If you own a Kindle or Nook, you're probably aware that you can lend books to friends and family members, and they can do likewise for you. Unfortunately, that's usually a pretty small circle, meaning if there's a specific book you want, the chances are slim someone you know will have it. (And that's if your friend and family own matching e-book readers at all.)
eBookFling solves that hassle by matching you with anonymous lenders nationwide. (Sorry, rest of the world; for now this is an America-only solution.) It works like this: First, you sign up for a free eBookFling account. Next, you list the Kindle and/or Nook books you own and are willing to lend. Then you search for books you want to borrow and add them to your wish list. If a book isn't instantly available, the service notifies you when it is.
Everything works on a credit system: you earn one credit for lending a book and spend one each time you borrow a book. Don't have any books to lend? You can buy packs of credits: $8.99 for three, $19.99 for 10, or $29.99 for 20. Even if you pay $8.99 for three, that works out to three bucks per book--almost certainly less than if you bought it outright.
That said, there are limitations when it comes to lending and borrowing. For starters, books can be borrowed for only two weeks at a time; after that, the book "times out" and disappears from your library. If you didn't finish reading it, you'll have to borrow it again. Likewise, each book you own can be lent only once--and some books can't be lent at all (owing to restrictions set by the publisher). That means you might not be able to accrue as many credits as you'd like, and that certain books you want to borrow simply won't be available (Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" is a good example).
But when everything works, it's a thing of beauty. At the urging of my wife and daughter, I read "The Hunger Games," and now I'm on to the second book in the series, "Catching Fire." Both are available via eBookFling, and neither one cost me a penny to read. Gotta love that!
Looking for more deals on e-books? Be sure to check out eReaderIQ, a site that maintains a huge list of free and discounted Kindle books.
Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums.