Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library and the Latest Author Incentive

Amazon is the big giant in the book world, and ever since the digital craziness began they have truly become the company that everyone loves to hate … Well, everyone except readers, for the most part.

When they announced a month ago that they would be letting people with Amazon Prime memberships borrow certain books on their Kindle for free, there was at first shock and then an outcry from (some) publishers and authors. One of the main sticking points concerning the new Kindle Owners’ Lending Library was that Amazon had not received express permission to do this from many of those it initially included.

For some it didn’t matter, because on the author and publisher’s end Amazon was registering it as a sale every time someone borrowed; nevertheless, there was the concern that readers will start to become accustomed to the idea that they can access content for free and should not have to pay for it, especially since this new feature was bundled into Amazon Prime with no extra cost or subscription increase.

On December 8, Amazon announced their new KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select program, and I’m interested to see what the reaction will be and how many authors and publishers will go for it. What is it? Basically put: if an author or publisher makes an eBook a Kindle exclusive for a minimum of 90 days, then they are eligible to be part of the Kindle Lending Library.

Yes, they’ll be eligible to have their book read for free by readers. So how will they be reimbursed? There is a KDP fund—estimates are minimum $6 million for 2012—and the author/publisher will be paid a percentage from it each month; the percentage will mirror whatever their percentage was of that month’s checkouts (ex: an author’s book made up for 0.5% of that month’s checkouts, they will receive 0.5% of that month’s KDP fund).

Your Thoughts?
I’m curious to hear what other readers’ take is on the situation. Do many of you have Kindles? Are you also Amazon Prime members and have used the Kindle Lending Library? If so, has it changed how you think of eBooks and your access to them? How do you think this might impact authors?


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  1. Anne says

    I have a plain Sony ereader, but am considering getting a Kindle because I have about 600 free Kindle books. I can already download ebooks from my library, but the selection isn’t great. It sounds like the kindle selection would be really good. I don’t have a smart phone so the ability to access my e-mail as well using a kindle makes it doubly appealing.

    • says

      As the more eReaders come out like the Nook Color and Kindle Fire, I think we’ll definitely see an increase in these type of tablet-eReaders that offer email, web accessibility, etc.

      So far, I’ve stayed with my Nook Touch because I like the eInk and can use my iPhone for other things, but you bring up an interesting point Anne, that for those who don’t have a smartphone, that would be a strong incentive to get one of those higher-function eReaders.

      When you say you have about 600 free Kindle books, how do you mean – how did you get those?

      I have found the same thing for eBook selection with my library – especially with romances, I have been pretty surprised by how many they don’t have! I also don’t like the wait and the time limit, but that could just be because I’m impatient :-).

  2. says

    She probably means she has them in her kindle for pc or kindle smartphone app like I do.
    I have kobo and kindle on my phone and use them often, but my poor eyes prefer the eInk of my Nook Touch. I’d love a tablet to be able to read my kindle and kobo books on a larger scale, but I’d still run into the problem of the backlit screen.
    As far as amazon, I’m going to wait and see before I judge. I don’t like the idea of it, but it may fail so this could all be moot.

    • says

      That’s right, I’d forgotten that even if you don’t have the device, you can download the apps.

      What they’ve done with the Kindle Lending Library is that it is ONLY available on your Kindle though, so that you have to be a Kindle owner and can only read the free eBooks on your Kindle.

      I prefer the NOOK Touch as well because of the eInk; so much easier on my eyes than a backlit screen would be.

      I use the Google eBooks app, because they often have prices that are just a little lower than the others, and the + of the NOOK is you can transfer them onto it.

      Am also uneasy with the idea of this … like you said, we’ll see!

  3. says

    I have owned three Kindles so far. I also have a Prime membership that started when I bought my Kindle Fire. As of today, I have not borrowed any ebooks via Amazon and I’ll be honest, I haven’t even considered it. I have however purchased books in the last month. Perhaps at some point I’ll investigate the option further. I think it’s important that authors are properly reimbursed for loaned books.

    • says

      Woah!!! Sophia I had no idea you’ve had 3! God do I feel like an eReader virgin … just got my first and only one in the spring/summer.

      I’ve always had Amazon Prime (for a couple of years now) and I got it and use it for the free 2nd shipping. I hadn’t even realized until recently that there were free movies and TV shows you could watch with. A lot of overlap with Netflix, so I’m almost thinking I should cancel my Netflix.

      So you haven’t borrowed any? That’s interesting. Have you done any of the 14-day lending options?

      And agree 100%!!! that authors need to be properly compensated. I love saving money and cheap books, but programs like these make me very, very nervous.

      • says

        I loaned a book to someone, but I’ve never borrowed. I don’t know why I’m not inclined to uses these features more. As I said below, I’ve discovered many great authors through free books at Amazon. Laziness on my part perhaps?

