Legit Ebook Lending Site Taken Down By An Angry Twitmob Of Writers [UPDATED]
from the pack-of-highly----got-it dept
[UPDATE: Word is filtering back that threats are being directed at some of the authors pictured or quoted in this post. I will reiterate my comment I posted below about the threats, mainly: DON'T DO IT.
THIS DOESN'T MAKE ANYTHING BETTER.
Techdirt's not that kind of site. I know that because I've been reading this site for a half-decade and contributing to it for well over a year.
If you really just want to make a statement to these writers about how they've lost a customer because of their actions, there are several places to find the names involved. I'm not going to compile a list and post it here as some sort of vindictive troll bait.
IF YOU WANT TO DO THE RIGHT THING, SUPPORT THE BLOGGERS AND AUTHORS WHO DEFENDED LENDINK, AND PATRONIZE LENDINK IF DALE CAN GET IT BACK UP AND RUNNING.]
A bizarre thing happened late last week. A bunch of authors, playing Twitter telephone, managed to take down LendInk, a legitimate book lending site. (This “discussion” has spilled over to LendInk's Facebook page.) LendInk, a matchmaking site for Kindle and Nook users to “borrow” each other's titles, somehow found itself on the receiving end of an irate mob, who accused it of piracy and sent (at least according to the threats) several DMCA takedown notices its way.
As of last Friday, the site is down, presumably as a response to the heavy influx of angry traffic and DMCA notices. There has been no official word from the person running LendInk (listed here on an info page [via Google Cache] as Dale Porter, a disabled Army vet who seemed to be running LendInk as a hobby), but it pretty much seems to be how it looks: LendInk is down and may not be coming back.
Here's a bit of the “outrage,” which mostly seems to be people lining up for their turn at the “I spot a pirate” mic:
Update: At least one of these writers (Imran Siddiq) has since admitted to misunderstanding what LendInk does, and retracted his statement.
A variety of misconceptions appear frequently:
1. This is a pirating site
A small amount of investigation shows that LendInk is (was?) not a “pirating” site. No copies of ebooks were stored on its sites. All LendInk did was connect people wanting to lend books with borrowers.
Here's a brief explanation of the process from a review of LendInk by The Next Web:
Using LendInk is as simple as could possibly be. Just browse the new and notable section, or search for the book you want. After checking it’s being offered in the format of your choice you put in a request and the lender has 48 hours to respond.
If you’d prefer to offer a book for someone else to borrow, it’s just a case of entering the title, author, a description and the format you own the book in.
2. All your books are available for free.
All your books only appear to be available. Because LendInk is an Amazon affiliate, any book title searched would be listed at the site. Clicking through would tell you whether the book was actually available (meaning someone had offered it to borrow). If the author or publisher has not authorized lending, then the Borrow button would be grayed out.
The massive wave of overly-concerned authors all searched for their own books and, unsurprisingly, were able to find them listed. What they failed to do was continue any further with the process. Fortunately, someone did and attempted to talk a few people out of their torches and pitchforks.
For people who are wondering why their book is there if it isn't lendable, or was lendable but now isn't, the answer is simple – that site lists every book for sale at Amazon or B&N. Every. Book. Did you notice that they also have links to buy the books? They make money through an affiliate program, if people buy books through their links. So they list EVERY BOOK. In fact, their website might be dynamic in that it generates a page whenever someone searches for a certain book.
I signed up and posted a book to share. I then searched on that book, found it, and said I wanted to borrow it. The site wasn't smart enough to know that I was the same person…. So what happens is the site sent me an email saying someone wanted to borrow my book, with “yes” and “no” links back to the site. When I clicked the “yes, I'll lend it” link, I simply got a page that said here's the name and email address of the person who wants to borrow your book.
No mystery. Nothing illegal. It lists every possible book. Some aren't lendable. LendInk is hoping you'll buy the books using its links, if you can't borrow them. End of story.
In addition to helping more readers read more books, LendInk also (via its affiliate links) helped sell books. Sure, every sale put 6% into LendInk's pockets, but it's no different than affiliate links at any other site. LendInk wasn't taking advantage of authors. Every time it made money, the authors made money.
3. I did not give LendInk permission to lend out my book.
This is the most common complaint and, like the rest of this list, is completely wrong. The fact is that most of these authors did grant permission for lending via their royalties contract with Amazon.
If you publish through KDP (whether or not you are in Select) and are at the 70% royalty rate, then your ebooks are lendable. Period. End of discussion. If you're at the 35% royalty rate, then you can opt in to make them lendable.
This has NOTHING to do with the Kindle Owners Lending Library for Prime customers. This is not a “borrow” under KDP Select. This is merely lending a legitimately purchased Kindle copy.
Some Kindle books are lendable. When a purchaser buys a copy, they can choose to lend it to a friend. When they do this, the ebook temporarily disappears from their Kindle and appears on their friend's Kindle. After 2 weeks, it disappears from their friend's Kindle and reappears on theirs.
It is 100% legal, and it's what you agreed to in the terms of KDP.
A publisher even weighed in on the subject and declared LendInk legitimate:
Here’s how it works: if you buy an ebook on your Kindle or Nook, you have the ability to lend it out to anyone else with a Kindle or Nook (Kindles lend to Kindles, Nooks to Nooks, etc.). This website connects ebook owners with others who want to borrow ebooks. So, instead of just borrowing from a friend, you can borrow even though you don’t know the person. All they do is match lenders and borrowers together. (They’re like a dating service.) The actual lending happens through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever the ebook was originally purchased, and that’s completely legit.
