A company called BookSwim, which operates a sort of paid Netflix-style service for paper books, is launching a site called eBookFling. The idea is apparently to serve as a sort of clearing house for Kindle e-book “loans”, matching up people who want to read a book with people who have it to lend (one time, for two weeks).
As Greg Sandoval writes on CNet, it sounds like the site’s founders are deliberately trying to court controversy:
"The initial reaction may be a negative," the company said in its statement. "Publishers and authors will claim the lending feature is being abused and causing cannibalization of sales." The company breathlessly acknowledged that the service may force authors to worry about "making only half the sales on the new books too!" (The exclamation point is theirs).
And Mike Masnick at Techdirt notes that eBookFling is not necessarily as free as I thought it was—it apparently costs $1.99 for someone who does not have any “book credits” to borrow a book. That seems to me, as to Mike, to be asking for trouble.
But it’s hard to see that this could pose any real threat compared to something like, say, file sharing, which is a lot faster and less limited. And there are plenty of gadgets coming out to let people more easily scan their own paper books into electronic form, too.
I still think that all the contention over the Kindle “lending” feature has been overblown. Public libraries have been lending out books for over a century, and private individuals lending them for a lot longer than that, and the publishing industry has yet to collapse under the weight of this reckless, scurrilous sharing. Being able to lend any given e-book out for two weeks only one time ever does not strike me as being a terribly perilous practice by comparison.