When a book is put up on Amazon, whether directly by a traditional publisher or an indie author, Amazon offers the opportunity to make the e-book “lendable”. Unless you choose the 70% royalty option and then it’s not an option … it’s required.

I’ve always thought this was a great idea. What better way for a new reader to find my books than to have someone “share” it, even from their kindle?

When I first published with a digital publisher, kindles were a mere twinkle in Amazon’s eye. A high majority of readers enjoyed their digital books on their laptops … e-books they received via email. Even back then authors were aware that legitimate readers forwarded files to friends and vice versa. Was it illegal? Of course. Did it stop them? Nope. And you know why? Because these friends generally went out and bought other books by that author. Thereby taking one sale and turning it into several. (I did hear from one author whose over-enthusiastic reader actually emailed an ebook to every person in her address book … oops. Okay, so that didn’t work out for that author. And therin was the problem. One file could be forwarded an unlimited number of times.)

Lending is a little different. And lending is not pirating. Let me repeat. Lending is very different from pirating. Pirating is uploading a book to a torrent site and making unlimited copies available to anyone for free. It is illegal and authors lose thousands of dollars a year to these thieves. (Though many argue that those frequenting pirate sites wouldn’t buy a book anyway. So it’s not really a sale lost. Either way, we’re not talking pirates today…)

Lending allows a reader to purchase a book and loan it ONCE to one person for 14 days. During the lending time the book is not available on the purchaser’s kindle. Again, this sounds like a great perk for kindle owners. As an author, I can only hope that the person borrowing the book will love it so much they’ll buy their own copy for their “keeper” shelf or perhaps buy another couple of my books.

The reason this particular program came to my attention last week is that there are now sites popping up like virtually libraries. A kindle reader can register at these sites and list books they have to “lend”. Or they can request a title to “borrow”. It’s still one purchase = one borrow, but much more global than immediate family or friends.

Some authors are feeling very noodgie about the this … others not so much.

What about you? As a reader do you borrow books from your friends? Have you found new authors this way? If you’re an author, how do you feel about the lending program? Of course I asked, I’m curious about stuff like this.

0 Responses to Lending Your Way to Sales

  • I used to do the borrowing thing when I worked in an office. Now that I work from home, I haven’t. I do continue to recommend books on my blog and facebook.
    I suppose this could be a good idea though. :)

    • Amber – I guess I don’t see it as any different from lending a print book. I’ve found lots of new to me writers from books people recommended. I’m hoping this lending brings new readers to my books.

  • Print lending I have no issues with. One person temporarily transfers their rights to a licence and then it gets returned. There is a physical limitation to it as you aren’t going to post your copy all over the country.

    Ebook lending doesn’t have this limit. Lending to friends to share an author is good for all parties. Person A lending to person B online is not. If its through lending lists eg kindleboards lend and borrow forum then it’s not A sharing with B, it’s B wanting something but not wanting to pay for their own copy. If they have requested your book then they aren’t discovering you from the loan, they are simply avoiding buying their own licence. 14 days is ample to read a book – and with no restrictions on max borrows they can borrow all your books from a variety of online lenders. It is capped to once per purchase but this could wipe a theoeretical half off your sales. Print lending was never that extensive.

    • Sean – I don’t venture onto the kindle boards. My one innocent foray into that realm left me permanently scarred (and my books spammed) so I didn’t know it was happening there as well.

      I would hate to think readers are simply borrowing their way through my list of books. But I’m not naive enough to think this isn’t happening on some level. I guess I’d like to believe that people who really want my books are actually plunking down the money to own them.

      And I’m not sure print lending wasn’t that extensive. I read somewhere that the typical romance print book is bought once and leant 7 more times (think of garage sales).

      Thank you so much for your perspective. You’ve given me something to think about.

  • To me, technology has changed the whole concept of book lending. Print books I have no trouble with. With ebooks, I have a big problem. If we doubt the harm, ask musicians how they feel about their experience having music downloaded from the internet.

    • Miriam – It’s been many years that muscians have been fighting the illegal downloads. I suspect authors are just beginning the battle.

  • I have a reading group at work and we borrow books from each other, but eventually buy our own if we like the author. I have let a few of the girls borrow from my kindle library knowing they will buy one for themselves, but I also know of a few that borrow, then download from a pirated site to have their own copy, which I’ve given them my opinion on this. In my eyes borrowing is borrowing. whether its from a paper book or an e-book. We can’t stop it, all you can do is hope it builds our sales by reaching more readers.

    • Lynda – Your group is more the norm, I believe. Honest readers sharing the joy of a good book. But there will always be those who ruin it for everyone.

      I think part of the reason readers don’t feel bad about downloading from a pirate site is their belief that authors are rich and have received advances for the books available. (Pshaw … they’d just need to see my monthly royalties to realize I’m not one of those living off my sales. 😉 ) But that’s about education and more education. Sharing what we know with readers often times is enough for some to realize spending that $3 for a book is a BIG deal to an author.

      And like you, I’m hoping the borrowing/lending is building a bigger readership for me.

  • As I reader, I’ve never loaned an e-book. Not sure I’d know how to, apart from handing over my Kindle.

    As a writer, I’m happy to gain more readership any way I can.

  • Nina,

    There’s another problem coming up besides pirating and borrowing. Many libraries are buying ebooks and loaning them out to their members. This can be done numerous times just like a print book. They get to keep the ebook for 14 days. I admit when I was young I got most of my books from the library. You really hit on an interesting topic.

    • Sandy – I was on the board of directors for a library. I understood that the rights to ebooks are purchased (say … 10 copies) and each book had a set number of times they could be leant through the system (and I don’t know that number). Then the book disappears and has to be re-purchased.

      Smashwords will soon make this option available to authors who publish through them.

      Before I moved I got ALL of my books from the library (then I became an author and found authors who weren’t available at the library).

  • I’ve never borrowed ebooks. Honestly I think if this gets your book to more readers and it is all legal maybe it should be done.

  • I a totally in favour of borrowing, my issue is how do I market borrowings? Any & all suggestions are welcomed.

    • Mackenzie – I’m not sure how to market the ability to borrow books. Marketing in and of itself is a difficult tightrope to walk.

  • Print lending I have no problem with, and found many new authors whose work I enjoy from lending. With eBooks I have a problem with the lending, unless done from a library.

    • Gerri – Even if it’s lending from kindle user to kindle user? (Say family or friends … not people seeking out borrows on kindleboards as Sean mentioned above?)

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