Lendle – A Kindle Borrowing Site: Review After 6 Weeks

Since it has nearly 3 years since I first signed up for Lendle I thought it was time to update my review.  I am leaving the original review at the bottom and only making comments about things that are different or I have noticed since the original review.

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Lendle has continued to grow.  Just over 200,000 books have been loaned and there are also nearly 200,000 books available to lend.  Personally I have loaned almost 450 book.

Content is an issue with Lendle.  For two reasons.  1) If you are concerned about erotic content, there is lots of it available at Lendle.  And it is hard to get completely away from it.  The main page has an unfiltered look at what people have recently added to Lendle.  (See below for an example).  While Amazon does not usually allow full nudity on kindle covers, there is little left to the imagination on a number of books.  2) Lendable books tend toward fiction, especially genre fiction like romance and mystery.  There is a lot of Christian romance on the site and a fair amount of children’s fiction.  But if you are primarily interested in non-fiction, you will probably be limited in what you find.

There certainly are publishers that make there books available, virtually the entire Very Short Introduction To series by Oxford is lendable, but only a handful of them are on Lendle.  It is a chicken and egg problem. You need a community to make books available and you need books available to build a community.

Lendle.com Amazon Kindle Book lending Site

Lendle.me has has a new owner.  That has not made any difference to me except that Lendle no longer pays anyone for loaning books. But on the positive side, it much faster than it was before it was sold.

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Original review:

Lendle is a great idea.  A kindle community that helps people find other kindle owners to lend/borrow kindle books. Before I found Lendle I have actively tried to get people to borrow my kindle books. I posted the list on my site, I posted it on Goodreads, I talked about it on Kindleboards.com, I told friends. But I only lent a handful of my books. Since I joined Lendle I have loaned almost 60 books in about six weeks.

At the same time before Lendle, I had only borrowed one book, just to try out the lending service for a blog post. Since joining Lendle, I (or people on my kindle account) have borrowed a half a dozen books and I have reserved a place in line for about 100 more.)

Here are the basic features.  

  • You post your lendable books and get credit for offering books to lend
  • You borrow books based on your credits
  • You earn a small amount of money for actually lending (usually between $0.20 and $0.60) Lendle was sold about a year ago and no longer pays lenders.

Over the weekend, Lendle released a total site redesign.  The basic functionality is the same.  But there was a visual upgrade and several new features.  The biggest new feature are Book Clubs.  This is basically a message board feature. This might take off or it might flop.  Message boards are about a central group of very active members.  If you get a good group of active members messages boards are great.  If you do not get active members, or you get active antagonistic members, message boards will not take off.  It is too early to say in Lendle’s case, but this is a good attempt at increasing site traffic, building a community and strengthening the brand. (Note: after a year it seems that the message boards are hardly used except for a couple. I haven’t visited in about six months)

All of these features are available to anyone.  If you have a kindle or kindle app, I would encourage you to join.  If you have any lendable books, my rough estimate is that about 1/3 of all kindle books are lendable, you can get started.  Many of the free books on Amazon are lendable, so you can at least get started by picking up a few free books and putting them up to borrow.

If you are a heavy user of kindle books you may want to become a Patron.  Patron membership is a one time $25 fee. It offers a few additional features.

Patron features

  • Ability to reserve a place in line for a book without borrowing (Book it)
  • Double the financial reward for lending
  • Earn borrowing credits faster
  • No advertising
  • Create and moderate book clubs
  • Access to early features
  • Golden tickets (occasional give aways and promotions)

Is Patron worth it?

Yes, for Book It: Patron level is worth it for one reason, the ability to ‘book’ and not ‘reserve’ books.  Everything else is nice, but extra.  When you reserve a place in line for a book, you get that book you have to wait until someone is ready to lend you the book.  Once someone lends the book you have 7 days to accept the book and 14 days from the point of acceptance until you lose access to the book.

