We launched Lendle just over a year ago. Amazon had just begun to embrace digital lending and we knew we could build a great social experience for millions of Kindle owners.
We love being part of an industry on the move and taking on some of the tough issues surrounding ownership and digital content, but our primary goal has always been to create the best social-lending site we could build.
That has always meant a site that focuses on lending above all other considerations.
At its core, we’re a matchmaking service for Kindle owners. Our Lendlers list the books they’ve purchased, which in turn provides the foundation for our library of lendable content.
When someone requests a book, we make that request available to the Lendle community.
We’ve introduced several new features over the last year, but they’re all designed to drive and improve the core lending experience.
- We have fulfilled over 70,000 loan requests.
- Our community has added nearly 50,000 unique (lendable) titles.
- All told, Lendle lists 330,000 books available to borrow.
We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve built, and we think Lendle has been an amazing success.
With all that said, we started out as a team of three, and we remain a team of three: We’ve not outsourced the design, the troubleshooting, or the customer service, and we’ve accomplished all of this without accepting a single penny of outside funding.
Lendle has always been a huge undertaking, and as our community has grown, so too have our responsibilities.
On top of all that, two of the three of us have full time jobs outside of running Lendle, and various other “living life” priorities that we would like to focus on.
We don’t want any of that to get in the way of the customer service we expect of ourselves, and we don’t want our additional workload to have an effect on potential new features or the overall Lendle experience, either.
With that in mind, we’re looking toward the idea of selling Lendle to someone (or a group of someones) who is interested in building upon our successes, and taking the community to the next level.
Such a sale would involve:
- The Lendle brand, including all associated trademarks.
- All associated code.
- Day-to-day operations.
Lendle means a lot to us. We’ve put over a year of our lives into growing a great community and implementing new features and we’ve done our best to put a unique spin on social-lending to ensure that Lendle stands out amongst the competition.
Even so, there’s still a vast untapped market for social-lending that is millions of potential Lendlers strong, and we think a nimble and innovative home for Lendle can only lead to great things.
As competition in the ebook space heats up, we expect to see more and more acceptance of digital lending amongst publishers, authors, and retailers. Already, TOR Books — an imprint of publishing powerhouse Macmillan and one of the largest publishers of Science Fiction and Fantasy novels — has announced that it will drop all DRM from its collection in early July 2012.
In addition, Amazon is moving into publishing more and more, and we expect this to increase the lendable content available to Lendlers. Most recently, Amazon Publishing bought the publishing rights to the entire James Bond backlist.
The best is yet to come.
If you’re interested, get in touch!
I just found out that Apple is rejecting my new manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams and won’t carry it in their store because inside the manifesto are links to buy the books I mention in the bibliography.
Quoting here from their note to me, rejecting the book: “Multiple links to Amazon store. IE page 35, David Weinberger link.”
A bibliography at the end of Godin’s book links directly to several books on Amazon. Amazon, in turn, competes with Apple in the ebook market. Apple takes a look at Godin’s links and says no dice.
John Gruber suggests that Godin’s iBooks version could simply link to Apple’s iBookstore, instead of linking away to Amazon.
I’d second that suggestion, not as a way to appease Apple (assuming, of course, that it would), but because it seems like the common sense, consumer-friendly option. I’ve already made the decision to buy an iBook — don’t be cute and link me away to Amazon for follow-up purchases.
Out of curiosity, I checked the price and availability of the books Godin links to, both on Amazon and on the iBookstore:
- Thinking, Fast and Slow | Amazon: $15.00 | Apple: $12.99
- Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling | Amazon: $11.41 | Apple:$11.99
- Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything | Amazon: $16.30 | Apple: $8.99
- Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track | Amazon: $25.54 | Apple: $23.99
- Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education | Amazon: $9.95 | Apple: $2.99
- Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges | Amazon: $10.88 | Apple: $12.99
- Horace Mann’s Troubling Legacy: The Education of Democratic Citizens | Amazon: $28.59 | Apple: NOT AVAILABLE
- The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It | Amazon: $14.94 | Apple:$12.99
- Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength | Amazon: $16.06 | Apple: $14.99
- DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education | Amazon: $9.90 | Apple: NOT AVAILABLE
- Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google? | Amazon: $11.85 | Apple: $9.99
- Civilization: The West and the Rest | Amazon: $21.50 | Apple: $16.99
- Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room | Amazon: $17.15 | Apple: $12.99
- Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential (Preorder) | Amazon: $16.97 | Apple: $12.99
The Amazon links I’ve used come from a freely-available HTML version of Godin’s book. I don’t know if the version Godin submitted to Apple contains different links or different versions of the same links, though I think the answer to that may be an important consideration.
