Should authors have concerns about e-book lending?

Part One of this article received so little response I’m doubtful there’s reason to post the second, but for the one or two people who might be interested, here you go. As promised, I’ll tell you why I had doubts about two of the e-book lending sites I found. In a word … money.

Part One of this article received so little response I’m doubtful there’s reason to post the second, but for the one or two people who might be interested, here you go. As promised, I’ll tell you why I had doubts about two of the e-book lending sites I found. In a word … money.

I won’t name these two sites, or link to them, because I don’t want to publicize sites I have reservations about. If you search out e-book lending sites, I suggest you read their policies carefully and make up your own mind.

One site uses a credit system: each book you lend entitles you to borrow one book. BUT, if you don’t want to lend your e-books, you can buy a credit for $2.99. Wait! Isn’t that an illegal resale? What about the licensing agreement you make with Amazon and Barnes & Noble when you purchase an e-book? Well, you see, the site owners didn’t buy the book, they didn’t “sign” that agreement. They’re just acting as the middleman.

And never mind that thousands of authors, myself included, have e-books priced at $2.99, and by the reader paying the owners of the site for the book instead of Amazon or B&N, the author gets cheated out of a royalty. Hush, silly author. Quit being petty. Just consider the word of mouth potential.

The other site I have bigger doubts about. I’m not concerned about the way they operate the actual book loan, which uses the lending features of the Kindle and Nook, but I have questions about their policy of asking the lender to request the borrower pay for this loan—not pay the lender, but the site owners. The borrower has the option to pay the requested amount, or more, or less, or nothing at all.

The homepage blurb states that “100% of profits in 2011 go to charities promoting childhood literacy” and in one section of their Guide it tells the lender to enter “the amount you’d like to see a borrower contribute to charity for this book.” However, I could find no statement of what percentage of the money they collect is considered profit. What if you pay $3 for the book and only 3 cents of that goes to charity? Would you feel deceived?

Sprinkled throughout this site’s user guide and FAQ are statements that are somewhat misleading, such as these (emphasis mine): “We hope that you’ll be willing to pay something to support our cause, support the authors who bring us such great books, and do some social good!” And, in answer to the question why they don’t set a price for borrowing, they say, “Because it would likely lead to market fragmentation as other markets arose to compete on price, decreasing the benefit of secondary markets to consumers searching for a specific book and authors who deserve compensation for the content they create.

Am I wrong, or does that sound like they are sending the deceptive subliminal message that authors receive a portion of the fees borrowers pay?

If you read their FAQ, you’ll see that their aim is to see Amazon and B&N change their policies to allow reselling of Kindle and Nook books. They say (emphasis mine): “By contributing to eBook Exchange when you borrow a book, you’re helping us work to change that.” My question—how? How would my paying eBook Exchange any amount of money to borrow a book change the licensing agreements?

Again in their FAQ, they state: “Ultimately, by opening up the ebook licensing restrictions that publishers currently impose, we’ll be able to make ebooks available to an expanded number of markets. We’ll be able to reduce ebook prices to many while helping authors earn more.” Truly, helping authors earn more sounds good to me, but I find it hard to believe a third party is interested in helping me earn more. Helping themselves earn money off my work … yeah, I believe that.

Am I missing something? Please, if I’m too dense to see how this is in my best interests as an author, help me understand.

To be clear, I am NOT identifying the above sites as bit torrent piracy sites. For now, they only exchange books through the authorized lending features at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But the whole issue of e-book lending or selling makes me nervous for one good reason—abuse. How so?

E-books are intangible.

If you buy a print book, you have the right to loan it out. You buy one book, you loan one book. Of course, assuming it’s returned, you can loan it out more than once, but look at the most popular print book you own and tell me how many times you’ve loaned it out over the years. Three, four, ten times? Fair enough. An author would consider that word of mouth.

Now, consider the forums where, via email attachments, people trade files copied directly from their e-readers. Disregarding the licensing statement they agreed to when they purchased those e-books, they say, “I have the right to loan out my print books to as many people as I want, so what’s the difference?”

