Amazon have announced that they will be letting Kindle users loan ebooks to other Kindle users. Although this has been trumpeted in some corners as a major innovation, Barnes & Noble have of course been offering this for some time on their Nook ereader. I can't help thinking that Amazon's late conversion to allowing book lending is nothing more than a desire for a "tick list" feature - something customers want to have but that Amazon don't really want.
To be honest, it's probably as much publishers' fault as Amazon's. There's a lot of paranoia about digital copying, and some people will go to great lengths to deny the fact that most of their customers are basically pretty honest - especially if you make it easy to be honest. The real problem for content owners comes when they make it too hard to get hold of their content. Once it's easier and simpler to 'pirate' than it is to get a legitimate copy, people will take the 'pirate' route. But take the simple route and make it as easy as possible to buy the content (for a reasonable price), and people will buy.
What really irks me about Amazon's announcement, though, is the weaselly way they've implemented book loans. You'll be able to loan a title you've purchased, but just once. To one person. For 14 days at most. Once you've lent it once, that's the option used up. Even B&N let you loan a book three times, and I really can't see why it shouldn't be allowed as many times as you want. Just like print.
What an innovation.
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