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Amazon Launching eBook Lending Program, Publishers Unenthusiastic 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the amazon-wants-you-to-put-ebooks-on-fire dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon is starting a program to lend ebooks to Kindle users. It will allow users to borrow just one title at a time, but readers will be able to keep the borrowed ebook for as long as they want. The initial library will only have around 5,000 titles, because 'None of the six largest publishers in the U.S. is participating.' The article continues, 'Several senior publishing executives said recently they were concerned that a digital-lending program of the sort contemplated by Amazon would harm future sales of their older titles or damage ties to other book retailers. ... The new program, called Kindle Owners' Lending Library, cannot be accessed via apps on other devices, which means it won't work on Apple Inc.'s iPad or iPhone, even though people can read Kindle books on both devices. This restriction is intended to drive Kindle device sales, says Amazon.'"
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Amazon Launching eBook Lending Program, Publishers Unenthusiastic

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  • Someone should let them know that people are going to 'borrow' them one way or another, so they can either provide a legit means to do so that might actually result in a sale, or fight it and get nothing.

    I'm not gonna hold my breath waiting for the 'legit means to do so' choice.

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      They should also explain how cities and towns across the country have these buildings with lots of high-quality books that anybody can read completely for free. They can sometimes even take them home with a mere promise to bring them back reasonably quickly. It's really quite amazing.

      Now I know, that whole thing sounds kinda socialist, so I should point out that many of these buildings were originally funded by the noted pinko commie Andrew Carnegie.

      • by tepples (727027)

        Unlike Kindle Owners' Lending Library, brick-and-mortar libraries lend out physical goods and thus have no need to make an additional copy on the borrower's device. This is the key difference from publishers' point of view.

        (In before whoosh)

        • by swv3752 (187722)

          A number of Libraries offer Overdrive, which lets you download up to 7 books for 21 days. http://www.overdrive.com/ [overdrive.com]

          Then there is the http://www.baen.com/library/ [baen.com]

          So the digital ebook libraries are already here. This Amazon thing is just a gimmick to help drive Kindle sales. I'll stick with my Nook and be able to read every format of ebooks besides the Kindle's proprietary format, nor do I need to worry about someone deciding to lock me out of my books.

        • There is no difference between a physical good and a virtual one. Both can be copied and both are being provided to consumers with obstacles to that copying. The arguments being put up by publishers and their supporters are specious and meant solely to hold back the inevitable tide that will soon wash away their business model.

          Soon there will be precious little need for most of the present middle men residing in our economy. Manufacturers, service providers, salesmen, etc. all are becoming obsolete in th

          • by tepples (727027)

            There is no difference between a physical good and a virtual one.

            Legally there is. The author and publisher have the exclusive right to reproduce a work in copies, which U.S. law defines as a physical medium in which a work is fixed. So whenever a book enters a new device, that's a new copy requiring either permission, a statutory royalty where applicable, or one of the fair use-like defenses where applicable. Lending a physical book is done without making a new copy, unlike lending an e-book.

            Manufacturers, service providers, salesmen, etc. all are becoming obsolete in this age of digital goods and service providers

            Manufacturers? Digital goods can satisfy the "circuses" part of bread and circu

            • It is the legal distinction which I am calling specious. The legal verbiage codifying our intellectual property laws come from an age before a digital world existed. The principles behind the rights and restrictions spelled out in our IP laws are being ignored when it comes to the digital world not because digital IP does not merit the same rights and restrictions. The principles are being ignored because businesses are able to make legal arguments circumventing them on the grounds that the language cho

              • by tepples (727027)

                Instead of adapting laws to apply the same principles to digital IP as are to physical IP draconian laws are being written to be completely one sided in favor of business taking no consideration for the consumer like the law did/does for physical IP.

                So how can this be fixed? Voting out the bastards responsible for the draconian new laws won't work because nobody gets elected without MPAA help [pineight.com].

          • by bryan1945 (301828)

            I'd like to see you copy my dog.