Let me tell you the difference. If you share your “e-book shelf” on one of these unscrupulous trade sites, how many times do you think you’ll be “loaning” each of those books? Not three or four. Not even thirty, forty. A hundred times? A thousand? Where’s the limit?

Bit torrent (peer-to-peer) sites essentially force e-books into public domain—meaning the authors receive not another penny for their hard work after that initial sale. And yes, people do that with music files too, but most musicians make the bulk of their income from live performances and merchandising. Only the big-time authors make real money from public speaking engagements.

As for reselling books, that’s a bit different. Reselling a print book is still within the realm of word of mouth. Books deteriorate after awhile, so its resale can continue for only a limited time. BUT e-books don’t deteriorate. If sites spring up to resell ebooks with no licensing limits, they could duplicate and sell as many copies as they want.

How is that fair to the author? That goes beyond “word of mouth”. That’s theft.

I perused one of these bit torrent book sites once and read an author’s plea after finding her e-book available for unlimited free download. She asked that it be removed and tried to explain that writing was her career and unlimited “sharing” deprived her of income. The response? They told her to go f**k herself!

What say ye?

E-book lending libraries—the good?

This is the first of a two-part article on e-book lending. Today I’ll state my opinion of the good side, so I guess you can figure what part two will cover. I’ve known for a while about the Overdrive lending system, which works through the brick and mortar library systems throughout the country. My book is not available through that system—at least, not yet—but I recently discovered that it is available through at least some online e-libraries.

This is the first of a two-part article on e-book lending. Today I’ll state my opinion of the good side, so I guess you can figure what part two will cover. I’ve known for a while about the Overdrive lending system, which works through the brick and mortar library systems throughout the country. My book is not available through that system—at least, not yet—but I recently discovered that it is available through at least some online e-libraries.

For all the time I spend online, somehow I missed hearing about e-book lending libraries. Yesterday, I signed in to Twitter briefly and checked my “lists” to see what’s been going on in my absence. One of the columns I watch in Tweetdeck is a search for any mention of my novel The Brevity of Roses, and when I checked, I saw the following had been tweeted by @BLFeed a few days ago:

REQUEST: The Brevity of Roses by Linda Cassidy Lewis

I clicked the link and found myself at Booklending.com an e-book lending site for Kindle owners. Some member had agreed to lend their copy of my book in exchange for the privilege of borrowing a different book from another member. Naturally, my next step was to google “e-book lending” to see if there were other sites like that one. Indeed there are. I found eight.

Half of those eight allow you to search their database without being a member. I found my book available on three of the four that do. Seven of the eight lend Kindlebooks, but only four of them also lend Nookbooks. One lends only Nookbooks. Most of them require you to be a lender in order to borrow.

Today, I’m listing only six of the eight lending sites I checked out because I have reservations about the policies of the other two. I’ll tell you about those two in my next post.

How is e-book lending a good thing? For a moment, when I saw my book listed on these lending sites, my inner cop frowned. As I read the lending policies on the sites listed above, I relaxed. They use the lending feature of the Kindle and Nook, so each person who buys a book for their own reader can only lend it once—legally. (More on that in Part Two). So you buy my book, you read it, and then you share it with someone else. Maybe I’ve made two fans of my work. That’s good.

If my books were in physical libraries, either as print or e-book downloads, any number of people would have access to them. As one who’s made great use of libraries my whole life, I can hardly criticize that process. In the seven months Brevity’s been published, I’ve given away nearly as many copies as I’ve sold. Just last month, I gave away fifty Brevity e-books at LibraryThing. Yet, I’ll confess, it makes me nervous to know people are freely trading my book at these sites. Why is that?

I want as many people as possible to read my writing. Yes, I lose money every time someone borrows rather than buys my book, but eventually I’ll have more books out there and if they liked the first, maybe they’ll buy the second. (Gosh, does that sounds like I’m a drug dealer, handing out freebies to get you hooked?)

Maybe it’s just the perceived loss of control. Perceived, I say because for all I know, someone might have bought Brevity in e-format and already given copies to ten thousand people. And I have to be honest, there are books I’d like to read that I can’t afford to buy and my library system doesn’t have, so I’m tempted to see if they’re in any of these online libraries. But if I wanted to borrow, I’d have to lend, and that means I’d be lending some of your books.

