Yesterday Lendle, a Kindle eBook lending network service had its access to the Amazon API blocked. Lendle made use of the Amazon API to facilitate the lending of Kindle eBooks all in accord with the current restrictions. Kindle books may be loaned to another Kindle user for a period of 14 days. During that time, the owner of the book cannot read it until the end of the loan period. And any given book may only be loaned out one time and one time only. Barnes & Noble Nook eBooks suffer the same lending restrictions.

After changes to Lendle’s use of the API, Lendle’s access to Amazon has been restored. But the whole debacle casts light once again on the overly restrictive eBook lending rules. First, 14 days is too short. I’ve read plenty of books that with life’s little interruptions have taken me far longer than 14 days to read. I’m not a library, when I loan a book to a friend, I don’t stamp it with a due date and charge fines if it comes back late! Secondly, many of us have loaned a good book to family and friends more than one time only. It is not uncommon for an entire family to share and read a single copy of a book.

These restrictions, coupled with DRM, are intended to fight piracy. But by making it harder for the consumer to use the product in a way that seems natural and fair to them, they actually encourage the piracy they wish to limit. We’ve already seen this with software, music, and movies. People living in the same household don’t want to buy full priced copies of things they have already paid for once. If it is easier to obtain and use a pirated copy of a book than a legal one, then guess which one wins?

As eBook readers begin to fall below $100, more of them are finding their way into the hands of younger readers. Stripping eBooks of DRM is not all that difficult and a quick web search is likely to find pirate copies of anything even remotely popular. It would be better in the long run if lending restrictions are loosened up to resemble something closer to what book readers expect, than to raise up a new generation of casual eBook pirates.

Rather than continue unrealistic lending policies, eBook sellers and publishers should use the lending data to track reader preferences and trends in order to sell more books. The current policies actively discourage lending, opening it up should result in a larger, more significant data pool for analysis. Just as iTunes did for digital music, the eBook buying and lending experience should be as easy as tapping a touchscreen.