        Yes, I’ve had three Kindles. I started with the Kindle 2, then got the Kindle 3, and of course I had to have the Kindle Fire. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have my eye on the Kindle Touch. LOL

  4. Andrea says

    I bought my ereader a few months ago. I was really torn between the Kindle and the Nook. I went with the Nook Touch and I’m glad I did. I have used Kindle on my phone and did use that for a couple months and it was OK but it’s so much easier to read something with eInk.

    I don’t have Amazon Prime so that doesn’t hold any appeal to me. I would want more details about the new program through amazon but at first glance I don’t think it would be enough to take me away from my Nook.

    • says

      Fellow NOOK Touch lover here!! :-) And agree 100% about the eInk; spend enough time working on my computer, so I don’t need to be looking at a backlit screen for several additional hours when I’m trying to relax.

  5. says

    I have a Kindle, and the loan program seems like a great deal to me. Although I’m not currently a member of Amazon Prime, being able to read eBooks for free definitely makes it attractive to me.

    If publishers are nervous about people assuming they can access free content on the internet… first of all, that ship sailed a long time ago. Second of all, it’s NOT free. I’m paying for the privilege of accessing those books, not owning them, and the publisher gets paid for every loan–which they don’t with libraries–so honestly I don’t see any moral or financial dilemma with that.

    • says

      While one is paying because you have to pay to be a Prime member, what has authors and publishers worried is that all of these things are just bundled in.

      At first, Amazon Prime meant free 2nd shipping on all items. Then they bundled in streaming shows and some movies. And now they’ve bundled in borrowing eBooks for free.

      Through all of these, the price of Prime has changed the same, so that’s where their concern on that issue is coming from. It makes it seem like you buy Amazon Prime and guess what? You get free streaming and eBooks thrown in for free!

      The KDP version would be very different because they would not be paying as if it were a sale, you would only get a percentage of that month’s fund.

      I do have Prime and do not have a Kindle, but I don’t know … while how could I possibly object to savings and free eBooks, I also do worry about how this will only continue to bring down the prices of books and devalue them.

      Guess we’ll see what happens!

  6. says

    I’m trying to figure out where to start. First, I’m a librarian by training, so that’s the perspective.

    The Kindle Lending Program only lets users borrow one book per month, as opposed to the library, which will let you borrow lots more.

    Amazon didn’t ask the publishers whether they wanted to participate in the program, they just announced the program, and used the books they wanted in it.

    Libraries purchase the ebooks they lend. They often pay a premium. Some publishers (Harper Collins) only let a copy circulate 26 times, then the library has to buy a new electronic copy. And libraries can only circulate one electronic copy per user, just like a print book.

    Some publishers don’t let libraries buy ebooks at all (Macmillan) That’s why some books aren’t available. And Penguin is getting out of the library market because of the way Amazon handled the Kindle lending library.

    How many times have people been introduced to a new author at the library, then gone on to buy that author’s present and future books? What happens if publishers cut that off?

    I love reading on my iPad, but there are a tremendous number of authors that I love because I borrowed the first book. Now I buy them. But the introduction was free. I bet everyone can think of quite a few authors they “met” the same way.

    • says

      …but there are a tremendous number of authors that I love because I borrowed the first book. Now I buy them. But the introduction was free. I bet everyone can think of quite a few authors they “met” the same way.

      Yes I have discovered many authors and series because the first book was free…ironically on Amazon. :)

    • says

      Hi Marlene! Great comments! And all very succinctly put – you’ve basically hit all of the major issues that are wrapped up in this eBook-library-Amazon-lending whirlwind.

      There is no doubt that publishers are wary and very skittish with all of these things and Amazon has, in many ways, done more harm than good for the entire situation (IMHO).

      From what I understand they did get the approval of some, but others you’re right – publishers were waking up getting questions from their authors about why their book was listed as free on the Amazon Kindle website. Definitely not the way to make friends.

      Physical bookstores and libraries remain extremely relevant and I think there would be a great cultural loss and literary loss were those to truly fade away. I love the internet; I’m a web-shopper addict – Etsy, Amazon, everything – but I don’t think things always have to replace another, but rather work in tandem together to make the experience better for everyone involved.

      And P.S. re the borrowing-to-buying conversion, it’s HUGE: over 50% of all library users buy a book by an author they were first introduced to through library reading.

  7. says

    The concept of “library” and “lending” books has been around for a very long time. Once purchased, a printed book can be read by many people through libraries, book swap stores, used book stores, and best friends…

    Readers expect to do the same with a digital book. Supporting lending supports the readers, the customers. The sharing of ideas through print is part of our culture.

    I’m an author and an avid reader and I don’t understand the shock and hesitation of today’s authors and publishers to share their work. Control is an illusion. Get over it already.

    I use our local digital library to find books for my son to read for school (part of our local library services). The text-to-speach function on the Kindle helps with his learning diasbility. At the rate he is required to read for school, I’d go bankrupt if it wasn’t for the Kindle copies available for loan.

    Any kids titles (with text-to-speach and part of AR) added to the Prime program will certainly help my limited budget.

    Authors give away free copies to spark word-of-mouth interest (I know give away copies of my books both digital and print, knowing once it leaves me I have no control over how many people will read the copy).