Your turn: What say ye about these e-book lending sites? Do you use them? Do you want your books available there?

Read Part Two of this article.

e-Reader polls revisited!

Nine months ago, in the midst of weighing the pros and cons of self-publishing, I asked you to vote in some polls on e-readers. At that time, I did not own an e-reader, but later received a Kindle as a gift. I imagine some of you have since either acquired one or changed your thoughts on them, so I thought it appropriate to revisit three of those polls and to add a new one.

Nine months ago, in the midst of weighing the pros and cons of self-publishing, I asked you to vote in some polls on e-readers. At that time, I did not own an e-reader, but later received a Kindle as a gift. I imagine some of you have since either acquired one or changed your thoughts on them, so I thought it appropriate to revisit three of those polls and to add a new one.

I’ve used the generic terms e-reader and e-books in these poll questions.

  • If you vote Other in Poll #2, please explain under Comments.
  • If you do not yet own an e-reader, but use a reader app, please respond in Poll #3. Examples of reader apps are Kindle or Nook for PC or Mac, and Stanza for iPhone.

Absentee votes? May I ask those of you who prefer to read my posts “secretly” to please participate? Come to the blog and vote. I promise, you will remain anonymous.

Polls will close on 18 July, 2011

Thank you for participating. If I could ask one more favor, would you please re-tweet this post? More votes result in a better research sample.

Please feel free to discuss these polls in the comments section.

What’s wrong with my reading?

Recently, I’ve read several novel reviews that gushed about how the book had a powerful impact on the reader’s life. In a couple of cases, the reader said the reading experience actually changed their life. I can’t remember when that last happened to me. I want to know why.

Recently, I’ve read several novel reviews that gushed about how the book had a powerful impact on the reader’s life. In a couple of cases, the reader said the reading experience actually changed their life. I can’t remember when that last happened to me. I want to know why.

Pierre Auguste Renoir -- The Reader

I don’t think it’s necessarily my reading choices. I’ve read some of those same books said to be so powerful. They just didn’t have an overwhelming effect on me. Am I too cynical? Am I too dense? I know it’s not that I’m so perfect I couldn’t use a good life-changing experience.

Might it be that I’ve forgotten how to read in such a focused way that I’m open to receive that experience?

I have a pile of books to read and a backlog on my Kindle. Those dwindled a bit when I went back to reading as I ate lunch. Reading in little chunks that way is probably not the best way to experience a novel, though it might work for short stories, essays, or poetry. Then I started writing again. Now I eat lunch while I try to catch up on email or check in on Twitter. That means little or no reading.

What would happen if I took a few days off and did nothing but read? The first thing I’d have to do is fight the urge to put down the book and write. I know that every perfect word choice or gorgeous metaphor I read would have me chomping at the writing bit.

In previous posts, I’ve talked about filling up on reading before I can write. This time, I’m writing well, the words are flowing, yet I feel I’m missing something by not reading. Strange.

Maybe I need to disappear for a while and completely, absolutely, totally, deeply immerse myself in a life-changing book—if I can find one.

What was the last book that had an impact on you? Why?

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Are we creative enough?

The simple answer to that question is NO. We may never reach our full creative potential, but we should strive for it. We should never limit ourselves. Our souls should always reach for more.

So, since I’m not satisfied with my current creative expression, how do I progress? This speaks to an earlier statement I made about how reading and writing are two stages for me—filling and emptying. When I find myself struggling to express, it’s likely because I’m depleted.

Some call this depletion writer’s block. I recognize it as a need for a refill. I need to read. And I need to read great writing. That doesn’t necessarily mean I need to choose a classic from the high-lit shelf. I need to choose a book written by a great writer in the genre that inspires me, likely the genre I write.

Certainly, I need to read something I love. Something that thrills me. Something that wakes the drowsy muse within me. It’s likely I won’t read that whole book at once because, as I read, ideas will rush toward me like a swollen river. A river of words. My own words. I’ll put the book down and let those words flow through me to the pen or keyboard.

When I’m emptied out, I’ll pick up a book again. Creativity is a process. Ebb and flow. Never ending, as long as you open yourself to more.

Go, now, and create.


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