Out of fourteen books, all but two can be purchased through Apple’s iBookstore. Of those twelve, ten are cheaper (in some cases, a lot cheaper) to buy from the iBookstore than they would be by following Godin’s existing Amazon links.
Clearly, a hypothetical customer who purchases Stop Stealing Dreams from the iBookstore 1) prefers (or at least enjoys) ebooks and 2) has chosen Apple’s offering over utilizing the freely available Kindle app. Common sense, then, says you cater to that customer’s established preference, right?
My first thought was to investigate whether or not Godin was using Amazon affiliate links, which would at least provide a monetary explanation for his desire to carry over those links. (Apple would definitely frown on that, though.)
As it turns out, he’s not (or at least he doesn’t appear to be) but that doesn’t mean he’s using standard Amazon links:
Seth Godin’s company, Yoyodyne Entertainment, is all about fun and games. But its mission is serious business. Godin and his colleagues are working to persuade some of the most powerful companies in the world to reinvent how they relate to their customers. His argument is as stark as it is radical: Advertising just doesn’t work as well as it used to - in part because there’s so much of it, in part because people have learned to ignore it, in part because the rise of the Net means that companies can go beyond it. “We are entering an era,” Godin declares, “that’s going to change the way almost everything is marketed to almost everybody.”
The new model, he argues, is built around permission. The challenge for marketers is to persuade consumers to volunteer attention - to “raise their hands” (one of Godin’s favorite phrases) - to agree to learn more about a company and its products. “Permission marketing turns strangers into friends and friends into loyal customers,” he says. “It’s not just about entertainment - it’s about education.”
I honestly don’t know what it means, if it means anything at all, that “permissionmarket” appears in Godin’s Amazon links and, as I mention above, I don’t know if it appears in the links that were included with the version of Stop Stealing Dreams that Apple ultimately rejected.
I do know that Apple, citing privacy concerns, is notoriously picky about letting 3rd parties use its platforms as a vehicle for collecting customer data. As an example, Apple doesn’t allow magazine publishers access to valuable customer data without explicit consent from the customer.
For what it’s worth, the above link — without the permissionmarket bit — seems to work just fine:
More from Godin:
And there’s the conflict. We’re heading to a world where there are just a handful of influential bookstores (Amazon, Apple, Nook…) and one by one, the principles of open access are disappearing. Apple, apparently, won’t carry an ebook that contains a link to buy a hardcover book from Amazon.
I have a lot of respect for what Seth Godin has to say, and I think the Domino Project remains a laudable and important undertaking.
With that said, Godin’s idealism (as it relates to this rejection) is a bit hard to swallow given his past connection to Amazon and the fact that he seems to exclusively favor Amazon links whenever he links his readers away to purchases. I’d be more inclined to sympathize with his position if he’d taken the time to provide links to a broader content ecosystem, when possible, especially given that it wouldn’t be particularly difficult to do so. (It took me about 20 minutes to compile the above iBookstore and Amazon links.)
From a customer service standpoint, it just doesn’t make much sense to link me away to Amazon when I’ve already opted to patronize Apple’s iBookstore. That is, unless permission marketing plays some role in Godin’s decision to do so?
Given that I’ve confessed a certain level of ignorance on the subject, I’ll update if and when I learn more.
Amazon’s Kindle Fire is a watered down, crippled version of the iPad. In almost every way, Apple’s product is better than Amazon’s 1st generation tablet.
I own both, and I’m comfortable with saying that. Of course, I haven’t returned my Kindle Fire, and I don’t plan on giving it away, either.
I do like the weight of the Kindle Fire while reading, but if that’s all I’m going to use it for, I like the weight of every available e-ink Kindle even more. (That’s a savings of at least another $100.)
Lodge any of the above criticisms, though, and you’ll likely hear: “Of course, dumbass! The Kindle Fire isn’t meant to compete with the iPad. It’s well under half the price of the cheapest iPad 2, and it was never meant to be anything more than a consumption device for people on the go!”
Someone should probably clue Amazon in on this line of thinking.
As far as I can tell, Amazon doesn’t even list the iPad at its selling price of $499 — it starts “new” at $518.75, from various retailers who aren’t Apple. A quick check shows the iPad 2 currently in stock on apple.com, though I suppose it’s possible that it’s not available from Apple, on amazon.com. Sure seems fishy, though.
