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Lending eBooks

January 24, 2011

This is a follow-up to my last post about the Kindle. I wrote about how the Kindle is not set up to read library books. This is, basically, because libraries aren’t able to offer the Kindle AZW ebook format, just like how no other ebook stores can offer that format.

A commenter left a note about how the Kindle can “lend” books. This is a completely different thing. Amazon will let you lend certain books to a friend for a short amount of time, with some restrictions. I looked up the details on Amazon and just a quick read of the page told me:

- Not all Kindle ebooks can be lended. It depends on whether the publisher of the book has decided to allow it.
- Kindle ebooks can only be lended for up to 14 days.
- The lender (the person who is lending the ebook to someone else) can’t read the ebook while it is being lended

You can see all of the details here.

I actually find this whole thing to be a little funny. I’ve been working with ebooks for a long time, and one of the main gripes that people have about ebooks goes something like this: “But how am I supposed to give away an ebook to someone else when I’m done with it?! I can do that with paper books, you know! And now I can’t do that with ebooks??!!” Now Amazon and Barnes & Noble are caving to this complaint (the Nook has a lending function as well).

Let me make a few different comments about this …

1. Yeah, everyone is aware that you can give a paper book to someone else. Don’t worry — we live on Earth, too.

2. eBooks are not paper books. They’re just not. eBooks are software, so don’t expect them to behave like physical objects.

3. Is it really so important that you give a book to a friend? Is that something you’re thinking about when you buy a paper book? “After I’m done with this, I’ll give it to Janet! If I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t buy this book at all!”

My main point is that ebooks are software. They are digital. They exist in the nether regions of the internet and hard drives. They aren’t supposed to behave exactly like paper books.

All of that being said … sure, it’s great that you can lend a Kindle ebook to someone else for 14 days, I guess. But it’s really no sweat off my back if Janet isn’t able to read the Kindle eBook that I bought. She can buy her own.

No, the issue here is really about money. You want to be able to re-sell your ebooks like you can your paper books, and you want to save your buddy money by giving him or her your ebook. Well, my response to that is: get over it. Book publishers don’t want to go out of business because you illegally gave away digital content. That might be annoying for you, but if you want ebooks and music to be available digitally, it is the reality of the situation.

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