    Okay, so writers want to get paid. (Yes, I do, too). But I don’t expect to get paid a royalty every time a new person lays eyes on my text (print or digital). That’s just not reality.

    So, I’ve listed a new title yesterday under this new KDP program. I am NOT an Amazon hater.

    • says

      Hi Carrie – Thanks so much for responding and I’m so interested to hear back from you after this month and find out what the KDP experience was like and whether you found it helpful or not.

      Didn’t know whether we’d have someone respond who was actually going to be partaking, but that makes my (really nerdy and news-obsessed) heart giddy. :-) Ha!

      I feel that there was not the same worry with the physical book because it was not transferable and “hackable” like digital ones. I don’t think people massively worried about people accessing their paper books without paying, because while some of that will happen no matter the product, it wasn’t a huge issue.

      We saw with the advent of things like Napster and others, though, that when music and movies/video were turned digital there was a HUGE surge of people pirating the content and accessing it for free.

      There is so much less control one has over a digital file, so I understand the concern. Being so closed off only limits everyone though, and puts off the inevitable. I feel like the industry has to figure out what extra measures they need to put in place that the digital format has required that the print never did, but that they have to be careful not to be so locked down and closed off.

      Amazon does the same thing, IMO, with a lot of their practices. They have a closed system so that you cannot read third-party eBooks on their system, which I don’t think is right – one of the reasons I got a NOOK. The KDP aspect also includes exclusivity and they made a similar deal with DC Comics. When that starts to happen – or things like the hubbub around The Hangman’s Daughter – that’s when I feel that we are really crossing a line.

      To make it so that to access a book you can only get it from one seller is setting up a huge monopoly and is something I see as very dangerous. To think that people could and would limits on knowledge like that is frightening and definitely needs to be watched for.

  8. says

    Personally… I love libraries and if this operated as a fair one…namely, it had permission, purchased said books, etc, etc, I’d have no problem with it. But if authors aren’t being paid ‘fairly’ for the books being lent out, there’s a problem. Authors deserve to be reimbursed, fairly, for whatever books are put into circulation. Plus, the publishers deserve fair payment too… by the time a book is published, there are a lot of fingerprints on a book-not just the author’s.

    Except… I thought I saw a reference about some indie pubbed authors were told in order to be included they had to make their book available only at Amazon. I can’t remember WHERE I saw this. It could be pure crap. But if it’s not?

    That’s BS. Amazon shouldn’t dictate how authors distribute their books.

    They are doing this deal about the ‘shop local’ but buy with us. They are doing this deal with taking books and distributing without permission which ended up causing all sorts of problems for people who didn’t deserve them, and if I understand right, authors, readers and librarians are the ones suffering.

    Frankly, I’m tired of it. They’ve got a pretty big piece of the pie. They don’t need the whole pie.

  9. says

    Frankly, I’m tired of it. They’ve got a pretty big piece of the pie. They don’t need the whole pie.

    Hi Shiloh (love your work, btw!) – I have to agree 100% with your comment above. I used to be such an Amazon disciple and have bought probably over 500 print books from them over the years, but since the eBook phenom has started, some of their moves have really bothered me.

    And you’re right regarding the exclusivity aspect. With KDP Select, how it works is that indie authors can agree to make their work exclusive to Amazon for at least 90 days and once they agree to that, they may be allowed to be part of the Kindle Lending Library as well.

    This idea of exclusivity really bothers me. They did the same thing with their DC Comics deal and that breakout hit The Hangman’s Daughter. They’re a company and I understand that it’s about profits, but I think there’s a way of making significant profits while not trampling over others to get there.

  10. Rebecca says

    I’m actually really bothered by the Kindle Lending Library for Prime members. It all just seems so shady. And… I used to love Amazon, but I feel like they are monopolizing the market right now.

    Also, I’m a huge advocate for public libraries, so it makes me angry to see Amazon taking something away from libraries. My library has been lending ebooks for a long time, and when Kindle became compatible in September they immediately jumped on the bandwagon. It was great for library patrons, but what most of them don’t realize is that Amazon (and Overdrive) is completely ignoring many of the intellectual freedom ideologies that we have in libraries. See, most public libraries do not keep a record of patron checkouts for privacy reasons. It violates the idea of intellectual freedom, and… well… with the amazon interface for public library ebooks, they can track a patron’s checkouts. It’s bullshit. Overdrive and libraries didn’t think this link through at first, and right now some libraries are starting to see backlash from angry patrons once they figure out Amazon is tracking their library checkouts on their Kindles.

    *sigh* I just think the lending should stay in real libraries.

  11. says

    As a self-published author I opted out of this program. It is too limiting. I can’t see taking my titles off of all other online retailers just to give access to Prime members. There are great sites such as Lendle, BookLending and Book Fling that allow readers to borrow without the restrictions.

    As a reader and Prime member – I may tap into the ability to borrow one book a month. Maybe. Most likely they will be spendy titles or titles I need to read for book club – ones I don’t think I’ll like or want to own.