            • While an amusing argument relative to present day technology I wouldn't dismiss the possibility later. However, a dog isn't exactly the kind "product" I was imagining given the context.
      • by xaxa (988988)

        They should also explain how cities and towns across the country have these buildings with lots of high-quality books that anybody can read completely for free.

        Some of them, like the London Library Consortium [overdrive.com] (all the public, local libraries in London) already lend out eBooks.

        (I tried it once, but I don't have a proper eBook reader. I'm not sure how good the service is.)

      • They should also explain how cities and towns across the country have these buildings with lots of high-quality books that anybody can read completely for free

        Last time I checked I paid taxes to support those libraries. I'm a huge supporter of libraries and think that money spent on them is a usually money well spent but let's not pretend they are free.

  • Will this be like a library, where you check out a book for free, or will it be a rental, where you pay to borrow it?

    • It's free. Hence, "lending" and not "renting."
      • Which is, of course, why money "lenders" never charge interest...

      • Actually, I stand corrected. It's being bundled with the Amazon Prime service, which is $79 a year but comes with a host of other stuff. So it's not really free after all - more like a lagniappe.
    • by Marcika (1003625)
      Looks like it requires a subscription to Amazon Prime, but won't cost anything extra.
    • by John Courtland (585609) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:32AM (#37934428)
      Remember that libraries are not free, in fact you subsidize them with your property taxes (in the US, idk about other countries). Libraries are awesome, but they are not "free".
      • by hedwards (940851)

        If you want to get that technical about it, nothing is ever free, there's always some sort of a cost that comes with it. Whether it be bandwidth, opportunity cost or just taking possession.

        In practice, it's a tiny bit of your budget ultimately and is there whether or not you use it.

      • Remember that libraries are not free, in fact you subsidize them with your property taxes

        Meaning if the GOP gains the White House and Senate again, damn near every US library will be bulldozed and the land sold to real estate developers. An ignorant public is a controllable public (this also explains their desire to destroy effective (read: funded) public education).

      • Amazon's lending is not free. It's a new feature of being a member of Amazon Prime, which costs $50/yr or so.

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      Libraries should use this system and set it up exactly the way it is setup for printed books: limited number of available copies, queues, limited checkout time for hot books, free use. That should make happy everybody: publishers (because nothing changes in the libraries), libraries (system is automatic, no need for that many librarians) and library users (no hassle of driving to the branch).

      Amazon should use this system as a rental like Netflix: monthly fee, limited number of copies one can hold at the sam

      • Also, every car purchasers should be mandated to buy at least one buggy whip together with his car.
      • Actually, you can already rent books from the library using Amazon's systems. My wife has rented books and read them on our Kindle. The downside is that there are limited titles, limited "copies" of each book (thus you go on a wait list until one is returned), and a limited time out per book (21 days, IIRC). The upside is that there is no cost (beyond the taxes you would pay anyway to support your local library) and you can take out as many books as you want (given availability).

        The Amazon Prime's system

  • by Sinryc (834433) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:18AM (#37934210)
    No big publisher wants more to bring anything like a library back to life. Publishers had to have hated the fact that something like a library existed in the first place, and if digital publishing can wipe away libraries, you know they will be happy. A digital library is something that the publishers have to hate.
    • Actually... libraries are one of the biggest purchases of books in the country. Most libraries have a new acquisitions budget in the hundreds of thousands (millions for the big regional libraries), and there are thousands of libraries across the country. A book that hits #100 on the bestseller list is probably going to be picked up by those thousands of libraries too, so once a book hits a certain critical mass, the publishers have another wave of guaranteed sales.
      • Actually... libraries are one of the biggest purchases of books in the country. Most libraries have a new acquisitions budget in the hundreds of thousands (millions for the big regional libraries), and there are thousands of libraries across the country. A book that hits #100 on the bestseller list is probably going to be picked up by those thousands of libraries too, so once a book hits a certain critical mass, the publishers have another wave of guaranteed sales.