I reserved several book initially to test. The problem is that I am always reading a number of books at the same time.  So if I am not ready to read straight through a book, I am afraid that I will get halfway through and have to either request the book from someone else, buy the book myself, or just not finish it.  The ability to ‘book it’ reserves you a place in line.  And once you move to the front of the line, you have to option to get the book, or wait until you are ready to read it.  I currently have over 100 books ‘booked’.  Many of these books are books that no member now has ready to lend.  But I am booking for the point when someone joins with that book. I am essentially treating these books as a future wish-list.  If I have any interest, I book a place in line and make a decision to actually read the book later.

The other patron features, extra cash rewards, extra borrowing credits are a nice bonus.  It is nice to earn a few cents (and I am earning at a rate of about $10 a month), but I have over 400 borrow credits available, so the extras do not really make much of a difference to me.

$25 is not that much, so if you read a lot and plan on actually using Lendle, go ahead and become a Patron.  If you only have a few books to lend and will not be an active borrower, then you may not want to become a Patron.

What Lendle is Doing Right

The good news is that Lendle is doing the main things right.  The site is fairly simple to understand.  There is very little site jargon and a new user should be able to navigate and understand very quickly.

The point of Lendle is to lend and borrow books.  That part is very easy, it works well and I really do not think there is a way to make it much better (in part because it is mostly Amazon’s rules, not Lendle’s).

Privacy: Lendle has allowed for a lot of anonymity.  You can have a completely anonymous account (no nane, no picture, no identifying information.)  Or you can have a much less anonymous account.  I have my name, my blog, and my picture all available on Lendle.  The biggest potential area of concern is your email address.  Lendle has to have an actual email address when you borrow.  As a Lender, you email is hidden.  But as a borrower your email is open at the point when the lender has to approve you as a borrower.  Many borrowers have created anonymous emails just for borrowing on Lendle.  But some have not.  I actually recognized a friend’s email address when I lent him a book.  There is not much that you can do with just an email, but it probably is a good practice to give Lendle a throw away email (make up a hotmail or gmail email that can automatically forward to your real email), because Amazon does not require that the email notice you get about borrowing a book be you Amazon email. (Lendle now recommends that you use an anonymous email, but I either missed that or it was not there when I signed up.)

Lots of information: Another area that Lendle is doing right is letting you know how many people have a book, how long it usually takes to get a book, how many people have booked a place in line and where you are in the line to get the book.  The more information like this, the better.

A growing community: Lendle is growing quickly.  I have no idea the number of regular users, but Lendle has increased the number of books to lend by about 15 percent in the last six weeks.  It was just over 12,000 when I joined and it is just under 14,000 now.  This is in spite of the fact that many books only have one or two people that own them.  So if all the copies are loaned, the book goes out of circulation and the number of lendable books drops.  This is a community, where more is definitely better.  The more participants, the greater diversity of books, the more likely you will find books you want to borrow and the more likely that the books you want to borrow will be available quickly.

Recommendations: Any good service needs a good recommendation engine.  Lendle’s is fairly good.  My problem is that because I share an account with several people, the recommendations are often not on target because they are based on your list of books.  About 1 in 8 books is a good recommendation.  But there should be an easier way to improve recommendations.  One option should be “I have read, but do not own this book”.  Also there should be an option to only see recommendations that are ready to lend right now.

Areas for improvement

The site refresh added a few features that I wanted.  Most important it added book descriptions to the books on Lendle.  So you no longer need to go to Amazon to actually know what the book is about. The site is also more visually appealing.

Sorting: Sorting is the biggest need for Lendle.  When I look at the books I have requested, I would like to be able to see just those that have books available. (Now working) Or just those that I have booked.  Or just those that I have books where I am next in line.  Or just those that have no books available.  Also when looking at books to borrow list, it would be nice to chose to eliminate any books you own.  This may not be a big deal for others, but I have about 800 books on Lendle.  In general the search and sorting methods have gotten better with the site refresh, but there is still some work that can be done.  For instance, you can sort alphabetically, but only A to Z.  You cannot reverse sort. (Some of this is now available. I have not had a problem finding books in my lists recently.)

