Amazon announced today that they will bring lending to Kindle e-books “later this year.” This is a feature that many users had been clamoring for: after all, they reason, you can lend printed books to whomever you want for as long as you want. With e-books, the process can theoretically be even simpler: instead of arranging to physically meet up with someone (or mail the book back and forth, which might cost more than the book!) or worry about getting your book back, you can just input a user’s email address and zip the e-book to them wherever they are. Even better, you could set a time for that e-book to “expire” and it would automatically come back to you — I’m sure we all have paper books we’ve lent out and never gotten back!
This is also an important move by Amazon, as it matches the Nook’s existing “Lend Me” feature, which enables e-book lending for some Nook titles (if approved by the publisher).
Of course, publishers aren’t generally too keen on the idea of unlimited lending, so there are understandably some limitations (which happen to be identical on both the Kindle and Nook): first, once you lend an e-book, you can’t read it while it’s lent out — so only one person can read the book at a time. Second, each e-book can only be lent one time, period. Third, the lending period is exactly 14 days, no more, no less.
Even with these limitations (which seem a bit too stringent for my tastes, but some limitations are perfectly understandable), it’s a cool and useful feature, and one that negates a previous Nook advantage. One of the reasons I am a fan of all e-book readers (not just my beloved Kindle 2) is that advances in one e-reader’s hardware or software capabilities generally trickle down to all e-readers soon enough. So far, the existence of the Nook has at least motivated Amazon to lower Kindle prices and add this lending feature, so that’s a win in my book.
One other note on lending: with Amazon’s Kindle, you have the option of registering multiple devices to a single account, including multiple Kindles or Kindle DXs, the Kindle for iPad/iPhone app, or Kindle for Mac/PC apps. Most Amazon e-books allow you to read them on up to 6 devices simultaneously (look for the part on the e-book product page where it says “Simultaneous Device Usage,” and there will either be a number or “Unlimited”). That means that you can register multiple devices to your Amazon account (including devices used by your family members or friends you trust to be on your account), and e-books you purchase can be read at the same time on your Kindle 3, your wife’s Kindle 2, your son’s Kindle for Mac program, and your daughter’s Kindle for iPhone app (as one example). Even better, the 6-device limit is only a simultaneous limit and is per e-book, so you can read an e-book on your Kindle, and then de-authorize it from that device and authorize it on your 7th device and read it there too. For certain families or close friends, this system is far better than any lending feature, and allows for multiple people to easily share the same e-book purchases, even if they live in different parts of the world. Try doing that with a single copy of a printed book!
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