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Amazon introduces e-book lending

Amazon yesterday made good on its earlier promise to allow lending of e-books between Kindle users. The move by Amazon brings it in line with its biggest competitor in the e-reader market, Barnes & Noble, which introduced e-book lending for the Nook last year.

Kindle title-sharing is not just available to owners of Kindle e-readers. Books can also be lent by users of the Kindle e-reading applications for Macs, PCs, iPhones, iPads, BlackBerrys, and Android devices.

However, the lending arrangements come with a number of restrictions: books can only be lent for 14 days; you can only lend out each title once; the original owner can’t read the book while it’s on loan; and only those titles that have been specifically approved for lending by their publishers are deemed eligible. Titles that can be lent will be explicitly marked as such on their product pages.

To share a book, you can either loan it from the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon’s site, or from the product page of a book you have already purchased. In both cases, you specify an e-mail address for the person you want to lend the title to. That person then has seven days to accept the loan, after which the item reverts back to your possession. (An unaccepted loan doesn’t count against the limit of one loan per title.)

You can view the status of your loans via the Manage Your Kindle page, and the borrower will be notified three days before the end of the loan period via a courtesy e-mail.

Although yesterday’s announcement fulfils an earlier promise, the arrangements still fall short of what many e-book buyers would like to see. They argue that the one-time lending limit is unnecessarily restrictive and is a clear disadvantage when comparing e-books to their paper counterparts. However, the publishers can counter that e-books are significantly cheaper and therefore some restrictions are merited. It all amounts to a feeling-out process, as both sides get used to the new and unfamiliar digital landscape.

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