        Yes, exactly. And it's doubly true for academic and some other specialist presses. A large minority, or often a majority, of the copies of most titles published by university and other academic presses are bought by libraries. Publishers can sometimes profit from this by jacking up the prices on books that they know lots of libraries will purchase, because they know that there wouldn't be any sales to individuals anyway, and libraries *have* to buy certain titles no matter what the cost. An example would be

      • Ah, but each person that borrows that book is a lost sale!

        Not really, of course. You and I know this to be false. The publishing houses, however, see it that way. So even if libraries buy 1,000 copies of a book, the publishers see this as 10,000+ lost sales, not 1,000 gained sales.

    • by sootman (158191)

      Every time I go into a library I thank God they're around and think about what it would be like to try to create them now if they didn't already exist.

      Hi, Congress and the **AA. We want to make a big place--several of them, actually, in your typical metropolitan area--where any local resident can walk in empty-handed and walk out with both arms full of books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs, for free. Oh, and the government will pay for it all. Ideally, they'll look like this. [wikimedia.org]

      Just imagine trying to get that done today. Go out and patronize your local library, before it's too late!

      • by JimFive (1064958)

        Every time I go into a library I thank God they're around and think about what it would be like to try to create them now if they didn't already exist.

        They would be created now in the same way they were originally. By a rich guy endowing them at the local level. The Federal government has absolutely nothing to do with it.
        --
        JimFive

        • by sootman (158191)

          There's a lot of libraries out there. We'd need a lot of rich guys to make that happen.

          http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/libfunding/fed/index.cfm [ala.org]

          The majority of federal library program funds are distributed through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to each state. The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) is part of the annual Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill... While the majority of funding for libraries comes from state and local sources, federal funding provides critical assistance, giving libraries across the country the financial support they need to serve their communities...

          On April 14, 2011, after vigorous partisan debate, behind-the-scenes haggling and a nation wondering if the federal government would shut down, Congress finally approved the FY2011 budget for its final five months, ending September 30. Congress made a .2 percent across-the-board cut to all federal programs and made $38.5 billion in cuts to both mandatory and discretionary spending compared to FY2010.

          IMLS received a 10.7 percent cut from FY2010 levels. Its FY2011 funding is $237,393,262, down $28 million from the FY2010 total of $265.8 million, which does not include the $16 million IMLS lost with the elimination of all federal earmarks from the FY2011 budget.

  • Stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AtomicDevice (926814) on Thursday November 03, 2011 @10:24AM (#37934300)

    Ebook lending is so dumb. It's a silly method to try and bring back the good ole days when people couldn't pirate your stuff because it was a big stack of dead tree. Now it's just some bits, and it's super easy to copy, so copy the hell out of it and sell it at a low price that reflects the ease with which it can be copied. I could pirate videogames, but instead I buy them on steam, because it's easier and better. They aren't just providing some alternative to piracy, they're providing a *better* alternative, and that's why I want to pay for it.

    A nice organized ebook store with low prices that tracks what I've purchased is *better* than just pirating them and stashing them on a disk somewhere and loosing them all when that disk dies.

    Publishers and people like amazon (amazon, to be fair, does an ok job already) need to think about what they can provide that is better than piracy. Ebook lending is not better than piracy, it's annoying and confusing and sucks.

    • by egburr (141740)

      I don't think it's so dumb. Why should I buy a book that's permanently attached to me if I only expect to read it one time? Maybe if I like it enough and want to re-read it, I'll go buy it. A good book will be permanently mine, while a lesser book will be returned.

      It's easy enough to pirate ebooks already. Amazon makes it easy to buy books, and soon borrow them, so there is little incentive to pirate them. I agree that a nice organized ebook store can be better than piracy. However, many ebooks currently ar

      • The stupidity of ebook "lending" is that there is nothing actually on loan. What this should really be called is "timed reading," or perhaps "controlled reading," or even "restricted reading." I guess those terms are less marketable, but at least they are honest.
    • A nice organized ebook store with low prices that tracks what I've purchased is *better* than just pirating them and stashing them on a disk somewhere and loosing them all when that disk dies.

