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E-book lending services ramping up as e-readers storm the market

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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consumer electronicsAmazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and other sellers of electronic books and readers have been working to improve upon the experience of getting lost in a good read. Until recently, however, the rapidly growing e-literature market has been hard-pressed to emulate one of the fundamental joys of book ownership—lending.

Over the past month Amazon, Barnes & Noble and a number of startups have begun to remedy this by offering the ability to share e-books purchased for Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers. E-book lending is pretty straightforward but often comes with restrictions. Not all e-books are lendable—it’s up to the book’s original publisher to allow sellers to offer lending for a particular e-book title, and the loan duration is typically only 14 days. In general each e-book can be loaned only once and, while the book is on loan, the original owner isn’t able to read the book on his or her device.

With Amazon Kindle’s lending service, available in the U.S. only, any notes or highlights that the lender has made are not visible to the borrower, although when the book is returned, the owner’s notes and highlights reappear. Likewise, the lender is unable to see any notes or highlights made by the borrower during the loan.

Efforts by Amazon and Barnes & Noble to get publishers to loosen up rights management have begun to open up a market for startup service providers looking to facilitate different forms of book swapping. BookSwim.com, an online book rental company that operates like Netflix, last week launched its eBookFling rental service, where readers use credits to borrow the rights to download a particular title from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Lenders choose which of their e-books they want to offer and receive one credit for every five books they list with the site (credits are also earned for each of their books that is borrowed). They are notified by e-mail or text message when a borrower selects their book and upon acceptance, they must complete the transaction through Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com.

Another new service, Kindle Lending Club, matches lenders and borrowers of Kindle e-books via Facebook. The Internet Archive is also developing a book-lending and sales service call BookServer. Not to be left out, thousands of libraries are likewise offering e-books on loan and are rapidly expanding their catalogs. Sony enables e-book borrowing from libraries via the company’s Reader lineup.

Amazon says it is now selling millions of its third-generation Kindle. Since the beginning of 2011, the company is selling 115 Kindle books for every 100 paperback books sold (and that doesn’t include e-books that Amazon gives away for free). Barnes & Noble is similarly vague with its exact e-book and Nook sales numbers but did point out recently in a press release that the company "sold virtually its entire inventory of NOOKcolor and E Ink devices during the holiday season." Spurred by the Nook’s success, Barnes & Noble’s Web site saw its sales increase 78 percent during the 2010 holiday season, compared with the same time period in 2009. Apple isn’t afraid to supply actual hardware numbers, claiming to have sold nearly 14.8 million iPads since they hit the market last April.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld once remarked, "What is this obsession people have with books? They put them in their houses like they’re trophies. What do you need it for after you read it?" With the runaway success of e-readers, trophy shelves are about to get a lot lighter.

Image courtesy of Igor Terekhov, via iStockphoto.com





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  1. 1. JamesDavis 6:52 am 02/3/2011

    It is good to see people embracing the digital age. It is also good for the environment in saving the trees so they can do their job in help cleaning up our air.

    I own Davis E-Book Publishing, http://www.davis-publishing.com and I publish electronic books (e-books). I have national and international libraries where you can choose e-books from authors all over the world. Authors represent the artistry and wisdom of our world’s society, so enjoy the best humanity has to offer…read e-books and help save our planet.

    You can purchase any of our e-books and download them to any computer with a screen large enough that you can read without having a special app. and by this summer, we should have all our e-books listed on Amazon.com where you can purchase and download to any computer, iPhone, iPad and Kindle. So visit our nation and international libraries and Amazon.com and help save our planet’s natural resources and improve your health in doing so.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Booklends 3:12 pm 02/3/2011

    We’re creating another book lending website called Booklends that will make it easy for Kindle or Nook users to lend books. Visit http://www.booklends.com to sign up for our mailing list, and we’ll let you know when our site is finished (probably within a week or so)

    Link to this
  3. 3. eco-steve 11:44 am 02/7/2011

    In europe there are innumerable public lending libraries that have vast stocks of books. At present they are setting up public e-lending services, so soon such avid readers as old people in care homes will be able get books and read them with enlarged text. This will empower millions whose eyesight cannot be corrected for paper books.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Wayne Williamson 7:51 pm 02/7/2011

    this is really cool…and I would love to get rid of the bookcases…but…I’ve seen the ability and execution of removing books from your electronic library….until this is solved…print will remain….

    Link to this
  5. 5. johndouglas 3:30 pm 02/19/2011

    Well, it’s amazing. The miracle has been done. Hat’s off. Well done, as we know that “hard work always pays off”, after a long struggle with sincere effort it’s done.
    ——–
    johndouglas

    <a href="http://www.ebooksuk.co.uk&quot; rel="dofollow">Ebook Downloads</a>

    Link to this
  6. 6. HowardB 6:15 pm 05/14/2011

    Unfortunately this is part of the Big Myth that the publishing industry is creating.

    They are pretending that they are Selling eBooks to us. But they are not! They are now ‘licensing’ the eBooks to us while charging us more than for the paperback!

    Lending is something we should be entitled to do once we buy something – but the publishing industry is now reaching out and controlling what we do with our purchases.

    An eBook seller iFlow just went out of business. All of the people who bought eBooks from them have been told that these eBooks that they ‘thought’ they BOUGHT … may well disappear or be unreadable from 31st May 2011.

    Beware !

    Link to this
  7. 7. devangvisaria.com 2:51 am 01/2/2012

    this post is related to electronic book e-literature market very effective post thank you for sharing.
    http://www.devangvisaria.com

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  8. 8. miteshthacker 11:43 pm 01/11/2012

    It always feel great to read your post and even today with all your efforts, you made this post interesting too. What a lovely piece of work. Please keep up with your work.
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    Link to this

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