Monday, August 13, 2012

LendInk Witch Hunt, Part II: It's gone too far

Last week, I documented the closing of a legitimate ebook lending service in "What happened to LendInk? The owner responds." The reaction to those authors who had helped bring LendInk down -- either through joining the Internet torch mob or sending "hundreds" of cease & desist letters (and apparently some DMCA takedown notices) -- was characterized by fury and outrage. Here is a sample from LendInk's Facebook page:
"I read nearly every comment on this page. From the countless authors that carelessly destroyed Dale's business, I saw only two apologies. You took something that was designed to help you and was perfectly legal, and smashed it in to the ground. You should be ashamed of yourselves."
The anger is understandable. LendInk owner Dale Porter was providing a community service to readers, and abided by the terms of Amazon's and Barnes & Nobles respective ebook lending and affiliate programs. But his site was driven off the Internet by a baying mass of authors (indie and otherwise) who either:

  • Didn't understand ebook lending (or the terms they had signed with KDP and PubIt)
  • Thought that LendInk needed permission to use affiliate images and links
  • Mistakenly thought LendInk was posting pirated copies of the ebooks
  • Blindly piled on because everyone else was. 

I excerpted one of the comments on my original blog post, but you can see more of them on LendInk's Facebook page from earlier in the month:

The authors who participated in the frenzy are now reaping what they have sown. The criticism is deserved, and many are apologizing on LendInk's Facebook page and elsewhere:
"I was one of the misguided authors involved. Though I didn't send a DMCA, I did come here to this page and ask for my titles to be taken down. For this I am truly sorry though I'm sure it's too little and too late. It's the least I can do. … I feel horrible about the part I played in this and how far it's gone."
Other author apologies are popping up on Twitter, in online forums, on Goodreads, and in the comments section of my blog post. There is also a lot of discussion about what went wrong and the factors that led to this state of affairs.

But for the authors who are silent or unrepentant, a new torch mob has emerged, targeting them for personal attacks and outright revenge.

One of the people who was targeted was an erotic fiction author who left the comment on Kindleboards that I cited in my blog post. She removed the comment from Kindleboards, and later posted this comment, claiming she had been subjected to personal attacks:
"The one who fired abusive comments directed toward me, my books and other writers who were only standing up for their rights, shame on you! Your emails and abusive threats are all accounted for, so please, continue to dig your own hole. Hopefully you will have enough grace to go hide in it, and fester there alone with your hate." 
It went beyond personal attacks. Someone gave her book a one-star review on Amazon, leaving this comment:
"33 Pages? $2.99? Really? from, let's face it, an unknown author. This adds up to... 9 cents per page.  
Additionally, apparently this Author considers anyone who treads on Author's rights to be scum, yet writes Cease and Desist letters for legitimate, fully legal sites because the author is unable to fully read and comprehend what is going on. Lack of reading comprehension, generally is not a trait i look for when seeking out authors to read. I highly recommend you avoid this one both for their over-inflated sense of their own work's value, and for their careless use of DMCA." 
Another person, posting on LendInk's Facebook page, put together a list of authors who had apparently been part of the first mob that slammed LendInk or demanded that their content be removed. After being challenged, the person who compiled the list added:
"They all collectively razed a legitimate business to the ground, leaving a small business owner with nothing but a mailbox full of threats, legal and personal. You don't think that should have consequences?" 
That list, along with more names, was copied to a blog post and expanded. Twitter and Facebook screencaps were added to prove they were part of the original anti-LendInk mob. Commenters joined in to add new names. At the top of the post, the blogger said:
"I will be attempting to add the author’s book pages at and so you can access what books never to buy in an easier fashion."
Despite the call for a boycott, and a new post that singled out an author who still insisted LendInk was wrong, the blogger claimed "I didn't encourage any sort of retributive action here whatsoever."

Surprisingly, there are even some authors who support retribution. I spotted this comment by a Canadian author on Kindleboards:
"I'm going to say this for what it's worth, and okay, it may be a controversial opinion... I think the authors involved with this deserve every one star rating they get.
They shut down a site that was bringing exposure to authors and providing a service to readers. In a very real way, they took money out of the pockets of authors as well as Dale himself, both for what LendInk was and for what it could have become. And for what? For the idea, the shocking idea, that someone, somewhere, might have gotten a copy of their book for free.
Not 'they did get a copy'. 'They might have gotten a copy'. They attacked LendInk without even knowing for sure that their livelyhood had ever been harmed.
If they had done any kind of due diligence, they would have seen that the lends went through Amazon's and B&N's systems, and it was not on LendInk if the books were not supposed to have that functionality. If they had done any kind of due diligence, LendInk would still be online. 
On top of that, it's one thing to destroy a legitimate business because it could be used for piracy, but it's quite another to destroy a legitimate business because you can't tell the difference between that and actual piracy. As far as I'm concerned, any of these authors that still maintains they did the right thing needs to get slapped around with bad ratings - there is no other way, realistically, for the community to punish them. The ones that apologise? It's good that they're willing, but they're not owed forgiveness from anyone, and if they continue to catch flak for what they did, then so be it (though they have my respect at least)."
As I said earlier, the offending authors deserve criticism for their actions. They should at least apologize to LendInk owner Dale Porter, and do whatever they can to right the wrong. But I am very disappointed to see a new witch hunt taking place, that has escalated to personal attacks, demands for "punishment" and "consequences", and bogus one-star reviews. It's a sign that mob mentality is taking over -- ironically, the very thing that helped bring down LendInk in the first place.

