If you own a Kindle and are looking to gain some literary karma and free books, the Kindle Lending Club is the place to start.
The new site, which launched in public beta on Friday, allows a Kindle e-book to be loaned once for up to two weeks -- a service that Amazon.com just started offering in late December 2010 to compete with a practice already in place with the Barnes and Noble Nook.
I wrote a story for WalletPop on Jan. 6 about how to save money on e-books, including loaning them for two weeks through individual owners. But at the time there wasn't a clearinghouse for finding books to borrow. You had to know another Kindle or Nook user.The Kindle Lending Club isn't run by Amazon, but by Catherine MacDonald, who started it as a Facebook group. No money changes hands for the free e-book loans. MacDonald so far has Amazon ads on the lending club website.
Publishers decide if an e-book can be loaned, so check if lending is enabled before buying a book. The lending rules at the lending club are the same as they are from Kindle: loans are for 14 days, a book can be loaned only once, and the original user can't read the book while it's on loan. If the borrower wants to return the book before the 14 days are up, they can delete it from their Kindle, and the original user will then have access to it again. If the borrower doesn't delete it, the book expires in 14 days.
You have to register at the lending club website to borrow or loan books, which are searchable by title. According to Examiner.com tech writer Michael Santo, the Kindle Lending Club has 786 users and lists 2,000 Kindle e-books to loan. Meanwhile, users have made 669 borrow requests and 286 e-books have been loaned.
You don't have to have a Kindle to read the loaned e-books. The Kindle reading app can be used on computers, smartphones and the iPad.
Some Kindle best-sellers are available for loan, including one of my favorites, Water for Elephants, which I just loaned through the Kindle Lending Club to get some karma of my own. Books can be searched by title or browsed by the top available books for borrowers, or the top requests from lenders.
For book lovers, this new and free lending club is a matchmaker made in heaven.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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