Monday, July 30, 2012

I'm Mad As Hell

I've had my Nook for a little over a year now, and I love it. I do. I thought I was going to be one of those readers who misses the feel and smell of a real book, and sometimes I do, but the conveniences of an eReader far surpass my sentimentality. I love everything about my Nook. I love having hundreds of books with me at all times. I love that I can prop it up while I'm eating or at the gym and not have to worry about trying to hold it open with one hand. I love that when I run out of things to read, it only takes a few taps before I have a new book. And I love that it's associated with Barnes & Noble, my neighborhood bookstore and the place where I spent most of my time in my youth.

I love everything. Except this: I hate that I can't lend books.

I know Barnes & Noble has a Lend Me system, whereby a friend can read one of your books and, during the time they're reading, you can't. To me, this sounds like a great idea. After all, if I were lending a hardcover or paperback book, I wouldn't be able to read it while it was gone. Unfortunately, this is only available for, like, 12 titles out of the millions of books Barnes & Noble offers.

This seems ridiculous. I live in the same house as my mother, who also has a Nook. You're telling me I can't lend her a book without either loaning her my Nook or signing into my account on hers? And forget the inconvenience for readers. What about the detriment to authors? Every poll in the history of ever has said that most people find new authors to read based on recommendations. For someone who's on the fence about an author--or just doesn't have the money--borrowing a book from a friend is a great way to get a sample of that author's writing. And if someone likes it, he or she is very likely to go on and buy other books by them. Because those polls I was talking about? They say that the way most people choose new books (not new authors, but new books) is based on whether they've liked something by that author before (like this poll).

Need proof? In high school, I loaned the first three Harry Potter books to my best friend because she didn't think she'd be into them. Four more books and eight movies later, I don't even want to think about how much money she's spent on Harry Potter books, movies, and paraphernalia, not to mention how many people she's turned on to the book series.

So why are eReaders getting rid of one of the oldest ways to bond readers together? I understand about DRM and piracy, and why the risk of copyright infringement would be higher for eBooks than print. But I think the people they're deterring from making illegal copies aren't worth the damage that's being done to the free marketing an author gets when someone lends a copy of his or her book out. And I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. As of a week or so ago, Tom Doherty Associates (which owns Tor and Forge Books and is part of Macmillan) announced that none of their books published electronically from this point forward will have DRM protection. They are, to the best of their knowledge, the first division of a Big Six publishing company to provide this option.

Do other authors feel this way? I know many of the ones I've spoken to do. Maybe the better question is, what can we do about it? I'm open to suggestions. Because as the world becomes more and more digital, I think we're going to find more readers and writers being burned by the system.


  1. This is a super interesting post. I do worry about piracy, which is why I use DRM protection on Amazon. On Smashwords, to the best of my knowledge, there isn't an option to select or deselect whether you have DRM protection - so I presumed that lending might actually be possible for my book on Nook.

    I'll be interested to see what other people think about this!

  2. I agree. My main form of reading when I was younger was either borrowing from a library, or borrowing from a friend. Now I read everything on my desktop Kindle app, or my Kindle.
    I know piracy is a concern for many authors (my personal feeling is that piracy is more a help than a hindrance), but I would probably read so much more today if there was a sharing feature among eReaders. Even more if Kindles could share with Nooks, haha! Maybe they can - I'm a fairly new Kindle user - but I doubt it.
    I'm not sure if there will ever be a satisfying answer to this. Though I guess even people in the Big 6 are thinking about it.