E-Book Lending Site Coming From BookSwim

Library Books

Major publishers have so far been reticent to sanction a rental market for e-books, but not so with the smaller companies. According to Publishers Weekly, BookSwim.com, the New Jersey-based print-book rental company billed as “the Netflix of books,” is planning to do some e-book lending of their own.

The company has launched a new site called eBookToss.com, a virtual “e-book swap” that will facilitate the direct lending of e-books between consumers using the lending features enabled by platforms like the Kindle, and the Nook.

BookSwim CEO George Burke said:

“We’ve been talking to publishers about the concept of e-book rentals, but we don’t really know how possible that is. But, based on the announcement from Amazon in December [about enabling loans], we think we’ve found a model.”

eBookToss.com pools users to create an online list of lendable e-books and will facilitate free loans directly between users (contingent on features enabled by e-book providers, of course). The company is not the first to come up with the concept, though. A Web site called ebooklendinglibrary.com has been quietly operating a forum and a bulletin board for people to lend e-books, but it’s not very sophisticated and has generated only light traffic thus far. Probably because they’ve been trying to retrofit a message board into a swapping community, which is prone to problems.

The problems of technology and user interface may be the least of the challenges facing BookSwim at this point considering that e-book lending suffers from highly restrictive terms on both the Kindle and the Nook. First of all, books must have an agreement with publishers that permits lending, which is often disabled by publishers on popular titles. Additionally, Kindle and Nook books can be loaned only once, and only for a period of 14 days.

Lending e-books has become a troubling issue facing publishers, consumers, libraries and readers in the digital age. Consumers mostly don’t own the e-books they buy, they simply own access to them. Burke has reportedly said he doesn’t expect eBookToss. com to be a big moneymaker, but expects it to make some modest dollar for the company in a few ways, like possibly selling ebooks via affiliate links. He is hopeful though, if the site becomes popular, that it will influence publishers as well as platform providers like Amazon, B&N, and Google, to allow more flexibility in how their books are lent, and someday maybe even rented.

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