So kindle has lending now! Except mostly only for small press titles, as most of the big traditional publishers don’t allow for ebook lending. My personal opinion on that is that it’s absurd, since “kindle lending” (like Nook lending) is so limited as to barely deserve the title.
Here’s how it goes. You buy an ebook. You lend it to a friend. You don’t have access to it for 14 days, but they can read it. Then it comes back to you! Voila! They no longer have access to it, but you do. Forever, since this is a one time deal, from what I can tell.
Why is this not file sharing?
Because the lender loses access to the file for the lending duration. This has always been the crux of why downloading ebooks is not like borrowing a book from a friend. If Donna buys a copy of Great New Book and decides that I simply must read it, she can hand her physical print copy of Great New Book to me. Legal, simple borrowing. Only for the duration of time that I have the book, she can’t read Great New Book unless she’s hanging over my shoulder. (And, contrary to rumor, we’re not that close.)
There’s also the secondary point that if she lends Great New Book to me, my cats will sit on it. I’ll bend the spine a little. I’ll probably spill Pepsi Max on my desk and narrowly rescue Great New Book from swimming in it. Print books suffer gradual but noticeable degradation, even if they’re not sent to a mass market death trap house like mine.
Ebook files suffer no such restrictions or decrease in quality. Donna can e-mail me Great New Book as a PDF, and keep her copy. And I could e-mail it to my mom, and to my aunt, and to everyone I went to college with, and we’d all be reading Great New Book but we wouldn’t all be crushed into one room in a scary tangle of limbs trying to see the same page. And no one will spill pepsi on the ebook. No cats will chew on it, no children will draw on it. It might get deleted, but another pristine copy can appear.
Now, you either think this is okay or you don’t. But the truth is that it’s different, and you have to acknowledge that sending 5,000 copies of an ebook to 5,000 friends is not the same as 5,000 people sitting on a waiting list at a library to check out the same copy of a book. It’s just not.
But File Lending Promotes a Culture of Piracy!
Anyone who is sitting around waiting for someone to legitimately lend them a book? Treasure that reader, folks, because they could have had their instant gratification one google search ago. You’re not teaching the people who lend and borrow that file sharing is okay. You’re rewarding them for not participating in it. Because if they were prone to? They wouldn’t need to borrow a book. They’d have their free copy already.
Besides, illegal downloading is really not the same thing as piracy. And fighting it does nothing to stop the real pirates.
Wait, the real pirates?
Yeah. The ones who resell ebooks on sites like iOffer for a profit. The ones who are engaging in the true, unwatered-down piracy, the kind where you make illegal reproductions of a product and sell it. To make money. The kind who are absolutely, 100% costing me sales, because you can’t really make a, “they weren’t going to buy it anyway” argument about someone who just bought your ebook from a pirate.
The worst part is that many innocent purchasers don’t realize they’re buying an illegal copy. Perhaps they imagine it’s no different than buying a used book, or a collection of used books. But used book sellers need to replenish their stock. They can’t sell a copy of Great Used Book and have a new copy magically appear. If someone else wants to order a copy of Great Used Book from them, they’ll have to find a physical copy–one for which the author has at least been paid once.
A pirate selling illegal ebooks is under no such restriction. They don’t need to acquire stock, like a used bookseller would. They get one copy (which they could illegally download to begin with) and sell it. Over. And over. And over. It’s a morally bankrupt sort of way to profit on everyone–readers who were trying to support an author by paying and authors who may never see a cent but have to know that other people are getting paid.
It’s hard to know which ebook retailers are legitimate. The only advice I have to offer–if the deal looks too good to be true, and you’re not at a major retailer known for offering deals…it’s probably not legit.
Lending, Downloading, Pirating
Lending can build word-of-mouth. It gives ebook readers back one of the advantages that they gave up with print books–the chance to share a book they loved with a friend, who might well go out and buy more of the authors’ titles. The restrictions (14 days, lend once) are a compromise, but they’re a step forward.
Downloading can build word-of-mouth too. Unfortunately, it mostly builds word-of-mouth to people who aren’t currently looking to buy your book. However, things change. I feel a lot differently about file-sharing at 30 than I did at 20, but I can tell you one thing…I’ll never forget finding Metallica to be the jerkiest jerks that ever jerked. I don’t want someone looking back in ten years and remembering the time Moira Rogers called them a scum-sucking lowlife and deciding that the money they now have to spend should go anywhere but to me. Ever.
Piracy sucks. Just say no.