Amazon’s controversial Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has proven to be a hit among readers and an appealing option for many self-publishers, but there still remains some question as to how successful it can hope to be as an ongoing project. The basic organization is simple. Authors who are willing to make their work available exclusively through the Kindle Store will find themselves with the option to allow lending through the library. When included, they get a certain share of the money pool being filled in each month by Amazon to keep the service going. The more popular a book is among borrowers, the larger the share of that pool that goes to the contributing author. For many self publishers who find they make the majority of their income through the Kindle anyway, going exclusive is not really a big deal in terms of income alteration. The worst that can happen is that nobody borrows the book, and even then it doesn’t cost anything significant.
Leaving aside the philosophical issues in choosing to contribute to Amazon’s ever-growing list of exclusive content, which is an interesting and complex subject for debate that will probably come up again at greater length in its own post to better do it justice, as the number of participating authors grows we may see a drop in interest among new potential contributors. The restrictions regarding access to the library play a fairly large part in this. Each borrower must own a Kindle eReader or Kindle Fire, be an active Amazon Prime member, and remember to make use of their one monthly rental each time around if an author is to get anything.
This is a very specific audience to be targeting with your marketing and may prove to be somewhat hard to pin down. Add into this the fact that, while the number of Kindle Editions now available through the library has grown past 100,000 titles, the amount of money being competed over has not been increased in any ongoing way and you have a complicated decision presented to self publishers. A highly limited number of readers needs to be enticed to choose your book from an increasingly large pool of options in an environment where the reward for each individual choice is likely to count for less due to the pre-determined maximum award size and ever-increasing number of Kindle owners.
Can Amazon hope to keep the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library growing at a decent pace? Chances are good that they can. Will it continue to be a persuasive reason for new authors to agree to exclusivity? That might be harder to keep up. As numbers come out and we learn at least enough about the big success stories to determine how little of the cash pool was available for other authors to divvy up, we should be able to get a clearer picture of how well somebody can expect to do through this program, After all, even if you were only making $1 per book sold on each of your hypothetical 30 annual sales through Barnes & Noble, that’s better than getting nothing at all from a lending library for Kindle owners. A clearer picture should emerge as more time passes, but without a new source of big name titles or an increase in funding, Amazon’s Kindle Edition lending effort seems like it might have a limited shelf life.
Kindle owners found themselves targeted recently in a fairly unpleasant way. Penguin USA, one of the largest publishers in the world, decided that it would be a smart business move to pull their entire collection of publications from libraries across the country for Kindle owners. Everybody else, including owners of competing eReaders like the Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch, could still get these books. Now, while things have been temporarily dealt with since then – Penguin has temporarily stopped singling out the Kindle users entirely – new Penguin books will not be made available anymore and there is reason to believe that the event will recur unless Penguin and OverDrive (the service providing eBook lending services for most libraries these days) are able to work out a deal by the end of the year.
Neither Penguin nor OverDrive has said anything about the exact details of Penguin’s problems. OverDrive was simply sent word to disable the “Get for Kindle” functionality for all Penguin eBooks immediately. There was not even a warning sent to the affected libraries before the change took effect, which led to a great deal of ill will. These libraries purchase each copy of the eBooks they rent out and as such were left sitting on the results of essentially wasted money that could not be lent out despite Kindle-owning customer demand. The expected outcry for massive refunds, which would certainly have garnered a great deal of public sympathy, might well explain Penguin’s temporary capitulation.
Many have believably argued that this is a direct response to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library that Amazon launched recently for their Prime members. The timing certainly fits. Amazon got around the fact that major publishers have refused to buy into this new program by focusing on their KDP titles, smaller publishers, and by outright purchase of each rented eBook that they could get their hands on through wholesale arrangements. This last move is what causes the ill will since many publishers and authors feel that this exceeds the scope of their current relationships with Amazon.
While nobody involved in the Prime lending library is directly losing money, a major worry in the industry is that eBooks will lose perceived value. If customers start thinking of eBooks as somehow inherently cheaper that printed books, then printed Book sales will suffer and publishers would be forced to rely on sales of the eBooks, which means being subject to Amazon and Barnes & Noble even more than they are now. This is the same sort of reasoning that brought on the behind-the-scenes deal with Apple to fix prices of eBooks around the time the iBooks store opened up.
I would say that this is going to go poorly for Penguin. While their need to react is understandable given that they feel wronged, the targeting was off a bit. Instead of attacking Amazon directly, they have gone after their own readers. Yes, the Amazon deal with OverDrive increases the incentive to purchase a Kindle, but going after libraries doesn’t do a lot to make you look better to a customer base that loves to read. The Kindle is unlikely to be pushed out of the #1 slot in eBook Readers any time soon, even if all the major publishers pulled out of the library system in the same way. It’s difficult to understand what Penguin is still hoping to accomplish here.
Assuming you have both a Kindle and an active Amazon Prime membership, you now get to make use of Amazon’s latest eBook related service, the Amazon Prime Kindle Owners’ Lending Library! Aside from having a rather unwieldy name attached to it, this will be a good thing for those who get to take advantage of it. Of course, aside from being occasionally lucky it might be hard to figure out how to take advantage right off the bat. We’ll start there.
