An issue came to our attention recently that created great concern about the future of eBook lending. The mission of Noir Nation is tethered to advancing literacy in the world through the publication of stories in the popular crime fiction genre. The more people read, the better and more informed the world will become. The lending of books is critical to making that happen. Some would not have it that way.
Last week a group of misinformed and misled indie writers had a great deal of time on their hands — but apparently not enough to read their Amazon Terms of Service, which allowed the lending and selling of their eBooks through Amazon affiliate sites. More on what they did with their time later…
The affiliate sites do not carry the books but refer potential readers back to Amazon where the transactions — either the borrowing or the buying of the books, if lending is not available — are completed. To be absolutely clear: the books are downloaded from Amazon, not from the servers of its affiliates. Book cover images are also hosted on Amazon and appear on the affiliates’ websites through an Amazon API.
Amazon authors who opt into the 70% compensation level must make their books available for lending — to anyone at any time, though there are limits to how often and for how long a book may be borrowed. Authors who do not want their books loaned out must accept a lower compensation level of 35%. No one, neither the Amazon affiliates nor Amazon customers with books to lend, needs to secure prior permission from the authors who opted for the higher compensation to lend or to facilitate the lending of those books.
Yet some authors were convinced that indeed such permission was required and that anyone who engaged in such transactions was involved in copyright infringement and piracy.
And when they found a disabled U.S. Army veteran named Dale Porter who was operating an eBook lending site, they attacked with such naked brutality and frothing savagery that his site was demolished within 24 hours.
The site, a legitimate Amazon Affiliate, was called LendInk.com.
In addition to barraging Porter with angry and threatening emails, they vilified him as a “thief” and a “pirate” on Twitter and Facebook and on several discussion boards. They also swamped his site’s hosting company with scores of takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). That’s what shut the site down.
At a time when increasing numbers of disabled veterans seek out ways to earn incomes at home, thus maintaining their sense of personal honor while helping their families and advancing the public good, we found the incineration of this veteran’s enterprise especially tragic and shocking. We should be aiding veterans not destroying them.
Some of the diehard members of the destructive horde, facing blowback for the harm they have caused, now claim that LendLink shared culpability for its own demise for having shoddy FAQ.
We read the FAQ. We found them exceedingly clear. Those who claim otherwise do so because they either a) did not actually read the FAQ and were credulously reporting a falsehood they read online b) read them quickly in an agitated state caused by goading or self-righteous anger and hence did not truly comprehend them c) have difficulty with basic English or d) are being disingenuous.
Here’s the first Frequently Asked Question, which very clearly and succinctly addresses the matter of lending and file sharing:
Is the loaning of eBooks really legal? Isn’t this the same as file sharing?
Yes, loaning of certain eBooks is legal and No, it is not the same as file sharing. The key difference between the two is that the loan status of an eBook is directly dictated by the publisher and file sharing is usually done without the publishers consent. Working with Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, the publishers make their eBooks available for loan under very strict rules. The actual book loaning process is handled by Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, not by Lendink. [Click here for LendInk's full FAQs.]
And there’s this one that address the question of where the books come from:
Do I get the book from LendInk?
No. LendInk simply matches lenders and borrowers together. The actual lending happens through Amazon, Barnes and Noble or email depending on the eBook format.
Those who have come to Porter’s defense — and he really needs help, lots of it, given just how large and vicious the mob has been — have compiled screenshots of the comments and a partial list of its members with links to their respective Amazon product pages. LendInk’s supporters have been rallying at LendInk’s FaceBook Fan Page to share information and counter the hate group’s ongoing transmission of factual misstatements and outright lies.
Slowly, as the tide of anger turns, some of them are coming forth with apologies — some sounding in sincerity and some smelling of grease paint — as well as requests that their names be removed from the mob’s unofficial roster.
ADDENDA: Some have questioned the use of the American Flag, helmet and dog tags for the art and the relevance of Dale Porter’s service-related injuries in this Op-Ed. While we think the criticism fair, we think it wrong. Even in matters of cold law, if claims arising from these facts went to court, the man’s status, while irrelevant on the issue of liability, would be highly relevant on the issue of damages. But this is not a legal article and it is not a techie article. This is an Op-Ed for Noir Nation, which explores the cruel and dark ways people treat other.
A furious and callous mob attacks an overburdened man who gave honorable service to his country, and we have to pretend it is about something else? No.
[Click here for a follow-up post about what the TwitMob did next: Real Lawyer or Scammer? The Mystery of Hank St. James, Esq.]