Back to that chart:
Marco Arment has already posted a pretty great rebuttal, so I’m not going to bother questioning or exploring the validity of Amazon’s arguments, except to say that this doesn’t seem to be the chart of a company that thinks its product isn’t directly in competition with the iPad 2, and better.
No matter how I read it, I’m not getting:
“Hey! We know you might want an iPad 2, but why not save $300 and buy a Kindle Fire instead? It even does some of the things an iPad does! If all you’re interested in is browsing the web and reading some books, you’ll love our Kindle Fire, and you probably don’t need the extra power, or the hundreds of thousands of apps, available with an iPad.”
Instead, they’ve produced a feature for feature comparison which seems to argue that much of what the iPad does — both technically and functionally — the Kindle Fire does even better, or at least just as well. For $300 less!
Clearly, Amazon wants potential shoppers to feel like there’s nothing that an iPad 2 can do that the Kindle Fire can’t do just as well, or even better. For a lot less.
Web browsing? Way faster. Cost? Way Cheaper. Screen? Nicer. Apps? No difference! Storage? Less is actually more!
And, just in case you don’t want to take Amazon’s word for it, they’ve helpfully added a smattering of effusive praise from outlets who hadn’t yet spent any meaningful time with the product. Please don’t look at the man behind the curtain!
Amazon’s got every right to promote its product, and even to compare it against a competitor’s product. (Even if it’s arguable that they’re playing a bit loose with context.)
They’d be foolish if they didn’t do so.
With that said, can we at least drop the idea that it’s unfair to point out the Kindle Fire’s flaws, as compared to the iPad 2? If the comparison is good enough for Amazon, it’s good enough for those who disagree with Amazon’s assessment.
It’s been quite an ordeal, but a Kindle Fire finally made its way into my hands.
I’ve been playing with it off and on for a couple days, now, and — it’s pretty much everything you’ve read in any of the reviews you’ve read. No more, no less.
Which is to say, a lot of people have already nailed its strengths (relatively few) and weaknesses (many).
The one caveat I’d add is that many of the weaknesses are rooted in software, and that’s the sort of thing that can be fixed, at least.
So, instead of rehashing what’s been said elsewhere, I’m going to touch on something that hasn’t been beaten to death, and that’s the idea of surprise and delight.
The underlying premise of surprise and delight is that you run up against a problem, and as you’re doing what you think should happen, it actually happens, or it happens in a way you didn’t anticipate, and you think to yourself: “Wow, I can’t believe someone thought of that. Genius!”
iOS is filled with surprise and delight moments. Perhaps the best example is the ability to type a period with one continuous motion — without lifting your thumb — even though the period key isn’t on the “home” keyboard screen. Uninterrupted flow. One click where three might otherwise be necessary.
In my experience, Amazon’s devices don’t seem to contain many surprise and delight moments, if they contain any at all.
As has been discussed, there’s no dedicated hardware home button on the Kindle Fire.
Instead, each app has a touch-based home button. That’s fine, and I think it’s something I’ll eventually get used to and it’s something people who haven’t used an iOS device might not even need to get used to.
With that said, the home button is situated in the bottom-left of every app. This is a real problem when you’re holding the device one-handed with your right hand, because it’s nearly impossible to reach the home button while doing so.
There are any number of reasons why your free hand might not be available for button pressing, but the least tawdry (and most important) reason is that some people don’t have left hands.
The obvious solution, then, is to simply put the home button in the bottom-middle of every app. Boring, but perfectly acceptable.
The surprise and delight solution is that the Kindle Fire somehow knows which hand it’s being held by, and accommodates for that preference (or disability) by moving the home button to an accessible corner.
Suddenly, the user thinks: “Holy shit, that’s genius, I can’t believe Amazon thought of that.”
Except, no one thinks that, because Amazon’s Kindle Fire isn’t filled with surprise and delight moments.
That doesn’t mean Amazon won’t sell millions of Kindle Fires.
What it might mean is that people will buy them, but they may not find much of an urge to actually use them, once the novelty wears off. Or, they may not find much reason to ever buy another tablet device from Amazon. Or, maybe no one ever talks about the Kindle Fire in a way that makes other people excited to own one as well.
Surprise and delight is the stuff of fanboy devotion. It’s the foundation of customer loyalty. It’s why Apple can lag way behind Android in units sold but still dominate mobile browsing statistics.