      I was with you (to a degree) up until you said 'trackings what I purchase'.

      sorry, I don't want that or like that. one thing I've learned from this world we live in - audit trails WILL be used against you, one way or another. burn all evidence or try to keep none at all. your 'read history' can and will be used again

      • You mind having your books listed, but you don't mind having a ton of stuff you bought and sold listed on Ebay?

    • It's a ridiculous system. It made sense when books were finite resources, but it can't survive the modern era.

      Making a digital book library with fake lending limits is like finding a replicator that can replicate a fuel efficient car for $1 and telling everyone they have to destroy their car before replicating a new one. It's just a bad thing for humanity in general, and it shouldn't be condoned.

  • My local library in New York has a decent ebook lending program [live-brary.com]. Essentially it uses DRM-ed PDFs. Also, the New York (City) Public Library has a rather large eBook library [nypl.org], although it's locked into the Kindle universe.

    I'd prefer to see a more cross-compatible standard that works with all the eBook readers out there, and doesn't give Amazon a monopoly, but this is better than nothing.

  • I'll happily pay £10/month for access to all the books I can read.

  • I'm still waiting for the used ebook market to claw it's way to life. Unfortunately, it seems as if the first sale doctrine has been derailed by DRM to become the only sale doctrine.

    I love my kindle, but I am reluctant to buy new books unless I am absolutely sure I will like them. At Borders (I guess Barnes & Noble now) I flip through the book, which I can to a limited extent with Amazon. However, with ebooks, I can not take a stack of finished books to the used book store and sell them for a fraction o

    • by gorzek (647352)

      Borders?? I take it you haven't been to one lately... they don't exist anymore. :)

      • by egburr (141740)

        Yeah. The one 2 blocks from my house is long gone. "Going to the bookstore" has for years been "going to Borders". I know it's gone. I just have to re-train my internal labeling system inside my head. The Barnes & Noble down the street is not nearly as convenient, and I don't go nearly as often. It's just as easy to visit the used book store a few miles away as it is to visit B&N.

    • How would you sell bits? You don't relinquish them by giving them to someone else.

  • One of the reasons my wife got a nook was that (at the time - but you can use the kindle and other devices) was that you can borrow eBooks. Yes they expire after a time limit, but this type of stuff does keep the local library relevant, plus its already paid for by my taxes.

    The library also publicizes these other sources of eBooks: Project Gutenburg [gutenberg.org], Open Library [openlibrary.org] and the International Children's Digital Library [childrenslibrary.org]

  • The industry (publishing) is undergoing fundamental change and most of those companies which do it by printing text on ground up dead trees are not realizing it. There most certainly is a role for "publishers", apart from that of printing and distribution. That particular role is fast becoming irrelevant.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      Indeed, I went to a lecture on getting a book published and the whole industry is changing rapidly.

      What a lot of folks forget about is the time and effort it takes to actually take a manuscript and create an ebook out of it. There are plenty of tools that will do it automatically, but you do still have to go through and make sure that it was done correctly. And in some cases debug the book.

      A decent publishing house will provide editorial support and see to it that the book gets into the retailers that have

  • "Lending" something that has zero cost to reproduce is insane. This has somehow eluded Amazon and the rest of these lunatics.

    We lend physical books because they were and are a scarce physical resource. At first books were rare and expensive due to the physical constraints of making them. Later on copyright was created to artificially reinforce the scarcity once publishers gained the ability to print enough books to destroy any hope of profits and with it the impetus to create books. The concept is a goo

    • by mark-t (151149)

      Not zero cost at all, actually.

      In addition to the small costs of the electricity to run the devices during transfer and the cost of the bandwidth utilized to actually copy the data, there are also administrative costs that must be used to cover the salaries of the people who would necessarily have to maintain the system and ensure its continued operation.

