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Received an email from Brian Ford of Lendle about this open letter.  Here it is in full:

Hi, Sara.

Lendle here. We’re a web-app devoted to creating a culture of reading around the ability to lend and borrow Kindle books. Maybe you’ve heard of us?

You might be interested to know that thousands and thousands of Lendlers are super excited to purchase books (including books from MacMillan) in order to read them, yes, but also to share the experience with others who will, in turn, buy more books.

We recently read an article on The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) which, frankly, left us gobsmacked. Apparently, the publishing industry is meeting because it finds itself “competing vertically and horizontally against all other media…” The takeaway, it seems, is that the industry is competing against games like Angry Birds.

We respectfully disagree. The publishing industry needs look no farther than the publishing industry to understand the competition. There’s a real lack of vision which should, we think, be your biggest focus going forward and this meeting only furthers our belief that the industry is intentionally avoiding the root of the problem.

You are quoted in the TUAW piece and from there we discovered that you are a key player in Pan MacMillan’s The Digitalist — an emerging issues blog with a focus on e-reading.  We hope this means you’ll welcome an open communication about the roadblocks your customers are facing when it comes to enjoying MacMillan content in a digital setting.

You say:

We have just been constrained by book covers, but we can now evolve further. The only difference now is that we won’t always make things that look like books.

To be honest, we’re not entirely sure what that means. We do think, however, that the focus — at least for now — should be on making the things that currently “look like books” more compelling for those of us that look like your customers.

Are you aware of the restrictions put on Kindle (and Nook) books? Are you aware that MacMillan has, in one fell swoop, revoked the lending license on hundreds of books? Do you think this is what your customers want?

We write to you because the media does not seem particularly interested in this topic. Issues surrounding reading may not be as sexy as those surrounding the music and movie industries, and this means they’ll never see the same amount of attention.

Sadly, this also means that your customers have almost no voice and, in turn, publishers and retailers are doing pretty much what they please. Who’s listening?

We invite you to take a look at Lendle. We’re designed from the ground up to be a discovery site. To provide incentive (and a means) for our users to purchase new books and to spread the word about authors they love. We have no interest in being known as an outlet for free books.

Most importantly, we aim to make reading fun.

We’re also inviting our users to pass this along and/or bring it to your attention. This may not be easy, as we can’t find any useful contact info for you or anyone else at The Digitalist. We sincerely hope this open letter finds an audience and we’d love to open a dialogue with MacMillan or anyone else in the industry who would like to tackle these issues head-on and in a constructive manner.

Incidentally, your favorite book? Not available for lending.


The Lendle Team

The Digitalist on Twitter: @thedigitalist

MacMillan customer service:


  1. For what it’s worth, addressing Sara Lloyd of Pan Macmillan, a UK company, about the policies of Macmillan US is a little bit like demanding that a Massachusetts state official deal with your annoyance over a state law in Texas. I’m sure that Ms. Lloyd finds the issue and your views interesting, but the policies you’re criticizing are policies of Macmillan US, and she works for Macmillan UK.

    Both Macmillans are owned by Holtzbrinck and they do cooperate on many fronts, but there are also areas where their views, practices, and policies differ.

    Due disclosure: I work for Tor Books, which is part of Macmillan US.

    And by the way: It really is “Macmillan” on both sides of the Atlantic, not “MacMillan.”

  2. First, thanks for republishing this.

    In response to the comments about Sara Lloyd working for a UK branch of Macmillan, as I said in a comment on our blog — it makes little difference to us. We’re not “blaming” Sara Lloyd for anything. She appears to be a (if not the) public face of an emerging issues blog centered around ebooks. We’re just interested in talking to someone who is a part of the industry. We’re interested in being a part of a dialogue and (maybe?) a solution.

    Sara may not be the best person, but she’s a person, and someone who appears to be interested in the future of publishing. And, for us, a person is better than no person.

    Most importantly, we’re just as interested in courting publishers in the UK because the most consistent complaint we see are from people who’d love to participate but can’t because NO publisher outside the US allows lending at all.

    What we do know is that our users love the service, they want to buy books (Tor, Macmillan — you name it) and they want to participate. They’re not getting a lot of answers, though, and we suspect they feel like no one really cares what they want, or is listening.

  3. Jeff Croft from Lendle, here. Full disclosure: I didn’t write this Open Letter, one of our other co-founders did.

    First, thanks so much for re-posting the letter.

    Second, to Phillip and Patrick: I believe the reason this was targeted at Sala Lloyd is because she’s listening. No one else is. We can’t get on the radar of anyone at Macmillan US. Sara is running a blog about the future of publishing, which means she’s trying to participate in this conversation. We are, too. Thus, we are trying to talk to her. Frankly, we’re interesting in talking to just about ANYONE in the publishing industry about these issues, but we haven’t had much luck making it happen. We’re hoping that Sara, as someone who is running a blog and trying to participating in social media, may be a place we can at least get some traction.

  4. Morning, I left a comment on the original blog offering to run a fuller piece from Lendle on FutureBook, so get in touch. Hopefully it’ll help you get on the radar of UK publishers at least. Just to correct what Brian writes above about no publishers allowing lending outside the US. In terms of Kindle it is Amazon, which does not allow lending outside the US: not sure publishers have a choice in that. Whether they would be receptive to it or not is another matter, of course.

  5. Hi, Philip. You’re not sure, and we’re not sure, but we think that’s the problem: No one knows, and neither Amazon nor the Publishers (nor authors) are offering a dialogue or explaining to readers (their customers) why things are the way they are. It’s pretty frustrating. As far as we can tell, we’re pretty much it when it comes to a serious dialogue on lending. Meanwhile, books are either not lendable at all, or publishers are flipping back and forth (but mostly back) on whether they support the feature, or not.

    We probably won’t write the exact piece that you’re asking for, but we’ve got a lot more to say (and ask) about lending. Perhaps we’ll post something that will be of more direct interest to you. If not, we hope that you ask questions as well. We’d be happy to point our users to anything on this subject.

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