One of the most noteworthy innovations of the Barnes & noble Nook had little to do with the device itself and more to do with Barnes & Noble’s goodwill and bargaining power with the publishers it cited at its launch event. The e-reader has the ability to lend books for a period of two weeks.
It’s not the first time a device has had the ability to allow friends to sample content. Microsoft’s Zune famously allowed “three plays or three days” for songs that were shared from another Zune using peer-to-peer Wi-Fi in a process Microsoft unfortunately called “squirting.” While the ability to sample viral music likely had some appeal for the Zune owner, there were siimply not enough Zunes to make the feature worthwhile and Microsoft dropped the feature with the Zune HD.
Like the Zune at its debut, the Nook will also be starting from an installed base of zero. However, Barnes & Noble has circumvented the chicken and egg by by allowing consumers to share its e-books with any compatible device running B&N client software, such as a PC, iPhone or BlackBerry. A Windows M9obile client in the works was confirmed by the company
The question, though, is how does the ability to lend e-books enhance one’s experience as a Nook owner? Clearly if one is in the middle of reading a b9ooik, lending it out for two weeks (which makes it unavailable to the owner) is simply a nuisance. There could be some gratification in lending a completed book to a friend, though. Hopefully, publishers, which control how long a book can be lent for, won’t start calculating how long it takes someone tor read a book and deny lending rigts to shorter titles based on that.
The tie to the Nook is also tenuous for the borrower, who doesn’t have to buy a Nook to enjoy a lent book. Barnes & Noble, though, may really be looking down the road if it supposes that simply exposing more consumers to digital books will grow the market eventually.