      In an ideal world, computers would be perfect and never need human administrators to perform effectively. The real world is nowhere near ideal.

      • Not zero cost at all, actually.

        That would be incorrect. If you want to get pedantic it is zero marginal cost [wikipedia.org]. You ALREADY are spending the money for those electrons and bandwidth and admin costs and what costs they do present are spread out widely among lots of people and other services. The additional cost of putting a single ebook into the mix once you've already bought a computer and set up the infrastructure is so small that it is effectively zero. There is effectively zero variable cost [wikipedia.org] involved. All the costs are fixed costs [wikipedia.org] a

        • by hedwards (940851)

          You're correct and if I'm not greatly mistaken, those costs ought to be taken from the promotion budget.

          B&N is great because when I take my Nook there, I can read for a period of time any book they have in their ebook store for free, it is limited per day, but it's a great way of getting customers to start reading a book that they might not be ready to buy completely unread.

    • by egburr (141740)

      "The cost of reproducing and distributing an ebook is a good approximation of zero so the notion of lending makes a lot less sense."

      That's what I would have thought, too, except that the prices of ebooks are typically higher than the physical book in the bookstore down the street. Apparently, that server costs a lot more to maintain than all that paper costs to ship.

    • by ischorr (657205)

      The scarcity isn't the issue - it's that you purchased a thing. The issue is that people's brains break when they can't physically touch it, but there should be no difference.

      There's no question that I can sell or lend a chair to my friend. Or a knife. Or a DVD. Or a camera. Or a book. It's property - I bought a thing. Nobody questions that I bought a thing, and I can do whatever I want with a thing.

      Somehow people think different about digital THINGS that you buy. Some people are fooled with a weak

      • The scarcity isn't the issue - it's that you purchased a thing. The issue is that people's brains break when they can't physically touch it, but there should be no difference.

        People grasp buying intangible goods just fine. Look at any balance sheet of a major corporation and you'll see some form of intangible goods on there. People buy music from the iTunes store every day. We understand it just fine. That doesn't mean that every type of transaction makes sense. Lending an electronic copy of a digital book is an absurd attempt to replicate a practice that arose due to scarcity of physical goods.

        Scarcity is very much the issue. Lending makes no sense for a good that is not

        • by ischorr (657205)

          You haven't said anything new, and I don't think your argument holds any water. For one thing, you seem to be talking about making NEW copies, not transferring ownership (temporarily), which would (often) be illegal.

          I bought a thing. I should be able to give it away, sell it, or lend it. Whether you think that's related to copyright or some limited way to produce an object, it remains true.

          But your scarcity argument is totally bogus. Libraries exist and continue to exist not because it's difficult to ge

          • by ischorr (657205)

            I guess you're trying to say that scarcity exists, in a sense, and that it's artificial, and that's the impetus for libraries. I guess that's sort of true. But that's the same for purely digitally-copied objects as well - scarcity exists but is artificial.

            The exact same protections that prevent me from GIVING all my friends copies of my music, prevents me from burning CDs of all my music for them. The scarcity doesn't come from difficulty of reproduction, it comes from copyright and access granted by pub

  • I have two B&N nooks, and I've always been able to share any of the books I buy with friends.

    There's a limitation (8 weeks or something), and you can't loan the same book to the same friend twice.

    I can also "check out" books from my local library via their website, and I've done that before trips where I won't have good Internet coverage.

    How does B&N get away with being able to do it, but Amazon can't?

    • Kindle can borrow from the library too (now).

      The difference with this new plan and borrowing from the library is that this skips the library. Kindle lets you borrow direct from Amazon now for free... well kinda for free- you only get one a month and you have to be paying $80 a year for Amazon Prime. Libraries buy copies with your tax money. Amazon is a private company.

      I don't see why the publishers should complain if Amazon buys "x" number of licenses to rent out the books. Publisher gets paid the same

    • by Rix (54095)

      Amazon's lending system is pretty much the same as B&N.

