The LendInk fiasco

10 August 2012 08:25

Sometime last week, I stumbled upon a post on the Kindleboards linking to a "piracy site" that "gave away all our books". I would provide a link to this topic but the diligent moderators have cast it into oblivion. This is probably for the best. My point is, the link got me curious, so I visited the site: After about 10 seconds of looking around I came to the conclusion that it was most definitely NOT a piracy site, but instead a matchmaking site for the Kindle’s Lending functionality (and similar features for BN). Of course, posted this explanation in the thread as well, as did many others. I thought the discussion died down after that.

A few days later, I saw another post that LendInk was down, with an error message stating that the site had overrun its bandwidth limit. Apparently the site was receiving a lot more attention than they anticipated, but I figured they’d sort it out with their host in due time.

Then yesterday, the news broke that dozens of authors had sent copyright notices to LendInk’s host, and[utm_medium=feedutm_campaign=Feed%3A+Slashdot%2Fslashdot+%28Slashdot%29] the site had been forced offline]([#amp).

You’ve got to be kidding me!

First of all, LendInk does not possess anycopies of our work. A few of my fellow authors went through the trouble of testing it out. This is what they experienced:

  • Author creates account Steve, indicates that he is the owner of book A
  • Author creates account Bob, indicates he would like to lend book A
  • LendInk sends a message to Steve, saying "Bob wants to lend book A", his address is bob@<some hostname>.com
  • Steve then uses the Lending function on his Kindle to send Bob his book. The Kindle disables the copy for Steve for 14 days, and sends it to Bob

Note the last part. It’s not LendInk doing the transfer, it’s the Kindle! It’s simply a feature created by Amazon.

In fact, when you upload a book to Kindle Direct Publishing, you can choose if you want to enable Lending. It’s checked by default, but it can be turned off (though only if you choose to receive 35% royalties instead of 70%, the 70% royalty option forces you to accept lending). It’s listed quite clearly in the Kindle Direct Publishing Terms and Conditions (section 5.2). But of course, "nobody reads those right?"

I’m sure that by the tone of my writing you’ve already figured out that I am appalled by the actions of my "fellow" authors. I for one happily support initiatives such as LendInk. I see these sites as the digital equivalent of book clubs, which I happily endorse. I know my books are being shared among multiple readers, because people who bought it told me so. My response: "Awesome! The more readers, the better!". Sure, I’d make more money if each reader paid for their copy, but my work is still being read, and let’s not forget that the only reason I am an avid reader today is because of our local library. Lending is good for us.