"Rights owners" are holding the line to stop you from lending your Kindle books to friends and family, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in an interview this week at Amazon headquarters in Seattle.
"We do what the rights owner wants," he said when asked about borrowing, lending, and donating e-books.
Amazon enabled a borrowing and lending feature for Kindle books back in 2010, but you can only loan a book once, and even then, few publishers have taken Amazon up on its offer. Bezos said the publishers have "very legitimate concerns about how you would monitor that account-to-account sharing."
'"You are welcome to go with our team and meet with the rights holders and see how much progress you make," he said. "I'm being delicate here."
For now, families who want to lend books between family members should just open one joint Kindle account for everyone, Bezos said. That's what he's done with his wife, a novelist, and their four kids.
"What we've done in my family is set one [account] up that is for our media," he said. "If you called customer service, this is what they would tell you."
Amazon would be happy to sell more media without restrictions, but Bezos said he doesn't see any trend away from DRM in books or video, even though the music industry largely abandoned DRM starting in 2009.
"We are agnostic to that. We do what the publisher wants. If the rights owner wants DRM, we do DRM. If the rights owner doesn't want DRM, we don't do DRM," he said.
With many Kindle books un-lendable, un-borrowable, and un-giveable, it's good that Bezos sees a long shelf life for traditional paper books in the future.
"The tail of these things tends to be very long lived; [the transition to e-books] will go on for a very long time," he said. "Our heaviest Kindle e-book buyers also buy lots of paper books, so they're buying both. For many people, it's not an either-or choice. If you go out into the future far enough, paper books will be luxury items, but that's quite a distance.