Six for One and One for Six: Kindle Kooperatives

You’re going to hear a lot about the nook (sic)* from Barnes and Noble having the ability to lend books. It’s a cool concept: after all, why was the old question, “Read any good books lately?” It was because people like to share books…they like to read the same ones as their friends. Word of mouth is still a great bookseller, even though quite a few people won’t have read a book “lately” if you ask them. :)

However, the reality of the nook lending program is not all that good.

  • You can only lend the book once…ever
  • You lend it for fourteen days…I believe there are no early or late returns, but not positive about early
  •  During that time, you don’t have access to it
  • You can only lend it to people who have the B&N reading program…but that will be a lot of people
  • You can’t sell it or donate it
  • You can only lend a book if the publisher allows it

The last one is significant, and we won’t know the scope of it until the books actually start being released for the nook.  Just like Random House (and its imprints) is blocking the text-to-speech access on the Kindle, I think a lot of publishers will block this feature.

However, the Kindle doesn’t have a “lend me” feature, right?  Nope, not like that. 

There is a way to legally share books with friends, books you get from the Kindle store.  It’s within the Kindle’s Terms of Use.  I’ve heard about people using it, but I don’t think a lot of people have thought of it.

Share an account

Here’s the basic idea.  You set up an account with Amazon.  You can then register devices to it (see this earlier post).  Those can be Kindles, iPhones, iPod touches, and PCs (at this point…Macs soon).

You don’t need to own the Kindle personally to do this…it can belong to someone else (although a Kindle can only be on one account at a time).

Books purchased from the Kindle store are available to all the devices on the account…up to the device limit set by the publisher for that particular book.  If the limit is six (and that’s the typical number), you can have the book on six devices simultaneously. 

So, here’s the plan.  You get together with a group of coworkers/friends/family members/bookclubbers/whatever, and you all register devices to the same account. 

The account will officially belong to one person (we’ll call that person the “Manager”).  We’ll refer to the other people as “Members”.

The Manager will have the username and password for the account.  Anybody who has that information is a Manager (I always recommend that at least one other person you trust has your credentials for your Kindle account: see this earlier post).  

The members can:

  • Buy books directly from their Kindles (or their other devices)
  • Deregister their Kindles from the device (dropping out of the group)
  • Keep any books they have locally on their Kindles when they deregister
  • Put books on the Save for Later list
  • Access the books in the Kindle archives (until the device license limit is reached)
  • Get free samples
  • Send personal documents directly to a given Kindle (if they have an e-mail account authorized by the Manager)…this incurs a charge of fifteen cents per megabyte rounded up in the US, ninety-nine cents outside for US customers)

The Manager(s) can additionally:

  • Register Kindles to the account (either by having them in hand so they can enter the credentials, or if given the serial number from the back of the device)
  • Degerister devices (kicking them off the account)
  • Change credit cards
  • Apply gift certificates (which could be given by members)
  • “Return books” within a week of purchase (there will be one e-mail address on the account that gets a notification every time a purchase is made) for a refund
  • Authorize e-mail addresses that can send personal documents to Amazon for conversion or directly to a Kindle

Then, collectively decide what the rules are. 

1. How do you decide which books to get?  Does everybody pick a book each month?  Do you submit it to a vote?  It could be unlimited for everybody, as long as they pay for them.

2. How do you pay for books?  The Manager will be responsible for it, legally, but that’s not as scary as it sounds.  you could have multiple credit cards, and switch them before purchases (but that can only be done by someone who has the password…more on that later).  You could have members give the Manager gift certificates to apply.

3. What are the rules for being kicked out?  What recourse do you have if you are kicked out?

4. Who is going to be the Manager?  Will there be more than one?  Will you set up an account for this purpose, or use an existing one?

Obviously, this isn’t perfect.  If you use an existing account, the recommendations for that person will be affected by what the group buys.  The Manager has a lot of power and responsibility.  What happens if you contributed a thousand dollars to the group, and then get kicked out?  If the books are on your Kindle, you have access to them…but they are keyed for that specific device, and you don’t have access to the archives to download them to a different device.

What if someone downloads books and then deregisters?  They take that device license with them, unless you know they deleted the books.

What if someone just refuses to pay?

What if someone orders a subscription item, like a newspaper or magazine?  That’s only available on that one device (see this earlier post).  Of course, the Manager will get a notification e-mail and have 14 days to cancel the subscription, so that’s not too bad.

What happens if one person downloads the book to a Kindle, an iPhone, and a PC?  Three licenses gone…you’ve got to figure that one out in the rules.

Is this for everybody?  No, probably not.  But I think a lot more people could use this than are using it.

Oh, and does Barnes and Noble offer the same thing?  Sure.  According to an  e-mail I was sent, you can have unlimited licenses.  I have to say, though, that I’m not convinced.  Why would the publishers put a limit on books in the Kindle store and not in the B&N store?  I think we’ll see device license limits on books in the B&N store as well, but I don’t know that yet.  I think, like with Kindles, you’ll be able to have as many devices on the account as you want, but I’m guessing the limitations will be there on the individual books.  We’ll see.

So, think about your friends and other people you know who are readers.  Would it make sense to pay one download price and share the book with some of them?  If you are already doing this, or start doing a Kooperative, feel free to let me know.  I’m curious about it…we do have three Kindles in the family, but nobody else on our account right now. 

Go ahead…find a group of people and read on with your bad selves!  ;) 

* Barnes and Noble does not capitalize the name of the nook.  I put the (sic) there to let people know I didn’t just forget to capitalize it.  :)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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4 Responses to “Six for One and One for Six: Kindle Kooperatives”

  1. Phyllis J.Caron Says:

    1. I love your blog. 2. How do know how much memory you have left on your Kindle? My sister and I both have Kindle 1s.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks, Phyllis! :)

      On a K1, it’s Home-Menu-Settings. You’ll see your available memory towards the bottom of the screen, both on the Kindle’s onboard memory and on your SD card (if any). It will show available memory in grey and filled memory in black. You have about 180 megabytes available to you. There are 256 mbs on the Kindle’s onboard memory, but about 76 are taken up by the Kindle’s own software.

      For folks with other models, you see it in your top left corner when you hit Menu. There’s only one figure: no SD slot on the later models.

  2. Phyllis J. Caron Says:

    I think one of your topics should be how to access the memory available on the Kindle. I phoned my sister who lives in Florida and told her about what you said. She checked her own Kindle’s memory and found it to be very very close to full. Her SD card has more room however. She was shocked to see how full her Kindle was. Thanks for the information and do keep on writing!!!!

  3. I think we can manage that: the Manage Your Kindle page | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] be asked to log in to it, and that’s an important point for those of you with Kindle Book Clubs , or anybody sharing an account.  What we are going to talk about next can be done by someone who […]

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