Basically, LendInk offered a legitimate service much like Lendle, but for whatever reason, a certain percentage of the writing community decided LendInk was offering pirated copies to everyone. Once a good witch hunt gets going, no one's going to stop until a witch is found… or created. Shawn Lamb of Allon Books crafts up a singular “witch” in an update to her gloaticle (Achievement Unlocked: Portmanteau'd!) “Pirate Site Sunk By United Broadside!“:
IMPORTANT AMENDMENT: For those of you jumping on me and other authors from the take down of a site – know this – it was a copycat site! The subtle difference is found in the title “Lendink” with a small “i” not “Lendlnk” with an “l”. They hijacked the name under the pretense of getting author's permission for pirating e-books. Collateral damage is regrettable, but we were only protecting our books, as giving permission to an unauthorized Lendink site would result in our books being removed from Amazon.
Lamb's bizarre theory of small “i” vs. big “I” site-jacking is just sad. There's simply no factual basis for this statement. Searches are not case sensitive and as for the URL, it's always going to be lowercase no matter how the site owner chooses to spell it. Attempting to justify your zealous overreaction by just making shit up isn't going to make your overreaction look any better.
The most popular piece of witch hunting equipment was this response many irate authors obtained from Amazon after informing it about LendInk's “piracy:”
We have not authorized lendink.com to loan your book and have not provided your file to them.
If you've found your work available on an unauthorized website such as lendink.com, we suggest contacting that website to confirm your rights and request removal of your work. If you distribute your book through other sales channels, you might contact them to inquire as to whether they have authorized the inclusion of your book on lendink.com.
Our lending program allows a purchaser to lend a title once and does not allow the recipient to re-loan that book. For more information about Kindle book lending, check out this page:
I hope this helps. Thanks for using Amazon KDP.
This was (and still is) held aloft by many authors as evidence of wrongdoing. But it really isn't. It's nothing more than boilerplate. Here's author Amanda Brice (again), breaking this letter down:
This is a standard response from the customer service department, who is NOT the Legal deaprtment incidentally.
No, they did not authorize LendINK to lend books. HOWEVER, what LendINK is doing is the same as Lendle eBookFling or een the lending subforum right here on Kindleboards. It's no different than simply lending your book to your mom (which is 100% authorized through Amazon, btw). This is just doing it on a bigger scale.
Amazon did not provide your file to LendINK because nobody has provided any files to LendINK. LendINK doesn't actually have any files. They are simply the clearninghouse for people to meet up with others who want to borrow legitimate copies that they ahve purchased.
Amazon touts the fact that many of their Kindle books are lendable. Not able to be borrowed through the Prime library, but that customers can lend their copy ONCE to someone for up to 14 days. During the time the book has been lent, it becomes unavilable on the owner's Kindle and can only be read on the borrower's Lindle. At the end of 14 days, it disappears from the borrower's Kindle and reappears on the owner's Kindle.
This is not rocket science…
The Amazon Customer Service department is giving a stock response. It would be a different response if you actually spoke to someone in Legal, as Legal understands that this type of set-up is, in fact, tactitly authorized by the fact that they have created a system to allow for lending. (And from a policy standpoint, this type of system would discourage piracy.)
Before the site was taken/knocked offline, any one of these authors could have drawn the same conclusions as these helpful forum contributors, but most seemed to be caught up in the excitement of the hunt. An in-depth post by April Hamilton of the Indie Author blog points out everywhere these authors went wrong and how easily it could have been prevented. Fortunately, she also saved the pertinent parts of the LendInk FAQ, which cannot be reached by Google Cache or the Internet Archive:
Is the loaning of eBooks really legal? Isn't this the same as file sharing?
Yes, loaning of certain eBooks is legal and No, it is not the same as file sharing. The key difference between the two is that the loan status of an eBook is directly dictated by the publisher and file sharing is usually done without the publishers consent. Working with Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, the publisher's make their eBooks available for loan under very strict rules. The actual book loaning process is handled by Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, not by LendInk.
I am a Publisher or Author of a book on LendInk, how did you get a copy of my book?
First, let us explain up front, we do not have a copy of your book. This is actually a common misunderstanding of how LendInk functions. No book has or will be stored on any LendInk server, ever. The title of the book is entered by our members and the book information is fed to us by an automated link between LendInk and Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Our servers only store our member contact information and the basic book information such as the author, ASIN and book description. We do not even store the book cover artwork.
It's all said and done at this point. LendInk is dead, at least for the time being. It's bandwidth is burnt and if it ever gets back online, it's very likely going to be facing down DMCA takedown notices for content it never had. And for what? Meanwhile you've got authors patting themselves on the back for knocking the site offline, all because some authors just don't like the fact that someone enjoyed their work without paying for it. Here's a couple of lovely quotes:
From the Kindle Boards:
Am I proud they have been shut down? Am I proud to have stood up for my legal rights as author? You betcha! If they were a legitimate site and had written consent from each and every author to display their work for free (forfeiting their royalty income as a result) then I doubt very much that the site would have suddenly disappeared overnight. I am tired of plagiarism, book piracy and cheap-*ss scum bags who won't part with a measly $2.99 or $4.99 to support authors and show respect for their hard work, not to mention the graphic artists, editors, photographers who also contributed to the birth of an author's ebook.
From the Amazon support board, an attack on the right of first sale:
Up until now I was just getting fed up with folks listing my books on ebay, amazon and third party sites selling the createspace paperback version at highly inflated prices!
If you can't read your own Terms and Conditions and can't parse a website well enough to determine whether it's simply performing an affiliate search or offering up pirated goods, maybe you shouldn't be in the ebook business. And if you can't deal with a few unpaid readings, go shout at your local library or something else as equally alienating and useless. Because no matter how much you yell at people for sharing, you can't have all the money.