29 Nov

Shortly after I received my Kindle, I discovered – a site where Kindle-owners can put selected ebooks up for loan and borrow from each other. You sign up and link your account to your Amazon account, and books you loan will automatically be available for download to the device of your choice.

At first glance, seems a terrific site. A library for ebooks, what could go wrong?

Fortunately, not much. It does mostly deliver what it promises, but there are a few glitches it would do well to get sorted out.

The biggest problem is their search function. With one field for both title and author search, and no option for combined or advanced searching, searching for a book is a bit hit-and-miss. You might be lucky that the book you are searching for is the very first result, or you may have to browse through page after page of irrelevant results. This is of course especially noticable if you search for a book with a name in the title, because you will invariably also get all books by authors of that name.

This is a huge detraction to the useability of the site. At the same time the search is also rather slow, which wouldn’t be too big an issue in its own right, but is annoying when combined with the other issue – especially when the search ends up returning no results! I have not quite been able to figure out when this happens, because it is not a matter of whether or not a book is lendable – perhaps it’s whether or not it exists as an ebook at all? That would make sense, and would seem a reasonable filter to put in.

A smaller problem is the availability of books, but I do know that this is not the fault of but rather that of authors and/or publishers not wanting their books to be available for lending. Still, it does get frustrating to look up book after book and receive the result, “Ask the publisher to make this book lendable.”

For books that are lendable, there tends to be only very few people offering the book up for loan – if any. This means a long waiting period – I requested a total of fifteen books back in July, received 2 within the first week, and then none since. Again, this is only’s fault insofar as it hasn’t advertised sufficiently, so not enough people know of the site.

Before you ask, no, I haven’t put any up as being available to lend myself. Not because I don’t want to, but because Kindle books are only lendable if you have an Amazon account with a US address.

Thankfully I haven’t yet encountered a book that wasn’t available for loan outside the US. I don’t know if that will turn out to be an issue or not. I hope not, but could fear that it will. Amazon’s fault rather than Booklending’s except if it turns out that I’m only told this when I attempt to download it, rather than when I request the loan.

However, with those big but still workaroundable issues out of the way, the loaning process itself is a breeze. Apparently I got lucky with the first book I requested, because within half an hour I received an email telling me that the book was now available for download through my Amazon account. I accessed the account, acknowledged the loan and had the book sent to my device exactly like any other book I’ve bought from Amazon. Since a loan is, by definition, temporary (or ought to be, anyway), the book remained in my account for two weeks from the time I acknowledged the loan, but in that interval, I could donwload it to as many devices as I wanted to. After the two week period was up, the book was automatically removed from my Amazon library, and returned to the owner. I didn’t check, but I would assume this meant that it also disappeared from my device the next time I synced it.

So A+ for idea and lending process, C- for search function and useability of site.

And publishers – please make your books lendable. I promise you that it’s a good idea! Of the two books I’ve had on loan, while one was only so-so, the other was so terrific that I immediately recommended it for translation into Danish! Surely that’s a desirable outcome?

For the rest of you – by all means sign up! My complaints aside, it’s a terrific idea, and as one of the issues is the lack of people with books to lend out, the more people I can get to sign up, the better! 🙂

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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Reading


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