Update, March 22nd, 2011: We’re thrilled to report that Amazon has reinstated our API access, and Lendle is back up and running. Welcome back, Lendlers!

Late today, we received an email from an Associates Account Specialist at Amazon informing us that their concern only relates to our Book Sync tool, which syncs a user’s Kindle books with their Lendle account. Amazon informed us that if we disabled this feature, our access to the API, as well as our Amazon Associates account, would be reinstated. We appreciate Amazon’s willingness to modify the position stated in the original access revocation email and work with us to get Lendle back on line. We have complied with the request to disable the Book Sync tool (which was a very useful, but non-essential, feature of Lendle).

We’ve learned a lot through this process, and have come to realize we need to work towards a Lendle product that does not rely on APIs provided by Amazon or any other third party. To that end, we’ve already begun brainstorming the next version of Lendle. Suffice it to say, we’ll continue to make good on our promise to keep Lendle the easiest, fastest, fairest, and best way to lend and borrow Kindle books.

We’re excited to be back and anxious to serve our amazing community, whose generous support no doubt played a large role getting Lendle back up and running. We can’t thank you enough.

Go lend books!

March 21st, 2011: Earlier today, Amazon revoked our API access. Lendle relies heavily on Amazon’s API, so this effectively shut the site down. The letter we received from Amazon states that the reason our API and Amazon Associates accounts have been revoked is that Lendle does not “serve the principal purpose of driving sales of products and services on the Amazon site.”

We take issue with this, as Lendle was built from the ground up to ensure that it would be beneficial to authors, publishers, and Amazon. Our site requires that you be willing to lend books before you can borrow them. We even went so far as to allow users to sync their Lendle accounts with their Kindle accounts, so that we could ensure anyone who borrows books on Lendle has previously purchased lendable books from Amazon. Our philosophy is: You can’t borrow if you don’t lend, and you can’t lend if you don’t buy.

The entire system we built is centered around the idea of encouraging people to buy books. As a published author, it was very important to me personally to build the system in a way that was good for authors and publishers.

The letter we got from Amazon comes from a “no-reply” e-mail address and offers no formal way to dispute the revocation, or ask for more clarity. We have sent a response to any relevant Amazon e-mail address we could find, but as yet, have not received any response from them.

Our initial reaction was one of pure surprise. I work out of my home office just blocks from Amazon headquarters in Seattle, and am very involved in the tech community here in town. As such, I know many people at Amazon, and everything I’d heard was that most inside Amazon were big fans of Lendle—even up to higher-ranking managers.

We’re not sure why this action comes now. We’ve been operating for a month and a half now, with no complaints from Amazon. We didn’t make any significant changes to the site over the past couple of weeks that would have resulted in any kind of change in our compliance with Amazon’s terms. We do know that we’re not the only eBook lending site who had their API access revoked today, so we can only speculate that it wasn’t anything about Lendle specifically that caused Amazon to act today, but rather something a bit bigger than us. We know publishers have been skittish about lending, and aren’t yet seeing how much value it brings them, so we might speculate Amazon was acting on pressure from them. But really, we don’t know. We can only speculate.

Over the six weeks or so that Lendle has been running, we’ve been thrilled to engage with a passionate, loyal, and vocal community many, many thousands of book-lovers strong. We intend to do everything in our power to continue to serve our amazing community. Part of that, of course, is doing whatever we can do get our API access back. Failing that, it’s still very possible for us to run a lending site without relying on Amazon’s APIs. It may take us a bit of time to rebuild, but one way or another, we’ll continue lending eBooks.

Press members interested in the story are encouraged to contact us.

Jeff Croft