With music services such as iTunes selling an unbelievable number of digital music tracks, and Amazon’s Kindle platform resulting in a ton of eBooks being sold, one thing’s clear: people love digital content. While I’m still pro audio CD, I can understand the allure of digital music, and other digital products. There’s nothing to hog space in your house, and it’s always accessible.
For the most part, our digital content gives us many obvious benefits, but there’s a classic pastime that dies with it… sharing. Sure, you can share someone music you purchased on iTunes, but you’re not supposed to (and at that point, it’s not sharing… it’s piracy unless you delete it off your own machine), and if you purchase a game on Valve’s Steam platform for example… no lending. It sucks, and has been a subject debated for quite some time.
It does look like Amazon is taking a step in the right direction though, with an upcoming Kindle feature that will allow people to loan out their digital books to friends. There are caveats, not surprisingly, but this is a major step forward, and a good one.
As it appears, you will only be able to lend out a book once (I personally think this should be changed to once per six months, or even one year), and while it’s lent out, you cannot read it yourself. That makes sense. Another catch is that it’s up to the publishers to decide which, if any, books can be lent out. As you can likely guess, most of them are not thrilled at the idea.
I don’t see this as a bad thing though, because chances are good that this ability is going to sell more books, not harm sales at all. You can only loan out a book for up to two weeks, so chances are if someone truly enjoyed it, they’re going to buy it. Maybe not right away, but in the future. And if you know what it’s like to read a good book… it will suck you back in down the road. Plus, if your friend didn’t actually have time to finish it, they could always purchase it to do just that. I think the chances of hurt sales are almost nil, and this is absolutely a good progression of things. Kudos to Amazon for getting things kick-started.
Hopefully digital game services are listening…
This new feature of Kindle, while maintaining DRM, recognizes the human need to share books that have been enjoyed and/or found important. Not surprisingly, Amazon set up a few ground rules for its electronic version of lending: A book can be lent only for up to 14 days. A single book can only be lent once, and the lender cannot read the book while it is loaned out. Also, not all books may be loaned. It is up to the publisher or copyright holder to determine whether the title can be loaned out.