Rather than buying expensive DVDs or paying for rental services like Netflix, many film fans are using LendAround, a new free Web tool that encourages friends, colleagues and neighbors to lend their DVDs to other users.
“I’ve heard it described as Netflix meets Facebook,” LendAround founder Tim Jackson said.
American consumers spend an estimated $7 billion a year on movie rentals.
Services like Netflix cost $17 a month to rent three movies while a single movie at Blockbuster can cost up to $5.
LendAround is entirely free to join.
“Our research suggests that there are two billion DVDs in homes, but 80 percent don’t get watched more than twice a year,” Jackson said.
LendAround was created by Jackson, a former columnist for the Financial Times, and David Heath, a software engineer for other non-profit organizations.
Jackson wanted to encourage people to share after he realized how many things people own but rarely use.
Though founded by a Brit, the company is a Delaware partnership and launched a private beta trial for U.S. consumers on Feb. 2.
“This is different from other swapping sites,” said LendAround employee Jacqueline Gulyan. “Its an emphasis on lending and borrowing. You need to get stuff back.”
Jackson said that the success of the site comes from the fact that people are eager to showcase their best DVDs when they display them on their profile.
So other users have a great selection of DVDs from which to choose.
Gulyan shares 857 DVDs with her circle of about 25 friends.
LendAround allows users to create an account with a list of movies they own as well as a list of movies they would like to see.
Users can choose only people they trust to receive their DVDs.
The Web site allows users to track the locations of their DVDs and ask for their return. LendAround makes sending DVDs by mail easy with printable address labels.
“It’s a good concept, if only we lived in a perfect world,” said Ami Smith, a senior broadcasting major.
The service works like Facebook, as users can create their own network of friends.
The more friends a user has, the more DVDs they can access.
If a user experiences a problem with another DVD lender, they can give them a rating on their profile so other users will be warned.
“[LendAround] is a good way to keep in touch with your friends,” said Gulyan.
Most DVD exchanges take place in person, since the users within networks usually live close to each other.
Jackson wanted to start by promoting sharing of DVDs since they are cheap and easy to mail to others.
Jackson wants to see people use LendAround for sharing other items in the future.
Gulyan said that other media items like CDs or books may eventually be available on LendAround.
Students who would like an invitation to join should contact that address listing what movies they like.
Gulyan said that the site should be entirely available to the public soon.
LendAround is a completely legal service.
The United States Copyright Law does allow any DVD purchased legally to be borrowed, sold, exchanged or rented.
However, users are not allowed to make copies of any DVDs they borrow or to lend out copies made from these DVDs.
For more information, visit www.lendaround.com.
Megan Sebestyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.