You can hate me for being an iOS fanboy, or call me a shill, but whether you like it or not, Amazon, at least, wants me to be an Amazon fanboy — Bezos wants to command a loyal army of Amazon fanboys — and he’s not going to get that through sheer volume.
“Meh” doesn’t build loyalty, or sell services.
Alongside Jeff and Kent croft, I conceived, co-founded, and launched Lendle a little over four months ago. Our little slice of the book-lending market has performed beyond our expectations, and I think it’s fair to say all three of us are amazed at how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.
For me, though, the most satisfying aspect of running a social book-lending site has been the chance to do something I’ve always known I’d love: Evangelize, promote and drive the social aspects of a product I am truly proud of.
Apple today announced iCloud, iOS 5, and Mac OS X Lion. All expected. I followed along on Engadget — Macworld’s live feed was too buggy with its “live” updates — and my initial thought was: “Apple is knocking this out of the park.”
I still feel as though this is a major move forward for Apple, but in seeing the inevitable “what does this mean for Dropbox, or Rdio, or Instapaper” posts trickle down through my Twitter feed, I’m left with a lot of questions, and few answers.
About a month ago, Carolyn (my wife) came up with a really great idea that, at the time, I was pretty sure no one had implemented yet: What if there were a way to connect with other Kindle owners in order to share lendable books?
I immediately called Jeff Croft — Carolyn and I were arriving at the mall to do some shopping — and within a few hours, we were discussing the early outline of what was to become Lendle. (Beyond Jeff, Kent Croft has been doing a lot of research and Carolyn has been great as a sounding board for new ideas.)
Last week was the beginning of a short beta period. Yesterday, we launched Lendle:
What’s in a name?
As is often the case when starting a new venture, we had more trouble settling on a name than on any technical issues involved with building Lendle. Some of us loved one idea, but couldn’t be sold on another. Others were too obvious and not fun enough. Some sold the process, but were analytical and cold. We also wanted to avoid a direct reference to Amazon’s Kindle for two reasons: 1) To avoid bringing down the wrath and scrutiny of Amazon and 2) to keep the service open to a possible Nook expansion in the future.
EDIT: Since posting this, Amazon has brought the hammer down on Kindle Lending Club, forcing them to rebrand. They’re now simply booklending.com.
I’m not sure that it was a universally loved choice, but as with iPad, I can’t imagine calling it anything else, now. Also, it was my choice. So there’s that.
We went through several versions of the logo, including an early example I put together as a sort of proof of concept using the name lendlists. (Jeff didn’t like the word lists, so it didn’t last long.) The final version of the logo is actually a pretty direct descendant of that initial concept, in that I wanted something that would call to mind an e-reader device — nothing too specific — with a screen, but which also felt “bookish”.
Jeff was relatively well into the site development process when I decided I wasn’t happy with the logo we’d settled on for Lendle: It lacked visual punch, and the L portion of the logo was too obviously an L. Kind of cheesy. This had the side-effect of making the entire logo taller than I was comfortable with, even though that height called to mind the shape of a book. So, I squished everything down, making the L and bookmark elements into a perfect square, and I also added some subtle texture throughout.
Second only to coming up with a name, we were internally divided about whether or not to include Nook books as a lendable option. This was ultimately settled once we realized that Barnes and Noble simply does not offer an API which would allow developers to easily collect the information necessary to build a useful lending site.
We’d rather have a great Kindle-only site than a mediocre all-inclusive site.
A crowded field.
We discovered pretty quickly that not only were we not the only person to think of this idea, at least one site had beat us to launch: The Kindle Lending Club had been around for a couple months, having started out as a Facebook group. (They’re still listed as a beta site.) To date, there appear to be 3 or 4 other lending services springing up and we realized very quickly that we’d have to differentiate ourselves in several ways:
Lendle. The easiest, fastest, fairest, and best way to lend and borrow Kindle™ books.
- Easiest: Some of these other sites lead borrowers to books which simply aren’t lendable, and there’s no way to know this until after you’ve tried to borrow them. None of the other sites list prices (for buying) or the number of lendable books available. We’ve attempted to do everything we can to make the process of lending and borrowing books as easy as possible.
- Fastest: Some of our early feedback involved someone getting too many books all at the same time. This person also mentioned having the opposite problem at one of our competitor sites, in that she was often having to wait too long between lends. We want searches to be fast, results to be relevant, and the process of lending to be smooth. We’ll never be able to ensure that every book request will result in a lend, but we hope to get them to you more often, and faster.
