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Summary:

The Authors Guild is taking a stand against the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, Amazon’s new initiative allowing Kindle-owning Prime members…

Kindle Owners' Lending Library

The Authors Guild is taking a stand against the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, Amazon’s new initiative allowing Kindle-owning Prime members to borrow free e-books. Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) is “boldly breaching its contracts” with publishers, the Guild contends, in “an exercise of brute economic power.”

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library contains over 5,000 titles, many of which are being included without publisher permission. In those cases, Amazon is simply buying a copy of the book at the wholesale price any time a Prime member borrows it (hence no “big six” publishers’ titles are in the program, since they set their own e-book prices). When the program first launched, many publishers did not even know that their books were included. The Association of Author Representatives and others have raised questions over how authors whose books are included will be paid.

The Authors Guild contends that the publishers who willingly included their books in the lending library (and were paid a hefty sum by Amazon to do so) are in the wrong: “While these publishers generally have the right to license e-book uses for many of their authors’ titles (just as most trade publishers do), our reading of the standard terms of these contracts is that they do not have the right to do so without the prior approval of the books’ authors.” The Guild writes,

Under most (perhaps all) publishing contracts, a license to Amazon’s Lending Library is outside the bounds of the publisher’s licensing authority. This isn’t a minor matter – in order to protect the author’s interests, all publishers should be asking permission before entering into such a bulk licensing agreement, and most would need to seek a contract amendment to do so.

In the instances where Amazon is simply buying a wholesale copy of the book each time someone borrows it, the Guild says this “may still not be in your best interests: Amazon, for its own reasons, has chosen to override your publisher’s marketing plan.” In any case, it recommends that authors who find their books in the library get in touch with their publishers to ask why their books are included.

The Authors Guild, which says it represents over 8,000 published authors, has taken several cases to court. Most notably, it filed a class action lawsuit against Google (NSDQ: GOOG) for its book scanning project. This past September, it sued a group of university libraries over their digitization of books.

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  1. I was wondering what the publisher reaction to this would be to lending library. I’m also curious what their reaction to the first library would be in today’s world. It would be hailed as the “Napster of Books” and perhaps sued out of existence.

  2. Oh MY GAWD!!!!  You can not be serious?  “The Authors Guild is taking a stand against the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library,” this is correct?  Wow… it just completely blows my mind! 

    What is the difference between this and me walking into any B&N or Borders (although Borders is getting more and more rare, lately) and sitting in a comfy chair reading a book (and then leaving it on the floor)?

    This is ridiculous!  I have to say!  E books, as it is, should be priced a percentage lower then the hard copy.  But, we, the conusumer pay.  Now… we pay Amazon (which I am a prime member) and get an added perk of ONE… count them ONE… book per month…. and you guys b*tch?  Really?

    Hmmmm… I would not express too much frustration… You may lose a reader or two.  As it is, I am starting to shun some of my favorite authors whose ebook is priced more than a hardcover (after discount). 

  3. I almost could not stop laughing when I read this.

    I ask myself this question: How many self-published authors are a member of the Author’s Guild? And do they give a crap what these people say?

    Answers are No and probably not. lol

    Libraries of all kinds are the best way a reader can learn about new authors without risking their valuable cash. Most of the authors I follow on a regular basis I discovered in the the library when I was a young adult. I still use the library today as a risk free manner in which to discover new authors.

    However, that behavior of mine is now changing.

    For the past year I have been discovering new authors through their free ebook promotions. I found many talented authors this way that would have never been picked up by traditional publishers because of the radical and controversial ideas found in their writings.

    You want to be on the front lines of literary innovation then you need to start looking at some of those writers who got fed up with the old way of doing things and took publishing matters into their own hands.

    I support Amazon’s Lending Library 100% and see it as a trend that will expand and continue. The real question that still needs to be answered is whether traditional publishers will be included in this new way of doing things. They need to understand their participation and inclusion is a privilege,  not a right, and their participation or lack there of will not hinder the expansion of digital libraries in any significant manner.

    There are tens of thousands of high quality ebooks free for the reading and hundreds more coming out each month. It will hard to compete with free unless they adopt some sort of Netflix type of distribution model.

  4. It really depends on the exact terms of the deal(s).  I blogged in greater detail about the various scenarios that could be present (and some that could come to be; the long version of which is at critique dot org / blog, 3rd entry down), but the basic concept is that there is one scenario that’s decent for authors/publishers, and a lot of scenarios that range from not so good to catastrophic.  The one that’s good for authors/publishers is if they get paid for every single borrowing of a book in the Kindle Lending Library.  And if the terms _stay_ that way.  (There would need to be something concrete that prevents Amazon from changing the terms.) 

    This model would represent a loss to Amazon, since they would be eating the price of the book every time a copy gets checked out — which is what makes me suspect it either isn’t that way now and/or won’t remain that way.

    Whereas, if instead the terms are that Amazon buys one copy then lends it out multiple times (one after another), for example, then the publisher/author starts to lose really big time.  It goes downhill from there.

    Amazon hasn’t explained the exact terms of the library yet, so while it could be fine, it could also be really really bad.  We need much more detailed info to know.

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