When the Nook was originally announced, there was a lot of fanfare. One of the main attractions at the time was its ability to lend books. This really excited me as I was a school librarian at the time. (I wrote more about this topic in E-book Readers in the School Library as well as E-books: How Should Schools Embrace the New Technology.)
Here are the main limitations:
- You can only lend a book once.
- You can only lend a book for 14 days.
- Publishers have the option of not allowing you to lend their book.
These restrictions make this an almost useless feature for most people and particularly schools. It is better than not being able to lend at all, but not by much.
Furthermore, Amazon has decided to coerce publishers. There are two royalty brackets for Kindle publishers 35% and 70%. The 70% royalty has always had more conditions, such as pricing the book between $2.99 and $9.99 so customers have a monetary reason to choose e-books over physical books. Now, to keep the 70% royalty you must enable the sharing option.
For the record, I have no problem with sharing and would have enabled it on my book anyway, but I am never a fan of coercion. In addition, all of the blame cannot rest with Amazon or even Barnes & Noble, the company that pioneered these inane restrictions. The publishing company is terrified at the moment and requires DRM protection on everything and, while I have no direct supporting research, their prior actions suggest that they would balk at an unlimited lending feature. Here’s the problem, though. When I buy a physical movie, CD, or book, I lend it to whoever I want for however long I want. Sometimes, I even give them away. If I buy a digital product, I should still be the owner of that product and be able to with it as I will.
I would be curious to hear your opinion as the overall tenor of the discussions I am seeing on blogs and Twitter is fairly positive. Am I missing the mark here?
Here is the email from Amazon explaining the new feature. As it was sent to millions, I feel no qualms about reproducing it below.
We are excited to announce Kindle book lending (http://www.amazon.com/kindle-lending). The Kindle Book Lending feature allows users to lend digital books they have purchased through the Kindle Store to their friends and family. Each book may be lent once for a duration of 14 days and will not be readable by the lender during the loan period.
All DTP titles are enrolled in lending by default. For titles in the 35% royalty option, you may choose to opt out of lending by deselecting the checkbox under “Kindle Book Lending,” in the “Rights and Pricing” section of the title upload/edit process. You may not choose to opt out a title if it is included in the lending program of another sales or distribution channel. For more details, see section 5.2.2 of the Term and Conditions.
For more info on how Kindle Book Lending works, see our FAQ here: http://forums.digitaltextplatform.com/dtpforums/entry.jspa?externalID=581
Amazon Digital Text Platform