There was a big dust-up in the ebook world this week.
First, some background. Some ebooks on websites like Amazon and B&N can be legally lent to other Kindle and Nook users. On Amazon, you can tell if a book is lendable by looking on the yellow purchase strip on the product page. It will say something like "Loan this book to anyone you choose." Some big publisher ebooks do not permit lending. Most indie published ebooks do. Each lending agreement has specific terms. Some only permit a few weeks of borrow time. Others are much more liberal. As an example, my agreement with Amazon states:
Kindle books can be loaned to another reader for a period of 14 days. The borrower does not need to own a Kindle -- Kindle books can also be read using our free Kindle reading applications for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android devices. Not all books are lendable -- it is up to the publisher or rights holder to determine which titles are eligible for lending. The lender will not be able to read the book during the loan period. Books can only be loaned once, and subscription content is not currently available for lending. –source
The above lending agrement is distinct from the one offered to Amazon Prime customers. The Prime Lending Library lets you borrow one title for a full month. I do not participate in this particular program because it would require me to offer my books exclusively on the Amazon Kindle. (And if I did this, many of my readers would attempt to use me as kindling.)
The practice of ebook lending has been around for some time, and my friends and I use Amazon's standard lending feature quite often. But some folks—even some authors—do not know much about it. The is probably because the process of lending via Amazon's standard program is somewhat clunky. If you don't actually know the person that you want to borrow from, it is hard to perform the steps necessary to execute a lend. That is where websites like LendInk come in. LendInk is a popular lending site that was created by Dale Porter to facilitated the meet-up process. It works sorta like a dating website. You log-in and post which books you have available for lending and which books you would like to borrow, the site runs a few algos to find 'matches' between lenders and lendies (sp?), and then you and your lending partner are directed to the Amazon or B&N website to complete the trade. This process is perfectly legal. No files are hosted on the LendInk website, and all actual trading occurs on the official websites. LendInk only acts as a fascilitator.
Readers liked this, and over 150,000 joined the site.
But a bunch of publishers and independent authors began to grow uneasy when this unknown website began to pop up in their Google auto-searches. Some wrongly believed that LendInk was an illegal pirate site, selling unauthorized copies of their works for profit. Others did not even know that ebook lending existed or that they had agreed to in their contracts. Few took the time to learn more about how LendInk worked, how many readers enjoyed the service, and why LendInk could actually be beneficial to their careers. Instead, they began sending cease and desist notices to Lendlink and its service provider. Multiple large online campaigns fanned the flames. Soon actual lawsuits were being threatened.
|Run. Run while you can...|
Few readers new any of this was going on until this message greeted them on LendInk's homepage:
This account has been suspended.
Either the domain has been overused, or the reseller ran out of resources.
Dale Porter (LendInk's owner) explains what happened on Digital Media Machine.
Dale: At this time, the host company is only advising that they have received hundreds of threats regarding possible lawsuits if they did not take Lendink.com down immediately. I do not know personally if it was a result of authors, publishers, Amazon or other rights holders. I have not personally been in contact with anyone other than the host company. I do however have a certified letter awaiting my pickup at the post office which is from a company called Noble Romance.The short and sweet of it is that despite the legal actions against LendInk being spurious, LendInk's service provider was so overwhelmed with complaints and threats of pending litigation that they decided it was in their best interests to dump the website. This is totally understandable. Defending against dozens of simultaneous lawsuits ain't cheap. The service provider offered to reinstate LendInk if Mr. Porter was willing to address all the complaints personally, but Mr. Porter stated that he was in poor health and lacked the funds to address the numerous lawsuits coming his way.
And if any of you think LendInk or their service provider overreacted, that they should have stood and fought, try to put yourselves in their shoes. Imagine actually being asked to sign a certified letter threatening a lawsuit. Imagine this happening numerous times in one day. Imagine the fear that would set in. Imagine being sick and losing your healthcare coverage because all your money is going to pay for lawyers' bills. Imagine not being able to send your kids to to college because your accounts are cleaned out.
Mr. Porter offered this update on LendInk's Facebook page yesterday:
To all of the misguided and misinformed authors that have sucessfully had Lendink.com suspended - Thank you. Your failure to investigate the site and actually learn what Lendink does has resulted in numerous threats against me and my family and for what, your thinking that your property rights were being violated. I can respect your efforts to defend your property but I cannot respect the fact that none of you actually investigated for yourself or took the time to actually read and understand your contract with Amazon or Barnes and Nobles before you formed the lynch mob. How many laws did you all break by taking part in what can only be described as a slanderous attack on a legit business and individual, not to mention those that actually threatened me and my family with harm.
Lendink did not have nor share a copy of your book. We did not have a copy of nor share any of your artwork. All we did was follow the rules set forth by Amazon and Barnes and Nobles and attempted to provide a legit service for book owners to share/lend the ebooks they purchased that Amazon or Barnes and Nobles listed as "Lend" enabled. If you have a problem with your book being loaned, then your beef is with Amazon and Barnes and Noble and not with Lendink as the actual lending functions were done on their sites.
Nothing I say can make any of you happy other than the site is down and I most likely will not bring it back up even though the host has offered to do so. I simply do not see the point in doing so.
I would like to thank all of the authors, publishers and general users of Lendink that stepped up and defended the site. I am truly grateful for your support.So, for now at least, LendInk is dead, lots of authors have pie on their face, and many readers are furious. My own relatively chill abode over at the kindleboards has already been rocked by the aftereffects. Readers are flooding threads with angry comments, and innocent writers are being forced to distance themselves from the dunderheads. There will, no doubt, be retaliatory attacks launched against some of the authors involved. Such is the way of the internet [Ezekiel 25:17]. Don't take part. Find some good behavior to reward instead.
Everyone is going to be worse for this blow-up—readers, writers, and lending sites. The hasty actions of a few fools ruined what should have been an exciting opportunity. These three groups are natural allies. Readers want to find new writers. Writers want to be read. Lending sites want to facilitate the process, but now things have become hopelessly adversarial.
For the actions of my dunderheaded colleagues, I apologize.
And to my fellow indie authors, please: Read your bloody contracts, question what you do not understand before you sign them, only seek out legal recourses as a last resort, and, for the love of fluoridated toothpaste, remember that burning readers can burn your career.
Here's a chill new synth track to cool ya down.