- Fairest: Someone asked us about this, as he was curious to know how we could claim to be the “fairest” lending site given that all sites are subject to the same set of Amazon lending policies. Our goal is to do everything we can to foster a community which is as happy to lend books as it is to borrow. Lendle won’t work unless everyone is willing to lend. We think we have a good system in place to accomplish this, and we’ll tweak it as necessary. It’s worth mentioning that at least one other site is charging people (as an option) to borrow books.
- Best: I don’t think we’d have built Lendle if we didn’t think we could do it better than everyone else.
Wrapping it up.
Everything else has come pretty quickly. We’ve got a lot of ideas (think social) and a lot of tweaks to nail down (Amazon’s API can be pretty touchy) but the idea we started with is pretty much what we unveiled on launch day. To date, lendlers have added 564 (lendable) books, primarily on word of mouth through Twitter mentions. We’ve lent dozens and — as a note to publishers — sold more books than we’ve lent.
We couldn’t be happier with our early feedback. Most of the criticisms, and there haven’t been many, seem to be focused on something we can’t control: Amazon’s restrictions regarding lending. We expect these to loosen over time.
Our sincere hope is that it quickly becomes clear (to Amazon, to publishers, and to authors) that we’re not only fostering buzz about books by taking advantage of a great lending feature, but we’re also selling books and, eventually, that this realization will lead more publishers to come on board.
We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Follow @lendleapp on Twitter!
Alex Wilhelm, writing for The Next Web:
If you follow the ebook market you were likely stunned this June when Steve Jobs claimed to have captured 22% of the electronic book market overnight with the release of iBooks and iPad. Many of us who watch this market with careful eyes were leery of the numbers that Jobs was tossing around, they sounded too good to be true.
- If you “follow the ebook market” you’re a fucking dork. Yeah. I said it, and I’m not sorry I said it.
- Assuming you’re a fucking dork, were you really “stunned” by Jobs’s claim? Did your mouth literally hang wide open, as you stared blankly at the words that you could not bring yourself to believe? Was it like a punch to the gut?
- Steve Jobs did not make that claim, and if you think he did, you’re not following the ebook market very closely. Dork status: Revoked.
How do I know Steve Jobs didn’t make the claim? An investigation? A Google search? Did I call Steve Jobs up, because I can do that, and ask him?
No, no, no. I only call Steve as a last resort. I didn’t even have to do any of the work myself. Before I copied and pasted the little snippet from TNW’s article, the word “claim” was a “hyperlink” to this Gravitational Pull article:
As you might have guessed, the word “actually” (which I helpfully emphasized) is a hint that there’s something more to the story. The “something more” was this:
I’ve got a few stats today for you. In the first 65 days, users have downloaded over 5 million books and that is about two and half books per iPad which is terrific. The other interesting thing is the five of the six biggest publishers in the US who have their books on the iBookstore tell us that the share of ebooks now that are going through the iBookstore now is about 22 percent. So iBooks market share now of ebooks from five of these six major publishers is up to 22 percent in just about 8 weeks. And, as we ship more iPads, that number is just going to keep going up and up and up and we’re really thrilled with it.
So, what Steve Jobs “claimed” was merely what he was told by the five biggest publishers who publish on the iBooks platform. The 22% figure is not a reflection of the “total ebook market” and it wasn’t pulled out of Jobs’s ass—it’s a reflection of the sales of those specific publishers.
Yes, I’m aware that a slide from Jobs’s presentation caused some initial confusion, because it read “22% share of total ebook sales” but the entire point of the Gravitational Pull article was to provide context for that slide via the actual words that came out of Jobs’s mouth. Apple doesn’t provide a live feed of its events, so getting a transcript took some time. Time which was used by many in the blog-o-press to flip the fuck out.
Why is it, then, that TNW is trotting out an author who self publishes (one guy whose name is not A. Nick Dotal, alas) to somehow prove false a claim Apple never actually made, even while linking to an article which proves he never made the claim?
Because they can, and no one will call them on it. Because the internet sucks.
On the other hand, the article is written by the kind of guy who would end on something like this:
So much for iPad killing Kindle. I called it.
Way to go, Nostradamus. Where can everyone else get a crystal ball that peers into the obvious?
At any rate: The iPad hasn’t even finished mashing the buttons on the fatality it’s laying down on netbooks and as everyone who follows the technology mortal combat circuit knows, killing things is an art, not a race.
“Get over here!”