Notifications: Another area that is frustrating is the way Lendle notifies people that someone would like to borrow a book.  It seems that Lendle has some amount of waiting time, where they wait to see if anyone that is actually on the site will fulfil the lend.  Then there is an email that goes out.  My assumption is that this email goes out to everyone that has the book, but it may be to a subset of the book owners.  There are days when I have clicked through on the email 4 or 5 times, sometimes immediately and still the books have already been loaned.  I want to loan, but I do not want a bunch of extra emails when it is already gone.  I would suggest that either Patrons get the first round of emails and if no one fulfills in an hour then a second round goes out.  Or some type of ranking system that sends the first round of emails to those members that are most likely to respond quickly.  This may feel unfair, but it will lower the costs of sending out a large number of emails and lower the frustration of clicking through to Lendle and not having anything to do once you are there.

Also since the site upgrade, the front page notice of a request to borrow a book seems to have disappeared.  I used to be able to just hit the site and see if anyone wanted to borrow a book.  But now I have to go to my books and look at the list to see if anyone wants to borrow my books.  To me a request to borrow is a more important piece of information than the other members I am following and some other pieces of information that have been added to the front page. This has been updated. The requests notification is now on your main page right above the Lendlers you are following.

A lesser problem to me is that the Book Clubs need some sort of notification system.  This maybe related to the book notification system.  But without a message board notification system, you have to go visit the site to see if any new comments have posted and you have to visit each club you participate in.  My assumption is that because this was just introduced this past weekend, this is an upgrade that is coming.

Inactive members: The other problem are those people that register and then give up.  So they have books to lend (maybe the only copy) and they have been inactive for some period of time.  I do not know if Lendle has a policy on this.  But I have reserved a book, there are two copies, I am the second person to reserve it and the first person to reserve a place asked for it in early September.  It is unlikely that I will be able to borrow that book until someone new comes to the site.  It would hurt the number of books available to lend if Lendle had a policy that you have to visit the site at least once every 60 days or your books are removed.  But it would help keep the system fresh and make sure that only active members are participating.

Import books: A problem that is really Amazon’s problem, not Lendle’s problem, but still very annoying, is that you have to manually load your books into Lendle.  An early versions of Lendle was able to log into your Amazon account, find out what books were lendable and update your Lendle account.  Amazon decided to break this part of their API, so that Lendle could no longer use this feature.  Because Amazon also does not have a system to export a list of your books, there is no way for Lendle to have an automatic, or semi-automatic set up.  I spend several days putting up my books (I have nearly 2000 Kindle books and over 800 on Lendle).  It is unlikely that I will make back my time through the cash rewards any time soon.  (Although I estimate I will make back my patron costs in another month.)

Multiple users: I am sure that most people do not share their kindle accounts with more than one person.  But as kindles expand in popularity, there will be more families that share accounts.  Right now, Lendle primarily uses either Twitter or Facebook authentication.  That is fine if you have a single user.  But I share an account with my parents, my wife and several others.  I signed up with my Twitter authentication.  But to let the other users of my kindle account be able to access Lendle and borrow books, I have to give them my Twitter authentication info.  It does not matter much if my Mom logs in on my twitter account.  She does not use Twitter.  But my wife does.  So my wife has to log out of her Twitter, log into my Twitter, then login to Lendle, then log out of my Twitter and log back into her Twitter.  Twitter and Facebook authentication makes it easy for one person, but more difficult for many.  If you have more than one user, do not use Facebook or Twitter authentication.  I also do not see a way to easily change your login info.  I am sure I can do this through help, but it is not a self-serve option.  I am going to request that I get my user account info changed away from Twitter.

Summary

Lendle is a useful way to find books for free and share the books you already have with others.

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