etc) is to charge for every consumption of their product. That's why you have to register your videogames with EA to play them, now. It's not enough to spend $60 on a game or $20 on a book and then let someone else in the household enjoy it, lend it to a friend, or sell it to a used book store. You need to pay $60 for the game or $20 for the book and the

      • EA seems to be loosening up a bit. I jsut bought some cheap games on their EADM service. You can tell they want to be Steam v 2.0. I havent tried it yet, but supposedly you can DL and play your games on any PC. It remains to be seen how the DRM/activations of individual titles works out. IN steam i get the excuse that they cant control all 3rd party DRM and so activation limits etc are something they cant get around, but EA should have no problems like this because they are a publisher.
    • by hey! (33014)

      Let's make a web site that completely and entirely depends on some interface provided by large perpetually hungry company!

      And compete with that company!

      That's a high risk, but not necessarily a stupid strategy. The key is your exit strategy. If your exit strategy is "I'll keep doing this forever, dogging Amazon's heels and making money off of *their* business," then the overall strategy is obviously stupid. That's why I'm supposing their exit strategy looks like this: grow fast enough and become popular enough with Amazon customers that Amazon would rather buy you and expand your service than pull the plug and piss people off.

      In this case Amazon pulled t

  • by cerberusss (660701) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @06:36AM (#35570136) Homepage Journal

    I've used the eBook Fling [ebookfling.com] site, and they don't seem to use an API. Their site is built around their users following a number of steps to lend eBooks to each other, each step described in an iFrame below which the Amazon site is displayed.

    They're probably still good to go, although the site has a number of deficiencies. For example, Amazon only allows US-based Kindle owners to lend books. They're not clear about this (you can't find it on the site) and eBook Fling doesn't tell you either. So I've wasted an hour or so finding out what was wrong with either eBook Fling or my Amazon account, until an Amazon rep finally figured out that I wasn't US-based.

  • No problem... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by curious.corn (167387) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @06:37AM (#35570146)
    ... on TPB business goes on as usual.

    Har, har, har
  • Dear Amazon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @06:50AM (#35570198) Journal

    While I understand that the Kindle is sold somewhat as a loss-leader and a mechanism to try to sell ebooks for absurd prices (it's bad enough that paperbacks are $9; to charge that same price that costs you NOTHING to duplicate, NOTHING to store, NOTHING to ship, NOTHING to advertise is...hard to swallow), at some point even your lawyer-swaddled management must recognize that if one too blatantly attacks all *reasonable* means of use of that hardware, the only things left are going to be people who are willing and able to use your hardware WITHOUT your consent/cooperation, ie pirates.

      Cutting off Lendle (and with a classy c&d sent from a 'do not reply' email address and no recourse to appeal or discuss), secretly editing books, purging books that people have purchased - all of these things simply indicate that you as a vendor are untrustworthy. Therefore the trusting will go elsewhere, the unscrupulous will continue to use Kindles and here's the kick: you're not going to see a DIME of their activities.

    • by h4rm0ny (722443)

      that costs you NOTHING to duplicate, NOTHING to store, NOTHING to ship, NOTHING to advertise is...

      And quite a lot of time and effort to produce.

      There is a difference in price between hardcopy and digital versions.

      • by argStyopa (232550)

        "There is a difference in price between hardcopy and digital versions."
        orly?

        http://www.amazon.com/Absolution-Gap-ebook/dp/B001ODO61G/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1300800486&sr=8-1 [amazon.com]

        Absolution Gap, by Alastair Reynolds 2008
        Paperback: $8.99
        Kindle Edition: $8.99

        Those prices look pretty damn identical to me.

        • by h4rm0ny (722443)
          Actually, the paperback is cheaper, you've misquoted the prices. Though I suspect you're just setting things up for a chance to point out that the difference isn't enough. Anyway, I'm going to retract my earlier point about the prices being different. The Kindle ones I've bought have always been cheaper than the hardcopy, but in fact this is irrelevant. They are different formats with different advantages and disadvantages. For example I bought the D Programming Language book on Kindle because I preferred i
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by PhilHibbs (4537)

      (it's bad enough that paperbacks are $9; to charge that same price that costs you NOTHING to duplicate, NOTHING to store, NOTHING to ship, NOTHING to advertise is...hard to swallow),

      Advertisement is still a cost, and they have to make back their up-front costs such as advances, layout, editing, and proofreading. If that cost them $50,000 and they expect to sell 10,000 copies, then that sets the price at $5 minimum just to recoup their costs. I have no idea about costs or sales numbers but I expect a big selling author will sell a lot more than that, but again they have to offset that against authors that don't pan out.

      I agree about your other points, though, Amazon have never behaved i

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        I do know what the costs are and printing and logistics are 50% of the cost of the book.