      In both cases you're better off just stripping the DRM and "lending" them an unencumbered file.

  • Anybody bother to find out what the AUTHORS think of this or do we just have the opinion of what is essentially the middlemen ?
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      It depends. Honest authors love people borrowing books and sharing them. The dishonest assholes are the ones that think you are stealing from them if you let someone else read your copy.

      I have met both.. It's about a 60/40 mix with 60% being the honest people who love people that read their stories.

      Then you have the far right raging idiots, like Brian Edwards who says that libraries are stealing from him by allowing people to read his books.

      • I don't think it is fair to label them "honest" and "dishonest", There is nothing dishonest about it. Your "60%" either have a smarter business philosophy realising that if the lendee likes the book is more likely to read other books he writes, or are less motivated by the money

        Your "40%" are not dishonest- they just have a faulty business philosophy and only want compensation for the hard work they do. (Some of the 60% probably don't even consider writing to be work).

        It is not wrong- or dishonest, to wa

  • I always asked myself: when we buy a dead tree book, we can lend it to friends. What about e-books? Is there some kind of copyright/licensing that prevents it? Then could we make lending of a paper book forbidden (which I would feel weird about)?
  • It seems like the problem with digital rights discussions is the fact that they include the word "digital".

    How can there be even a question that people would be able to lend out their books? That we'd be able to re-sell our used music and games? Whether media has a a physical media attached to it should make absolutely zero difference to what you can do with it. The only difference between the two is how they're stored, so why should what you can do with the content be any different, period?

    If content ow

  • E-books scare the crap out of the book publishers because if they replace printed books, they lose control of the book market. Publishing a print book is expensive and risky, while publishing an e-book is cheap and easy. Publishers can easily be eliminated from the e-book business and they are trying there best to keep paper books popular by tightly controlling the e-book market and making them less desirable options. In my opinion, they are failing.

  • Has been happening for generations, and its not hurt the publishers enough to worry about, and often causes a 2nd sale due to them wanting their own copy to keep and hold.

    Sounds like the insane rants of the *AA all over again trying to save their dying business model.

  • I wish they would just abandon these stupid schemes and implement a simple e-book lending model. I don't see why they can't make it so I can lend a book to a friend and have it 'locked' until the friend returns it. This wouldn't really impact publisher sales and it would give e-books the same sort of social interactive power that traditional books have.
    • Amazon has actually had this feature for a while: Loaning a Kindle Book [amazon.com]

      Also, when the loan period is up the lendee gets a link to buy a copy of the eBook from the Amazon store, so publishers might see an increase in sales, especially if the loaned book is the first of a series or something.

    • by Rix (54095)

      What purpose does locking your copy have? Either you buy into the whole copyright nonsense, in which case you'll refrain from reading your copy voluntarily, or you don't, in which case you'll ignore the restrictions anyway.

  • I help friends crack and strip the DRM and we share the epubs. works great.

    it also has the side effect of giving me ownership of the ebook so it cant be taken from me or dictated as to what device I can read it on.

    It's a Win-Win.

  • Well, maybe not the devil, but a minor imp.

    The Big Six are afraid of the Kindle Lending program because "fuck you, how do we get paid?" And right now, the answer is pretty simple: Amazon either buys the rights to lend a book, or buys a copy of the book every time they lend it out to someone. From the publisher's perspective not a whole lot changes, and from the buyer's perspective the only difference is that you only have temporary access to a book you probably weren't going to re-read anyway.

    But I don't th

    • First off, marketing is never a cost item. Either it's bringing in profit you wouldn't otherwise get, or you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. More importantly, there are inefficiencies other than just printing that ebooks bring. Distributors take a 50% cut, ergo an ebook should be, at minimum, half the cost of the lowest priced print edition.

      FYI, someone fleeced you on the ISBN. Even if you live in a failed state like the US, the most one will cost is $125. If you live in a developed nation your go

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