Things have gone too far, people. Let's keep the discussion going, but please end the vitriol and extreme actions that do nothing to help Dale and his business.


  1. Nonsense. Most of the criticism is of authors who are NOT apologizing and since when is doing someone substantial harm righted by a mere apology? Deliberately driving someone out of business is not righted by "criticism".

    No, a lot of us indie authors are NOT ready to forget the black eye this gave the indie community.

    Indeed, I am boycotting fellow authors who took part and have not made a sincere apology. And if that bothers you, the problem is yours not mine.

    What goes around comes around as the saying goes.

    1. JR, this has escalated to personal attacks and revenge reviews. I hope you can agree that these are not appropriate responses.

  2. By the way, what helped bring down LendInk was ignorance and not bothering to check their facts. They mindlessly repeated charges WHICH WERE FALSE. Had it actually been a pirate site, I would not criticise their actions (even though I don't get that excited about piracy).

    I have seen the posts of everyone I unfollowed on Twitter and who are barred from my blog. I KNOW they did what they are accused of having done.

    No apologies here. Yes, there SHOULD be consequences for bad actions.

  3. "The one who fired abusive comments directed toward me, my books and other writers who were only standing up for their rights, shame on you!"

    The quote above illustrates the problem. They were not "standing up for their rights". They were clearly in the wrong, and attacked a perfectly legitimate business, and refuse to admit they were wrong.

    I'm not going to give out one-star reviews to these authors, but I'm not buying their books. Either they are too dim to understand that they were in the wrong, or are too petty to admit it. Neither of these possibilities make me inclined to think that they have anything to say worth reading.

  4. Has it gone too far? Yes.

    Both sides took it to far. What can you do to stop it? Well some authors have stopped and tried to make amends. Most bloggers do seem to try and take the high road. Commenters? Not so much. You can encourage people to end their vitriol, but its never going to be 100% compliance.

    Some of these authors made attacks against lendink, do you really expect for some readers not to respond in kind?

    Who started it? Was it lendink with an outdated site or authors with too little patience? Considering that a few authors were able to confirm the legality when the mess started, I blame the mob authors.

  5. The comment on Kindleboards was mine.

    Frankly, if you want to call a well-reasoned argument that the unrepentant authors have done wrong and need to be punished in some way a witch-hunt, then I really hope you're never on the receiving end of the real deal from something like 4chan.

    I believe my point still stands. They have done wrong, and there is no other viable way for the self-publishing community to punish this wrong other than by knocking their sales with one-star reviews. If there were another way to do it, that would be a better choice, but as it stands none exists that I know of.

    They face a lot of justified anger for their actions. But, unlike their actions, the anger seems to be rooted in reason and there is more discussion happening now as a result. So something good will come of this at least.

    Still, I am not going to lose any sleep if the ratings on their books are trashed. I will continue to believe that they deserve every one-star they get for their despicable mob behavior, though I'm not adding any myself. Personal attacks? No. Not acceptable, and I will call out anyone who does so if I see it happening. But, like J.R. says above me, there must be consequences, and the fairest consequences in my view are those that take sales from the mob just as they took sales away from many other authors by destroying LendInk.

  6. I am waiting for the complete evolution of the Indie author. Right now, there are too many people cluttering the industry with inferior work, sloppy writing, elitist attitudes and a sense of self-aggrandization and entitlement. Some of the trash I encounter which is described as being "published" is repulsive. Hopefully situations like LendInk will help to cull the herd of authors who apparently have more time to spend on emotional reactions than learning their craft. People who find the time to cut their own throat, and obnoxiously flaunt their lack of understanding of the written word have no business getting paid as experts of the written word. Hopefully this is another step in the evolution of self publishing, so that authors such as myself may have a fighting chance against those who continuously make the rest of us look bad, either due to bad judgment, or bad writing.

  7. I'm sorry, but consequences are earned. This isn't a 'witch hunt'. You are seeing the marketplace reacting by consumers deciding where they will spend their hard-earned money. The facts are the facts. Certain authors behaved poorly. Why should they be allowed to duck responsibility for their behavior?

    So the comparison to the original mob action is invalid. This isn't legal action taken by mob mentality...far from it. It is simply people who care about sending a message with their pocketbooks working together to get their facts straight.

  8. I linked to this story in a short post on my own website. I scolded the mob and said, yes, there should be consequences. I didn't, and would never, single anyone out or name names. That would be irresponsible, so I chose to only add to the public shaming. They need to have their noses rubbed in it a little, in hopes of preventing a recurrence. You can't "burn down the shop" and walk away scot-free.

    It's not only this particular mob that's at fault, though. They've been led astray by the farce of Imaginary Property (IP) and the current misguided understanding of copyright.

    Good luck to Lendink and good luck to the members of the mob who have enough sense to be ashamed of what they did.


  9. I enjoyed reading the debate updates, Ian. Thank you for continuing the story in true journalistic style. If I can cast my 2 cents into the ring, as to the attacks on authors and bogas 1 star revenge reviews on Amazon:

    -"He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone..."

    I think that is the best quote in the world to end it. If people were astute, they would heed the advice and be done with this madness. It's time to heal and rebuild, and beating up authors on Amazon is not going to help Dale rebuild his business. People ought to stop and think about that.


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