When Catherine MacDonald got a Kindle last August, it was love at first download. There was just one problem: the e-reader didn't allow bookworms to lend or borrow its digital documents.
MacDonald briefly celebrated when Amazon announced on December 30 that it would enable lending between Kindle users, but then she was disappointed again.
Sure, it was a great that people could share their e-books -- but MacDonald, a 40-year-old Canadian native who lives in Malta and Tunisia, said she didn't know a single soul with a Kindle.
That night, she had a Eureka moment.
"I was just going to sleep and told my husband, 'Please, in the morning, remind me to start a Facebook group to find people to lend books to,'" she said.
The next day, MacDonald launched the Kindle Lending Club (KLC) Facebook page and, in short order, learned that there were thousands of people, just like her, who were hungry for the opportunity to share their e-books.
Since the page's launch, the KLC Facebook page has attracted more than 6,500 "likes" and facilitated the exchange of about 1,000 books, she estimated.
Kindle Lending Club Website Launched in Two Weeks
"It just sort of took on a life of its own really fast. It just seemed like a lot of people were having the same idea, they loved lending books as much as they love borrowing," she said.
Given the immense interest in her idea, MacDonald decided to expand the club beyond the Facebook page. In less than two weeks, she raised start-up capital, hired Web developers and launched a dedicated Kindle Lending Club website. She was not starting cold; she had prior experience in the Web development world and her husband, she says, has social media chops.
The site launched to the public Friday and has already registered more than 4,000 users and nearly 3,500 lendable books.
Anyone can register and either post books that they want to lend, or submit a request to borrow one. The site searches for matches and when it finds one, it sends the lender the borrower's e-mail address. That e-mail address is enough to put the lending process in motion.
Founders Hope to Turn Profit With Kindle Lending Club
Once the borrower downloads the book on loan, he or she has 14 days to complete it before it is automatically returned to the lender's Kindle.
MacDonald said that not only does the club tap into one of her favorite hobbies, it might even turn into a major source of revenue for her and her husband.
While she refuses to make money from the actual lending and borrowing between readers, the site stands to profit if borrowers don't finish reading the books within Amazon's 14-day lending window and choose to purchase the books through the Kindle Lending Club's website.
The site is part of Amazon's affiliate program, which means that if it offers links to Amazon books, and customers click through to buy them, it shares part of the revenue.
While one might expect the book-sharing website to take business away from Amazon, MacDonald said she believes that the company expected book-sharing sites to spring up when it established its lending policy.
MacDonald said that Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader allows longer lending times than Amazon's Kindle, and supports several Nook book-sharing websites.
Kindle Lended Limited to U.S. Customers
Amazon did not respond to requests for comment from ABCNews.com, but it does put limits on lending. According to Amazon's website, only books deemed lendable by the publisher or rights holder are available. Kindle users can only lend a digital book once, and the option can only be initiated by Kindle customers living in the U.S. Also, while the book is on loan, the original purchaser isn't able to access the book at all.
MacDonald acknowledges that the one-loan-per-book policy may dissuade people from sharing their books with strangers (and instead save their loans for family and friends), but said she's heard reactions across the spectrum.
There are indeed some who refuse to share with strangers but, she said, others "have a complete abundance mentality."
"There's something that almost goes beyond altruism," she said. "We're really kind of sharing a part of ourselves when we share something that we've read that we've really enjoyed. It's really a conversation."