      • Advertisement is still a cost, and they have to make back their up-front costs such as advances, layout, editing, and proofreading. If that cost them $50,000 and they expect to sell 10,000 copies, then that sets the price at $5 minimum just to recoup their costs..

        Um right, so grabbing a softcopy of a book from a publisher, converting it into a different format, and cleaning up the layout costs $50,000.

        I would guess the real cost is under $100.

        You don't really need proofreading for most ebooks, as the publishers give them the softcopies. The book publishers are working with Amazon.

        For some older books you may have to scan them manually and then check to make sure the spelling all comes up OK, but there is no way it will cost $50,000.

        I think the model is probably more

        • by PhilHibbs (4537)

          OK I was thinking about the costs of e-publishing, rather than a digital version of an already-published book. But in any case it's unreasonable to place all of the cost-recovery on physical books and expect no cost-recovery from e-book sales, and $100 as the cost of releasing a digital version is... a little optimistic.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      Therefore the trusting will go elsewhere...

      Such as the Public Library...soon to be closed by budget-slashing consevatives to fund the Defense of the Wealthy Act of 2011.

    • by Tim C (15259)

      Two points:

      1) Printing, binding and shipping are a relatively small part of the cost of producing a hard-copy book, at least when producing them in bulk

      2) Publishers can and do specify minimum prices that Amazon cannot go below (in order to make a profit, even if there's nothing contractual in place)

      On the prices at least, you are directing your ire at entirely the wrong target.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Incorrect unless you are talking a 1,000,000 book printing order for a best seller. MOST books published are short runs that are only 10,000 -50,000 printed and can run up to 50% of the cost if there is ANY color pages inside. small cheap paperback with color cover are cheapest and if under 500 pages can be as cheap as 25% of the book cost in shorter runs. This is for crappy Perfectbound and in the typical paperback size called "royal".

        I know because I have published 2 books. unless you are a NYT bes

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      have you ever held a kindle? thought about the hw inside? it's not that expensive to produce..

    • NOTHING to store, NOTHING to ship, NOTHING to advertise

      It doesn't cost nothing. It costs less, much less, but not nothing. Servers and bandwidth aren't free.

      Advertising... from whose perspective? Amazon advertises the Kindle on TV, and that certainly isn't free. For individual books, having your book appear in a store alongside 600,000 other books isn't advertising. You need to do much more than that in order to promote your book.

    • Re:Dear Amazon (Score:5, Informative)

      by Darth_brooks (180756) <clipper377@gm a i l . c om> on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @08:39AM (#35570916) Homepage

      "to charge that same price that costs you NOTHING to duplicate, NOTHING to store, NOTHING to ship, NOTHING to advertise is...hard to swallow"

      Especially if you don't grasp the concept that bandwidth, server storage space, and advertising (with the same requisite bandwidth and storage costs) AREN'T FREE EITHER. But hey, keep thinking that the latest churning of Harry Potter or the Twilight series are hosted off some 20gig harddrive hooked up to a old PII in some guy's basement.

      Amazon gets their cut *after the publishers*, the same scrupulous people that were at the root of the 1984 / book deletion mess in the first place (but who am I to get in the way of some perfectly good nerd rage?).

      • by argStyopa (232550)

        Wait, you go all pedantic over the cost of bandwidth and server storage space and claim my point is nerd rage? LOL. Really - what's the cost of storage and bandwidth for a 500k ebook? I bet it's a lot closer to nothing than $1.
        Absolutes like "nothing" or "always" seem to trigger some latent nerd-Asperger's specificity gland, even when used rhetorically and as a generalization, not as some sort of scientific assertion. Does the fact that (calculating generously) bandwidth and storage cost perhaps $0.05 m

    • by brkello (642429)

      It should be hard for you to swallow it because you are completely wrong. There is a cost associated with storing the data, there is a cost for backing up the data, there is a cost for customer service, there is a cost for transmitting the data, there is a cost for maintaining the infrastructure, there is a cost to upgrade the infrastructure, etc. etc etc. There are different costs associated with an e-book than there are with normal books that should be flat out obvious to anyone on Slashdot.

      I re

  • by Warwick Allison (209388) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @06:56AM (#35570214) Homepage

    CJ Cherryh sells her books cheap and DRM free, see http://www.cherryh.com/, at least those for which she can wrest the rights back from publishers. Such direct book sales from authors, cuttong out publishers AND bookstores (brick like Borders or vaporous like Amazon) will get progressively easier. Just like the music industry will eventually learn, gouging your customers always loses in the long run.

  • Pardon my ignorance (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grizdog (1224414) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:18AM (#35570342) Homepage

    Does this sort of thing happen often? If Oracle decides I have too many weeds in my yard, will my Java programs stop working?

