In the past month or so, a couple of e-book-lending sites, Lendle and BookLending, opened for business. Those sites cater to Kindle users, but Book Swim's eBook Fling, which officially launched today, offers lending to both Kindle and Nook users.
How does e-book lending work? Well, while publishers only choose to make certain e-books lending-enabled, plenty of e-books are available to loan out on a very restricted basis. If you own a lendable e-book (they're labeled as such), you can loan it to one person, one time, for 14 days.
The sites all work in much the same way, each offering free membership into their respective lending "clubs." In the case of eBook Fling, you sign up and list the titles you have available for lending, then wait for requests to come in. You lend an e-book by simply sending an e-mail invite to the requesting borrower and in return, you earn credits for each "successful fling."
If you don't have any credits available, you can pay $1.99 to borrow a book, which is, we assume, how the site makes money, along with earning sales leads from Amazon for embedding links to purchase books when they aren't available to borrow.
While more folks are choosing to check out e-books from their local libraries using OverDrive's Media Console apps for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad, Windows Mobile devices, and Windows and Mac computers (the Kindle does not support library lending), eBook Fling is counting on Nook and Kindle owners' desire to extract some added value from their e-book purchases.
To avoid privacy concerns, the sites encourage members to create a custom e-mail address just for Kindle or Nook lending activities that's separate from your personal e-mail address or the e-mail address associated with your Nook or Kindle.
A key factor in all this is how many people end up signing up for the lending club and seeding the site with content to borrow. A recent Wall Street Journal article quotes Catherine MacDonald, the founder of BookLending, saying her site has more than 16,000 registered users and the site has a total of nearly 20,000 book loans so far. It will be interesting to see how this submarket pans out and whether publishers, who are wary of e-book lending, embrace it further or continue to proceed very cautiously.