Barnes & Noble Unveils Digital Lending

While most folks have fixated on the Nook‘s ($259) secondary color screen, compared to the pedestrian and now antiquated Amazon Kindle, the most significant feature of Barnes & Noble’s upcoming Android-based eReader is digital lending. From the Nook FAQ:

With our new LendMe™ technology, you can now share from nook to nook. But it doesn’t stop there. Starting Nov. 30th, you can lend to and from any device with the Barnes & Noble eReader app, including PC, Mac OS®, BlackBerry®, iPhone™ and iPod® touch. All you need to know is your friend’s email address. You can lend many of your eBooks one time for a maximum of 14 days. When you use our LendMe™ technology, you will not be able to read your eBook while it is on loan, but you always get it back.

We’ve previously seen some minor forays into digital media sharing (Welcome to the Social, MusicGremlin) and I had proposed a single license transfer model. Yet this appears to be the most consumer friendly and practical implementation. When combined with in-store wireless book browsing, the Nook experience (on sale 11/30) appears to closely mirror how we interact with physical media. However, B&N’s ambiguous language (“many” “up to” “a maximum of“) has me wondering what sort of lending policy variation we’ll see on a per title basis. And, if B&N is able to license content sharing from the publishers, you know Amazon will most likely implement similar functionality in the near future (along with another price drop?). But they better move quick before I pick up a pair of Nooks.

And now, some gratuitous product shots. Click to enlarge:

6 thoughts on “Barnes & Noble Unveils Digital Lending”

  1. I actually hope there’s a lending limit before forums spring up where strangers swap books leading publishers to kill the whole thing. So I’d like to see X shares per title or X shares of a title in a given time frame. And as long as this applies to most titles and you truly have two weeks per title, I can see picking up a Nook for myself and my mom (1000 miles away) – to relpace our current method of shipping physical books back and forth.

  2. Pure speculation, but I imagine B&N will be bound to the content’s licensing. Something to the effect of…

    ‘Alice in Wonderland’ ( public domain ) = unlimited sharing

    Chris Anderson’s ‘Free: The Future of a Radical Price’ ( liberal CC license ) = share a finite number of times

    ‘Harry Potter and the ________’ ( strict copyright ) = Share once

    P.S. Android using AT&T as a dumb pipe – oh the irony!



  3. Dave, it seems there is a lending limit, and that limit is once.

    “You can lend many of your eBooks *one time* for a maximum of 14 days” (emphasis added)

    Frankly, this is useless to me. I usually read longer books and 14 days is simply not enough time for me to finish most books. I suspect this space will continue to be a mess until someone pairs great hardware (hello, nook) with sane content licensing and interop (like we now have with unfettered MP3’s).

    Publishers should insist that the books be readable across devices. They should also allow books to be shared up to x times by the original purchaser for unspecified length.

    If they do this, it will be the publishers, and not the e-book sellers, swinging the big stick.

  4. Doh, not sure how I missed that. One time for 14 days should work in my case most of the time. Interoperability/licensing between devices (whether it be ebooks or digital video) will continue to be a problem though and I assume that 14 day, one sharee policy came from the publishers. But, like Todd describes, I also wonder if different books will have different terms for time and shareability. This isn’t perfect, but it’s BETTER.

  5. I have had the Kindle 1 since about 4 months after its initial release. Its a great device. That being said I live in Fairfax, Virginia a large Northern Virginia metro county with a very good library system and I am very cheap! I use the kindle to for convenience when I can’t find books in one of the library’s 20 some branches. In many case the books in Amazon’s kindle library are cheaper than the hardcover editions. It will be interesting to see the B&N nook. However, there is so much evolution in the readers right now I think I will stick with the Kindle for a few more months and see what develops both in price and technology. I think Sony and Amazon can probably blow B&N out of the water and also Plastic Logic is unveiling their unit at the CES in Jan.

  6. The lending ONCE per book for 14 days is bad enough. The killer is, whether or not this is permitted is up to the publisher.

    Remember the Kindle’s to text to speech feature. After the Publisher uproar Amazon left the feature’s availability up to the publisher. Then text to speech virtually disappeared. I expect leaving ‘lending’ up to the publisher will quickly lead to no lending ability at all.


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