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!
(Cross-posted from the official Lendle blog.)
It’s hard to believe, but it was around this time last year that I called Jeff to pitch the idea for a social site that would allow strangers to share their ebooks with one another.
Here’s an excerpt from an email I typed up after our initial call:
Carolyn came up with an idea that I think is pretty outstanding:
Nooks have had this feature for a long time, but Kindle just added the ability to “lend” a book to a person if they have a kindle account (kindle or any device with the kindle app) so long as you know their email address.
So, fleshing her idea out a bit, you sign up, input the books you have on your kindle and then people can search for, say, “the lovely bones” and see that 10 people have it available to lend. You then send a lend request and if someone accepts, they can lend to you as per Amazon’s guidelines. People can reject a request as well. Perhaps people could make their lists public or private and share with anyone or only friends.
It’s basically a public library for kindle and nook books mixed with a peer-to-peer network.
Obviously, we later decided to focus solely on the Kindle (a decision we’ve never regretted) and, unfortunately, The Lovely Bones wasn’t then, and still isn’t, a lendable title. We had really hoped to see more publisher support in 2011, but several remain on the fence.
The idea was so simple, so obvious, that my original pitch is pretty much what we’re offering today.
We quickly discovered that we wouldn’t be alone in the social lending space. In fact, the competition we faced on day one is more or less the same competition we face today. It’s tough to build a really good social lending site!
In spite of – or maybe because of – the competition, we’ve remained true to the lending site we want to offer, resting the urge to become too gimmicky.
We love stats, and we show off as many as we can: How many copies of a given book are available (if any), how long you’re likely to wait on a lend to come through, whether a book is lendable, or not, how much it would cost to purchase a book instead of waiting to borrow, and so on.
- We first discussed the concept of a social lending site on January 15.
- We settled on “Lendle” as a name on January 17. (It was not a universally loved choice.)
- We announced that Lendle was “coming soon” on January 26.
- Testing began on January 27.
- Beta invites went out on February 2.
- Lendle launched to the masses on February 12.
On March 21st, we faced a minor (cough, ahem) setback when Amazon revoked our API access. Less than two months in, we were forced to shut down.
Here’s what we had to say about it: Lendle Press Release
No one wants to get shut down, even for a day, but the media attention that followed the loss of our API access is really what put us on the map.
Some of the outlets that wrote about us:
- Daring Fireball (No outlet, big or small, mainstream or not, comes anywhere close to the traffic we get from a DF link.)
- The Next Web
We also saw mentions on Gizmodo, The Guardian, Business Insider, The Christian Science Monitor, MSNBC, Slate, Ars Technica, GigaOM and The New York Times.
Fortunately, everything worked out for the best and we were back up and running the following day. We lost one of our best (and most requested) features – RIP, beloved book sync tool – but we gained a lot of new Lendlers. Press outlets even started referring to lending and borrowing ebooks as lendling.
Over the next few months, we introduced several new features, including our first marquee feature: Patron accounts. A free Lendle account is pretty amazing. A $25 (one time) Patron account is an unbeatable deal.
Read the announcement here: New features and three major giveaways
We also added the Book My Spot feature (still one of a kind in book lending), achievements, and the ability to “thank” fellow Lendlers as borrows are fulfilled.
To top it all off, we gave away a Kindle and an iPad 2!
Towards the end of May, a few of our Lendlers were featured on a CBS local news affiliate in Philadelphia: City Center Book Club Goes High Tech
And, of course, we launched Lendle’s most unique feature: It Pays to Lend
Even as we were preparing to launch, Jeff and I were talking quite a lot about a pay to lend concept. We thought it would be really cool if we could somehow pay our Lendlers for lending books, but we couldn’t really afford to do so.
Once we were finally earning a bit of consistent revenue through our Patron sign ups and the limited advertising we feature, we realized we could finally make it happen.
Whether you’re talking about Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, social networks are nothing without the backbone of a community, and that’s doubly true for lending sites: If no one lends, no one can borrow, and we’re a bust.
Lending sites have to be, in many ways, a perfectly balanced ecosystem – unless, of course, you’re happy to be a lending site in which no one ever lends any books.
Fortunately, our community of Lendlers has always been really great about fulfilling lends as quickly as possible – sometimes too fast, judging by some of the emails we get – and we wanted to put some of our revenue towards rewarding that effort.
So, we hatched a plan to pay out credits for every lend, and then $10 Amazon gift cards as those credits accumulate. No one else offers anything at all like this, to this day, and we think that’s one of the reasons Lendle has been so successful.
We launched the newest version of Lendle – the one you see when you log in today – on December 14.
Read the announcement here: Everyone? Meet everyone else.
Not only did we completely redesign the site from the ground up, we introduced Book Clubs, the best way yet to interact with other Lendlers and talk about your favorite books and authors.
We’ve got a ton of features planned for your clubs, so the best social book lending site is only going to get better over the next few months.
We also dramatically improved the speed and reliability of our search feature. (It was a long time coming.)
It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come in only a year. Publishers haven’t embraced lending anywhere near as quickly as we’d hoped, and we’re still stuck as a US-only offering, but there are millions of Kindle owners who have yet to sign up with us and we’re happy to report that awareness is increasing at a rapid pace. Over the last several weeks we’ve seen easily six times our normal rate of traffic and the market is still wide open. Every new Lendler is another book you’ll be able to borrow, a new author to discover and obsess over.
Meanwhile, Amazon has broadened its lending scope by partnering with OverDrive to offer library lending and, more recently, by announcing the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Lending has a long way to go, but the future is bright.
- Total books catalogued: 397,481
- Lendable: 50.9%
- Loans to date: 50,500
- Unique titles available to borrow: 19,615
- Total copies available to borrow: 162,168
- Gift cards paid out since June: Over $10,000
- Most popularly requested book: The Hunger Games (2023 requests)
- Amazon’s most purchased Kindle book of the holiday season: The Hunger Games
- Accounts connected via Facebook: 47.7%
- Accounts connected via Twitter: 10.5%
- Lendler with most books: Spec (13173)
- Lendler with most lends: Spec (593)
Here’s hoping everyone has a happy and fruitful 2012. We can’t wait to see what happens!
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!