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Summary:

The much-discussed Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has been limited to books from traditional publishers up to this point, but Amazon (NSDQ:…

Kindle Owners' Lending Library

The much-discussed Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has been limited to books from traditional publishers up to this point, but Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) is now reportedly reaching out to self-published authors to include their books as well, with the chance to be paid out of a $500,000 fund. Guess what? There’s a catch.

An anonymous tipster tells self-publishing blog The Passive Voice, “Here’s their offer: If I agree to make my ebooks available exclusively in the Kindle store and participate in the Kindle Lending Library, I will earn fees from a fund they have set aside ($500,000 for the first five months).”

The traditional publishers participating voluntarily (and it is unclear how many of them are participating voluntarily; it may be just a couple) in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library are certainly not required to make their books exclusive to Amazon. But it appears that is required for the self-published authors that Amazon invites to participate.

It’s unclear how the $500,000 fund works: Would self-published authors be paid a lump sum for participating, or are they only paid each time a book is borrowed? In the comments, self-published author Joe Konrath (who also has a deal with Amazon Publishing’s AmazonEncore) says, “The tipster is missing a few key points, which I’m not currently at liberty to discuss. But I don’t think I’m breaking any confidences when I say that Amazon wants very much to make this a good deal for both customers and authors.” Indeed, Amazon presumably realizes that participating authors would lose sales at other etailers and plans to compensate them for that loss.

Amazon may also be seeking to avoid conflicts with self-published authors’ contracts with other sites by requiring the books to be sold exclusively through Kindle. Since self-published authors set their own prices for their e-books, Amazon presumably cannot include them in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library without some kind of exclusive arrangement (remember that Amazon also can’t include the big six publishers, who use the agency model, in the Lending Library). Update: A reader points out that my reasoning here does not make sense. Amazon’s relationship with self-published authors through Kindle Direct Publishing is not agency, he notes, and since the KDP contract already requires authors to make their titles available for Kindle library lending, Amazon could simply amend the terms and make them eligible for the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, too. Or it could just include books from self-published authors by paying the royalty due each time a copy is borrowed. Finally, Amazon could include books from publishers who use the agency model if they agreed, but they haven’t.

I apologize for the error, and the reason for Amazon requiring exclusivity may just be, well, that it wants these books exclusively.

The Passive Voice has some good questions:

Can I pull my book out of the Kindle Lending Program at any time? If not, what’s my minimum time commitment?
»  Once my book is out of the Lending Program, are there any restrictions to prevent me from immediately re-publishing it on other online book stores?
»  Does joining the Lending Program prevent me from unpublishing my book on Amazon per the KDP Publishing Terms and Conditions? Or switching to a 35% royalty to get out of the lending program? If I unpublish, can I republish? How soon can I republish? If I switch royalty rates, how soon can I go back to 70%?
»  How is the $100,000 per month incentive payment going to be divided? Is it only for indie authors?
»  Will I receive reports on how often my book is borrowed?
»  Can I select which book or books are included in the Lending Program? Can I change my selection(s)?

According to the report, Amazon will go public with this offer on December 1. I am checking with the company for more details. On the whole, it seems to make a lot of sense: Amazon is facing pushback from the Authors Guild, traditional publishers and traditionally published authors on the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and working with self-published authors who control their own e-book rights allows the company to avoid problems.

  1. Scott Nicholson Monday, November 21, 2011

    This could well be a seismic shift in the market–with Big Six desperately trying to pull out and indie authors desperately trying to get in, I LOVE it! Put James Patterson Factory in a plain brown wrapper and see how it fares in the real world.

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  2. Amazon’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library is about to enjoy a major increase in titles, further roiling the waters of traditional publishing. Although self-published authors should be wary of hitching their wagons exclusively to Amazon’s star, I am sure the latter will offer plenty of incentives for them to do so, many of them will accept the offer, and we will be that much closer to the demise of traditional publishers (a pity) and of public libraries (a tragedy).

    I discuss this issue at greater length in The End of Libraries, on :

    http://alltogethernow.org/showtag.php?currid=85

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  3. Amazon has been very good to me, I would consider taking the leap with them on this new and scary frontier. Looking forward to reading the fine print. 

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