Library for friends

A DVD

Social networking site Lendaround.com lets you borrow, lend movies

March 03, 2009|By Roger Moore | Roger Moore,The Orlando Sentinel

When times are tough, Americans still escape to the cinema - $1 billion in tickets were sold in January alone. But entertainment still falls under discretionary spending. And if tumbling DVD sales - down 4 percent, worldwide, last year, according to Video Business magazine - hint at habits changing during the recession, consumers might start eyeing that Blockbuster or Netflix charge on the Visa bill more carefully.

Enter Tim Jackson, British entrepreneur and founder of Lendaround.com.

"It's like Netflix meets Facebook," Jackson said, describing a social networking site that enables friends to see each other's DVD libraries and arrange to lend or borrow movies, with Lendaround keeping track of where your movies have gone and for how long they've been gone.

Jackson is a former journalist (Financial Times, The Economist) who founded QXL, a British-based eBay-like online auction service, in 1997. He got the idea for Lendaround after doing charity work in Africa.

He came home from being with people who had few material possessions and saw "all the stuff around my house." He thought of freecycle.org, the Web site for stuff you want to give away. He thought of things you might want to keep, but would lend to friends. From that came the idea of friends lending friends DVDs, "movies you've seen, which you'd love to keep, but which you're not going to watch more than once or twice a year."

"My research shows that there are something like 2 billion DVDs sitting in U.S. households, gathering dust," he said. "Why not get more use out of videos you've already bought?" Lendaround lets the user set up private networks of people you know who might want to share DVDs.

"For every movie you're not watching, there's a friend out there who'd like to see it," he said. It can be neighbors, colleagues or more distant acquaintances. "We help you keep track of where the discs are, and we set up a mechanism that lets you print out a wrapper that you put around an envelope." Then you mail the DVD, "which is just a whisker under an ounce, for just 42 cents."

It's different from a "swapping network," where people tend to want to get rid of discs that are the dregs of their collection. This way, you still own the disc. Jackson says that since the average American household owns 14 DVDs, your circle of friends will have several thousand titles to pass around, more than your typical brick-and-mortar video store, if not Netflix, which advertises that it has 100,000 titles. But Netflix isn't free.

Lendaround's site (still in a beta, low-capacity mode) says it might provide for-a-fee services of some sort in the future. But friends lending friends DVDs will always be free. Will it work?

"A similar predecessor, Peerflix.com, didn't make it," said Stephanie Prange, editor-in-chief of Home Media Magazine. "It all comes down to how much of a hassle it is to be your own Netflix. I would think it would work best with obscure titles that your buddies can't find easily at the local Blockbuster or Wal-mart."

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