Thursday, August 9, 2012

LendInk and a Twitter Mob

I've been trying to blog about this for several days. It is one of the few times I've been truly ashamed to be an author. I do feel like someone on the day after a lynching, wondering how something quite innocent could have gone so terribly wrong and who was to blame.

It started last week when someone (and it's hard to pin down the first post or tweet) started sending out messages and posting on forums and tweeting that LendInk was a "pirate" site with pirated novels on it. I took a brief look, saw that this was incorrect and didn't pay much attention to it at first.

So what WAS LendInk doing and why wasn't it piracy?

Well, when you buy an eBook from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, you are allowed to loan it one time for up to two weeks. While it is on loan it is not available on your Kindle or Nook. So a number of sites out there put together someone who has an eBook they are willing to lend with someone who would like to borrow it. The sites do not have the files; they act as, in effect, matchmakers. There is nothing either illegal or immoral about this. Hell, it's not even fattening!

On several of the popular writers forums, some of us such as Amanda Brice, Victorine Leiske and I amongst several others, were trying to explain this to fellow writers--and our explanations were falling on deaf ears. In the meantime, on Twitter the accusations went viral. Without bothering to check, author after author tweeted accusations that the site was pirating. It turned into a virtual mob (no pun) going after this business man. (I'm not naming names but it doesn't take much research to know the biggest offenders.) According to the LendInk owner, things even went so far as having threats of violence made against him and his family.

Then to make things even "better" as a response to the heavy influx of angry traffic and DMCA notices, the service providers took down the site. The fact that there was no truth to the accusations and no copyright violation anywhere on the site didn't matter. Not only were they NOT pirating, the site had links to Amazon and B&N where the novels could be purchased if they weren't available for a borrow.

In fact, having your book listed there was a GOOD thing, just as it is a good thing to have neighbors lending your book because they enjoyed it or people checking it out of the library. First: It was perfectly legal. Second: It is how people find new authors.

But what upsets me... What has me really angry is that there are still authors out there defending what they did! They put the man who owned it out of business by what is basically a mob action and they have NO shame. The worst I saw was on Critique Circle forums where some of this mob action was formed and where I WAS a long time member.

Not any more. I do not want to be any part of the writers' community that behaves in this fashion.

Addendum: I read on the site owner's Facebook page that the site hosts have offered to restore LendInk. After the threats to himself and his family as well as the stress of the last week, he apparently has decided not to restore it. I can hardly blame him.


Anne Holly said...

This whole thing is so unfortunate. I saw the groups get riled more and more as they talked about it, and all efforts to understand were just whistles in the wind.

J Andrew Jansen said...

Sadly, I share your shame in being part of this community. Why would people b angry about free advertising?

Great post and summary of the issue.


Red Tash said...

People are stupid. It really turned me off.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Red Tash, I can't argue with your sentiments.

Thanks for the feedback, Andrew and Anne. This has just been such an unpleasant and needless incident with very real world repercussions for the owner of LendInk.

Samantha Fury said...

Good article, I don't agree with the premiss of lending and borrowing sites. But, they are legal, and the way to stop it, if you don't like it, is to not check that little box that says, I want to lend my books.

I think so many authors are tired of their work being pirated that they jumped to conclusions. I looked at the site, saw that it linked my books back to Amazon, and dismissed it.

I allow lending and will do so on my first three novels. After that we'll see how things pan out.

Samantha Fury
Author of
The Street Justice Series

Anonymous said...

Samantha, if you don't like lending and borrowing sites, what do you make of libraries and other public collections of books? And how can you expect there to be a large audience for authors without a similarly large range of books available for next to nothing? If people had to pay full price on every book while learning to read, then only rich people would be able to afford it and writers would earn a pittance.

Kelly Walker said...


As always you are not only a voice of reason, but you express your opinions eloquently.

It will be a great loss to C.C. to not have you there.

It really is a shame that writers, who are supposed to know how to convey their point with words, can't critically read well enough to see what was right in front of their face.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Thank you so much, Kelly! I felt really bad leaving CC which has so much good to offer, but what was being said by some authors was making me simply too angry. I felt it wouldn't be good for me or for others for me to remain. I do wish everyone there the best, even the ones who refuse to see how harmful this whole thing has been.

Kelly Walker said...

I just saw another blog post you may be interested in

J. R. Tomlin said...

Infuriating. She is so sorry that she tries to blame it on "the FAQ wasn't clear". *eye roll with gritted teeth*

You didn't even need to look at the FAQ to see what was being done and that it was legitimate. The excuses people are making for their behavior actually make it worse. I'm sorry followed by excuses of why it really was the fault of the person you wronged are frankly rather despicable.

