Ah, will it never cease? Darn you readers for wanting to treat e-books like paper books, and wanting to actually share them!

So, yet another e-book sharing method is coming. It’s called The Book Elf (cute name), and while they are starting out with public domain books, they say they’ll be bringing on copyrighted content soon.

The idea is simple. Users can add books on their shelf to share (read: lend) to their friends. They won’t use DRM file formats but will instead build DRM into the website. I’ll be interested to see how that works, and how users will transfer books to their various e-readers. This could be a huge headache that could stop this thing cold.

I do like their three-part policy on copyrighted books:

1. Users can only share within their “friends” network, preventing them from uploading a book to the entire Internet.

2. Users can download a copyrighted book from a friend’s shelf but can’t then upload to their own shelf.

3.  Once a book has been downloaded, it can’t be downloaded again for three weeks, putting a practical limit on how often a book can be shared.

As a reader, assuming transferring to my e-reader is simple, I like the concept.

However, I can’t imagine any major publisher will go for it. As an indie author, I want to know where to sign up–but look at the history of e-book lending. Most books by major publishers aren’t lendable at all from B&N or Amazon. Even those that are can only be lent once. And don’t even get me started about how the major publishers treat library e-book lending.

While I admire The Book Elf for its idea, I’m just not sure it will work. Readers want to borrow books from major publishers (in part because the darned things are so expensive, and have such limited rights). The better indie authors price reasonably and offer their books DRM-free, so there’s not as much demand to borrow them.

We’ll see, but I can’t imagine this will hit the big time. What do you think? Is The Book Elf doomed to become yet another historical footnote of the digital publishing revolution?


  1. If publishers were smart, they’d get behind something like this.

    Because if they don’t, people who really want to “lend” their books will just get around to figuring out how to crack the DRM and do it that way.

    It’s far too late for me to expect publishers to come to their senses, however.

  2. Since sharing ebooks except in vary specific cases involving an agreement with the copyright holder is totally against copyright law, there’s no way this will work.

    Every attempt at this kind of “sharing” has been shot out of the water, and this site will be, too.

    I hope they haven’t put any money into it.

  3. Yep. It’s really too bad publishers don’t figure out how to come to some agreement with companies that want to do e-book sharing so they might at least get some revenue out of it. Because they’re sure not going to get any from people cracking the DRM and emailing them around.

  4. I can’t believe that someone (within or outside the publishing industry) hasn’t come up with a “transfer fee” (under $4.00) where the fee would be divided between the publisher and the author. The fee could be paid by the sender or the recipient. When the fee is paid, the recipient would get and one-time-use DRM-release code.


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