Here's another me-too service that intends to help consumers share their electronic books by piggybacking on the lending features available on Kindle and Nook books.
BookSwim, which bills itself as a "Netflix for Books," announced that it plans to launch eBookFling.com tomorrow, a site where users swap e-books. BookSwim's press release makes it obvious that company managers either anticipate the service won't be warmly received by Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and book publishers or are trying to gin up the release with a little controversy.
"The initial reaction may be a negative," the company said in its statement. "Publishers and authors will claim the lending feature is being abused and causing cannibalization of sales." The company breathlessly acknowledged that the service may force authors to worry about "making only half the sales on the new books too!" (The exclamation point is theirs).
The service comes two weeks after a start-up called the Kindle Lending Club launched a similar digital-book sharing service.
In the age of file sharing, it's hard to see how services like these would be seen as a serious threat, or for that matter, attract much of an audience. For people who don't want to pay, there is the legal means to acquire them (library) and the illegal means (peer-to-peer networks). Meanwhile, gadget makers are trying to streamline the arduous process of digitizing books and should they succeed, that will undoubtedly speed up digital-book sharing via P2P networks.
Still, Amazon, which launched Kindle lending on December 30, may not want to take any chances. My colleague Stephen Shankland wrote earlier this month" "It's no Napster, but the Kindle Lending Club probably has facilitated the lending of more than 1,000 books among strangers. At scale, it holds the potential to automate free book lending on a global scale when Amazon would prefer to see an actual sale."
An Amazon representative was not immediately available for comment.