    Seriously, is the wave of the present/future APIs with all sorts of tests in them so they do different things for different users? Sounds both intriguing and insidious.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      no. it only happens when you build your service over an existing web/server service. if it was just sw running on their own servers, they couldn't be cut off.

      it's like if you build a service called semirandomsearch, and the service was just fetching google searchs and then rearranging them in blocks of 10, so every page would have the same results as a regular google search but the results were in random order on that page. and then google would block you off from their "api"(doesn't matter if you use the g

      • by grizdog (1224414)

        Thanks for the reply. I guess I was thinking of API at a lower level than is the general use - showing my age.

        I understand and appreciate your answer, but the question still lingers - I'll use Java as an example - it is a bad one since the source is available, but assume for a moment it were not - what if swing (showing my age again) had tests throughout it saying that if the panel/frame/container/whatever was going to appear on wikileaks.org, then abort the program? I mean no one would ever do that, bu

    • Welcome to "the cloud". If they don't like you they refuse service, and it's totally within their rights, even if it destroys your business or stifles your ideas. Kind of like what they did to Wikileaks. Same Amazon, same story.
  • This highlights the issue of building a business around open API's.

    Techie's naively celebrate openness and API's and a lets "build together" attitude, but when a corporate entity ultimately controls the whole ecosystem, your neat business idea is vulnerable to failure as it's built on a stack of cards.

    API's are techie solutions. The real world continues to use commercial contracts to enforce partners to behave. The Web 2.0 movement would be wise to address the thinking around this going forward.

  • Honestly, if Amazon wants to be hostile, out a link on the websites to point users how to crack the DRM and continue lending their books.

    Screw amazon if they want to be jerks.

  • .. and tv series, and movies , and everything else digital .... unlimited subscription based access for a low monthly fee.

    THATS where it is going.

    Not independent author websites (too many too cluttered), or even pirated content (still too much hassle) , or itunes (why pay for a track?)

    Simple, uncluttered access to everything you (n)ever wanted.

    It will take a few years, it took the music industry 10+ years, so expect this to happen around 2020 or something.

  • can still lend books and do it natively. Yes, I know, you cannot lend all the books you buy but at least you can lend some of them and the list is expanding. SOME is better than NONE, and here's to hoping Barnes & Noble can keep pushing for publishers to allow more books to be loaned out.

    If the publishers are smart, they will realize that allowing eBooks to be loaned out greatly increases their chances for more sales. If not, I hope more authors will self-publish and creative groups will make apps to fa

  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @09:29AM (#35571534) Homepage

    Calling these things eBooks ought to be considered deceptive labeling.

    It's not a book if you can't lend it.

    It's not a book if you can't resell it.

    It's not a book if it won't last thirty years under ordinary casual home storage conditions.

    It's not a book when a public library can't buy one copy and lend it out as often as they wish.

    It's not about feel of the cloth covers or the smell of the dust or the silverfish living in real books, it's about replicating the functionality all books have had for five hundred years.

  • Any corporation who would give it's customer list and profile to another company who own a significant part of the infrastructure you need to provide your service, and therefore would easely compete with you, would be deemed stupid.

    Well no because it's "ta dam..." in the cloud "...."

    Cloud computing has sense in two cases: you own your own cloud, or it's some amateur experiment, and you signed before a garanty (at least with yourself) that you would never ever want to make any money out of this, and would be

  • ... I don't like eBooks. There is no problem with APIs, DRM, ravenous megacorps, etc. when lending a paper book to someone. There is no lending fee and the loan event is not recorded.

    As eBook development ascends the experience/technology curve (robustness, display quality, etc.), such devices could become a realistic alternative. But all this tethering and associated DRM kill the idea stone dead for me.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:43AM (#35573782) Homepage

    Let Amazon's actions, and Twitter's, and others, be a lesson:

    Never, ever make a competitor's (or potential competitor's) products and services a crucial part of your business unless you've got a written, signed contract with them that's got guarantees written in that they won't alter or discontinue those products and/or services and severe penalties if they fail to live up to those guarantees (scaled to the actual consequences to your business of the disruption, not to some arbitrary "fair" scale, and scaled to compensate you for those disruptions, not to be "fair"). Make sure your lawyers helped write the contract, don't touch a "take it or leave it" offer. Especially if their offer includes a clause that lets them change the terms at any time.

    Doing otherwise is just becoming your competitor's unpaid R&D and market research department.

  • What do the anti-ebook crowd hope to accomplish? I don't think paper books are EVER going away so I'm not sure the crusade is merited. If you don't like ebooks, don't buy them. I prefer them for novels where there isn't going to be charts and graphs that need to be studied. And I don't think libraries are going away either. If there are fewer of them, that's not the end of the world. People can travel relatively small distances with ease. It will still be more convenient than 60 years ago when people

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