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Use Case Peer to Peer Bookswapping

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Peer to Peer Bookswapping


Jodi Schneider

Background and Current Practice

Currently, books are shared by people who know each other. However, there are some mechanisms for organized sharing and exchange of books, outside of libraries, by individuals. Existing swap sites such as BookMooch and Paperback Swap focus on exchanging physical books while other sites such as BimBamBim, swap.com, and title trader focus on exchanging physical media items (books, CDs, DVDs, ...)

Meanwhile sharing free ebooks with unlimited distribution (such as those under CC and GNU licenses, or those in the public domain) is as easy as sharing the URL.

Yet opportunities and options for legally sharing licensed, non-free ebooks are more limited. This is problematic:

"The entire impulse behind Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iBooks assumes that you cannot read a book unless you own it first — and only you can read it unless you want to pass on your device.
That goes against the social value of reading, the collective knowledge and collaborative discourse that comes from access to shared libraries. That is not a good thing for readers, authors, publishers or our culture."

- Verlyn Klinkenborg in "Further Thoughts of a Novice E-Reader", The New York Times, May 29, 2010

Lending ebooks has been advertised as an option by some distributors; while loan terms are limited, and some books' licenses forbid lending at all, it would be useful to explore the limits of existing lending options. This could lead to improved business models, further awareness of existing freedoms and limits, as well as increased sharing of culture.


  • Enable individuals to share ebooks easily, and legally (i.e. according to license restrictions).
  • Raise awareness about existing lending options and their limits.

Use Case Scenario

Alice wants to borrow a particular book. She searches for users who have a lendable copy of the ebook; they are displayed in a socially-relevant order, based on friends she hasn't borrowed from recently, followed by friends of friends, etc. The system automatically finds the nearest person who has a lendable copy -- Claire, a friend of a friend -- and ask her to confirm that she wants to send her a request. When she agrees, the system shows the default message -- which requests the book, mentions to Claire a book that Alice can lend that she might like, and offers a space for personalization.

Claire receives the request. She lends the book but doesn't want to borrow Alice's. The system updates its recommendation profile for Claire and authorizes Alice's ebook reader. The book is removed from the lendable books now, but the loan period starts when Alice starts reading. At the end of the lending period, the book is automatically returned and its lending status is updating according to the license agreement.

Or, maybe Claire denies the request: She explains that she just promised that book to Bill when she saw him last night, and that it can only be lent once. Claire confirms an update, based on her message: then this book is put into Bill's queue, removed from the lendable copies. Then the system suggests another person to borrow from.

Application of linked data for the given use case

  • Use machine-readable CC-like licenses
  • Permit aggregation from distributed catalog holdings made by individuals on social network or individual webpage spaces

Existing Work (optional)

  • unglueing ebooks
  • OPDS "a lightweight open standard used to create catalogs that enable the aggregation, distribution, and discovery of books, journals, and other material by any user, from any source, in any digital format, and on any device."

Business model needs and ideas

Content sharing

Digital Lending

  • Kindle lending "Eligible Kindle books can be loaned once for a period of 14 days. ... The lender will not be able to read the book during the loan period."
  • Nook Lending "All LendMe™ books can be shared once with friends at no cost, for up to 14 days."

Related Vocabularies (optional)

Problems and Limitations

Related Use Cases and Unanticipated Uses (optional)

Library Linked Data Dimensions / Topics

References (optional)

Adapted from JISC