An article in today’s Wall Street Journal reminds me of a fear I previously expressed in “books, extinct?” on 8/13/10. I maintained then, that e-books may be sending physical books the way of the dinosaurs. The news article, written by Stu Woo, “E-Book Lending Takes Off… New Online Clubs That Let Readers Share Have Drawbacks but Worry Publishers” suggests that books, hardcover and paperback, might be on a quick rocket ship to outer space, as we speak.
E-book lending libraries such as Book-Lending.com and Lendle.me “ have gathered thousands of users, (and) allow strangers to borrow and lend e-books for Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble Inc.‘s Nook free.”Another site, eBook Fling is slated to begin offering its services on Monday. The lending procedure is as follows.
1. Lender joins lending website, agreeing to share e-books. Each title is shared once.
2. Lender tells website which Kindle book she owns. The site determines which e-books are eligible for lending.
3. Lender is notified when a borrower requests one of her e-books. Request includes borrower’s name and email.
4. Lender instructs Amazon to send the e-book to the borrower.
The borrowing procedure is as follows.
1. Borrower searches lending website for e-books that others have made available.
2. Website sends borrower’s name and email address to the lender.
3. Lender tells Amazon to send the book to the borrower.
4. Borrower has 14 days to read the book and the lender cannot access it. After that time, the borrower loses access to the book and the lender gets it back.
The 3 lending websites mentioned are free to users. When books aren’t available for borrowing, users are referred to Amazon.com. If the references result in purchases, the sites receive commissions. The sites also encourage users to lend their books by offering them incentives.
Lendle requires users to make at least one book available for loan before starting to borrow, and the site has an algorithm that improves users’ chances of getting a book they want if they lend frequently. BookLending has a similar algorithm, though it has no requirement to make books available for loan first.
There are some drawbacks to e-book lending. Selection is limited. Most major book publishers haven’t made their e-books lendable, and the books lent by site users can only be lent once and for only 14 days. So with every successful loan, the sites’ lending library shrinks “unless new users with books to lend join.” Borrowing books is neither guaranteed, nor quick. A desired book must first be available for loan, and if a request is made to borrow it, the lender gets an email request, which she can accept or deny.
But that hasn’t stopped avid readers like Marilyn Knapp Litt from signing up with BookLending. “I really like the idea of being able to borrow a book the way you might borrow a book from the library,” said Ms. Litt, a 58-year-old retiree in San Antonio. She has so far borrowed the first two books of the “Hunger Games” trilogy from BookLending. But she hasn’t offered to lend any, she said, because the books in her collection can’t be lent.
While publishers fear e-book lending deters people from buying physical and digital books, e-lending sites disagree saying “they are helping publishers because their users, after borrowing books, can purchase other books in the same series or by the same author.”
“People are saying I borrowed a book and I bought it because I didn’t finish it,” said Jeff Croft, who created Lendle. “That seems to be happening a lot.”
It’s an undeniable fact that electronic books are here to stay. It’s probable, though unfortunate in my estimation, that they will replace physical books as the primary access to literary works. The statistics tell the story.
Consumers spent $1 billion on e-books in 2010, and that number is expected to triple by 2015, according to Forrester Research. It added there were around 10 million e-readers in circulation in the U.S.. at the end of 2010.
as for me…i’ll just keep hoarding my beloved hard and softcover books…hugmamma.