Kelly Walker said...

You make a fair point about excuses. However, I do respect her publicly apologizing. I may be looking in the wrong places, but from what I have seen, many are not even doing that.

J. R. Tomlin said...

You're right that many are not only not apologizing but continue defending what they did. I just can't an apology that says it was really the other person's fault a real apology. Maybe it is better than no apology at all.

It was the sight of a number of people excusing what they had done on Critique Circle that caused me to walk out of those forums in some heat. A number were saying things much as what she said, that somehow he should have explained that he wasn't doing anything wrong and if he didn't explain it sufficiently then it was HIS fault they attacked him. Quite a number were saying if he wasn't really doing anything wrong he would promptly bring his site back up. As though he would WANT to after that experience.

And now they are whining that they are paying the consequences of their actions. I don't believe hacking their sites or harassing them is right, but there is a whole list who (unless I see some SINCERE apologies) I will not only not buy, but I won't support in other ways by re-tweeting, blogging, etc.

J. R. Tomlin said...

I do want to say that Sharon Cathcart expanded in comments on her apology and I think it is sincere. That is really all that I ask, but there are people out there who aren't quite as forgiving.

Nick Mackie said...

Well I seem to have been lumped in with the author mob - and I don't consider I was ever part of it in the first place. Since then I have recieved a rogue review on amazon and website hack attempts. I don't think anyone comes out of this smelling of roses.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Let me quote you, Nick.

"Thanks for the explanation andresanthomas - so as I understand it anyone could in theory open up a website re-lending kindle books? (and take a cut in the process)..

I still find it worrying that Amazon is happy to go along with this.

I for one am going to email the site owner - Porter, Dale
and see if I can see if he will take my book down. (Doubtfull)

I tried to join the LendInk site to see what happens but firefox threw up lots of warnings! So I didn’t finish the registration process.

Up until now I was just getting fed up with folks listing my books on ebay, amazon and third party sites selling the createspace paperback version at highly inflated prices! – which I find both clever and annoying. Now it seems someone has found a way to make money from re lending the kindle eBooks."

As far as a "rogue" review, if someone doesn't like you and what you have said, they may post bad reviews. That's life. Suck it up.

I don't think it is the best reaction but it something that authors have to live with.

Not only that but you were continuing to post incorrect information since Dale Porter took NO cut from one buyer lending to another.

Let me make it plain that I will allow this one post with an author defending himself for his actions. After this, any of the people involved can post an APOLOGY or the post will be deleted.

How should we react? Every author who was involved who hasn't made an apology with NO EXCUSES I have UNfollowed and will not be allowed to post here nor will I link to their blog or their books.

End of...

EJ Taylor said...

Sorry to hear you've left CC, J.R. Tomlin! We don't really know each other at all (I'm just a forum stalker these days as my writing output is so little), but it seems a shame. Good luck with your novels!


Rex Jameson said...

I had noticed the LendInk post on the Writer's Cafe, but I had to travel. This is highly disturbing. Thanks for the summary.

Angela Ackerman said...

Wow, I feel so stupid, because I missed all of this. Like you, I saw a post on a potential pirating site a week or more ago (Writer's Cafe, I think) checked it out and saw it was legit--a one time legal lending of an ebook as per Kindle contract. No big deal. I didn't give it another thought--totally legal, and a good way for people to share books without pirating.

I am blown away to find out so many people could just jump into a mob without even looking into what this was all about. So unfortunate. Did Amazon step forward at all to clear the air about this site's function? I realize that while the two have nothing to do with one another, something like this could help diffuse the situation.

I did see you left CC, and that's unfortunate. Not sure what happened there, but I can understand if you felt it wasn't a good place for you anymore, why you needed to move on.

Wishing you the best,


J. R. Tomlin said...

I was much the same as you, Angela. I saw there was nothing to it and only much later did I realize what was going on with twitter and some blogs.

As far as CC, I simply couldn't stand the way a number of authors continued to defend their actions in this case and tried to blame the owner for their own actions. It upset me enough that I decided it wasn't someplace I cared to be.

Now I am urging people to help Dale Porter with a defense fund and rebuilding a more robust site with a better host by making donations.

Angela Ackerman said...

Is he on Kickstarter?

Angela Ackerman said...

FYI, there's a big post about it on Porter Anderson's Writing On The Ether.

J. R. Tomlin said...

Kickstarter won't allow donations for web projects. I'll post the link in a sec. :)

J. R. Tomlin said...

It's at Fundrazr here:

Angela Ackerman said...

okay I'll check it out--thx