Lending Ebooks — My Thoughts
I had promised myself I wouldn’t even touch upon the topic. And, for the most part, I won’t. Not about LendInk itself. Plenty of other people have done that already. But, there are some disturbing thoughts being bandied about by authors. I haven’t seen those thoughts from authors in my own genre, but I thought I’d still put my own thoughts out there.
My question to authors—both in my genre and outside it—is, how many of you, from the time you began to read to now, have bought every book you’ve ever read? Yeah, no one. No one does that. Throughout our lives, we borrow books from friends and libraries. You can’t take advantage of those resources while also demanding no one be allowed to borrow your book—be it print or digital.
Amazon and Barnes & Noble have lending programs in place for their digital books. I think this is brilliant. I also don’t think it’s ‘against the spirit’ of the program to use services like LendInk and Lendle to borrow books from strangers. I have dozens of books I’ve bought that I’ll never use the lending license for because my friends tend to buy the same books, so why shouldn’t someone benefit from that one lend? It makes no sense.
Especially when you think about what lending does for an author’s career. Most of the multiple books authors I have in my paperback library or on my Kindle all began life as a simple lend from a friend or family member. One loan of a Stephen King book turned into a lifetime love of the author, and I buy a lot of his books. For my husband, he borrowed a Terry Pratchett book years ago, and he now buys everything the man publishes. In 9th grade, I borrowed Neil Gaiman’s Preludes and Nocturnes from my best friend, and I have been a lifelong Gaiman fan, buying everything Gaiman puts out.
This is how authors gain readers. A borrow turns into autobuys. In this economy, borrowing is how we test drive new authors. I don’t have endless money to waste on hack authors who publish their first draft or have publishers who take hands off approaches to editing (or, many times, simply have no concept of how to edit). I can’t waste my small book budget on books I won’t finish. Borrowing a book helps me learn a publisher or an author, and it will either lead me to avoiding them, or lead me down a buying binge. That’s how an author makes money on a loan: you write a great book, I borrow it, I fall in love with your voice, and then I buy all your books.
Now, not all authors and not all publishers enable lending for their books. I find this a terrible travesty for readers as lending is one of those great perks of owning a book you love: you want to share it. But, that is a choice authors and publishers must make for themselves, but I don’t think being stingy with books is a way to endear yourself to readers. Readers are already wary of ebooks. Let’s not give them more reason to reject the format.