First off, it is helpful to be aware that you need to do your borrowing from the Kindle itself. While you might find books that have borrowing enabled while browsing the Kindle Store on another device, in which case you will see “Prime Members: $0.00 (read for free)”, you cannot begin the borrowing until you pull it up on your eReader. If your Kindle software is up to date, the Kindle Storefront will now have a “Kindle Owners’ Lending Library” category to choose when you click on “See all…”. Look around from there and choose your book!
As far as what is currently available, none of the Big 6 publishing houses are currently taking part in this program. They have cited concerns that offering something like this will devalue the eBook as a format in the minds of customers. Strange reasoning, but not much we can do right now. Among the 5,000+ titles that are available, though, expect to find selections in pretty much every category. Keep an eye out for things like Vook Classics titles, which will work just fine but encompass titles that most people will get just as much out of when reading for free anyway. You only get one rental per month under this program, so it’s worthwhile to use it wisely.
That one rental will strike many people as rather little to get for the $79/year Amazon Prime membership, making this an ineffective marketing tool on its own, but it will probably help drive sales of the new Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire eReaders among existing Prime customers. Amazon is clearly convinced about this since they are once again putting their own money into getting a Kindle program off the ground. Not all of the books being offered are in the Library by publisher agreement, it seems. In cases when Amazon is able to grab eBooks through non-Agency Model relationships, they are simply buying at wholesale and then lending to customers, eliminating any publisher participation. The jury is still out on how long this will last before somebody gets really upset about it.
Reading a book every couple weeks is not at all unreasonable for anybody, and Amazon has said on multiple occasions that their data shows that Kindle owners buy more books than most people. We have to hope that translates into more books being read as well. Perhaps the intention here is to keep people interested in continual consumption and draw in those who haven’t yet gotten too invested in their Kindle. Regardless of the reasoning behind it, there’s no downside if you’re in a position to take advantage. Enjoy your book.
After some speculation about the possibility a while back, it appears that Amazon has opened up what we can only hope is the earliest stage of its Kindle eBook Lending Library to the public. It will provide customers with a free book loan from time to time, without due date. Essentially a Netflix for Kindle Edition eBooks, available for only a select group. Sadly, this service is far more exclusive than anything else Amazon has put out to date.
Ever since the first Kindle came out, Amazon’s position on the line was that users could “Buy Once, Read Everywhere”. Overall they have done a great job of ensuring this, with apps for most any system and now the Kindle Cloud Reader which when complete will allow users to access their eBooks from any browser on any system. So far, so good. While the Kindle Owners Lending Library does not necessarily break this rule, it walks a fairly fine line. Only people who own physical Kindle eReaders and who subscribe to Amazon Prime will be able to take advantage of the new service.
True, this is not a purchase. It’s really not even an amazingly useful library yet, featuring just over 5,000 titles with none coming from the largest publishing houses. It does privilege people who use Amazon’s hardware, though, which is going to come as a bit of a shock to people who have become accustomed to receiving great Amazon service when using their Kindle for Android or Kindle for iOS apps.
What would motivate this potentially alienating move? Partly it fits in with the Kindle Fire‘s launch. Amazon is able to push their Prime service, which they are clearly hoping to catch a large number of Kindle Fire owners with, as well as offering one more reason for people to switch to a Kindle. To make a broad generalization, it is fairly safe to assume that people who are used to doing their Kindle reading on an Android or iOS device are used to reading on back-lit LCDs, meaning that they are potential converts with the Kindle Fire’s eReading capabilities.
It is also of major importance to demonstrate to publishers who have not yet bought in to the idea that this can serve customers without devaluing the eBook image. By only offering the option to owners of Kindle eReaders, it is perhaps possible to maintain the eBook as something with more weight behind it than your average cell phone app. It’s doubtful that this can make much of an impression on companies clearly predisposed to hate the idea in the first place, but time will tell.
Despite these valid uses for the program, I think Amazon has made a mistake here. Drawing a line between Kindle owners and app users only serves to push potential customers away. Given how important Amazon is seeing their digital content distribution to be these days, that is not a smart move to make. The underlying concept is great and would be a valid way to push Amazon Prime, but as it stands this seems likely to hurt more than it helps.
One of the biggest flaws in the idea of a Kindle purchase for a lot of people has been the complete lack of library lending support. This isn’t a new problem. It stems from Amazon’s refusal to open up compatibility with the industry standard EPUB format. While Amazon may not have been willing to concede on that point, however, library lending is a must have for customers so they have worked with OverDrive Library, the most popular library lending management tool available today, to bring the capability to the Kindle. Several months back we heard that it was due before the end of the year and little has come up since then, until now.
Toward the end of OverDrive’s Digipalooze conference, one of the biggest unanswered questions was that of Kindle support. When would it be coming, what would it include, how hard would it be to use, and all the other little details. Though many of the specifics are still up in the air, the major points of the final presentation’s focus tell us a lot. Specifically, the final summary:
Streamlining (both downloading and ordering)
Explosion (we have gone from two reading devices to 85 and more are coming)
Premium (the library catalog as the most premium, value-added site on the Web)
Traffic (enormous growth coming by year’s end)
Naturally no specific dates were given, but I’m catching a rather obvious hint hidden in there as to when we can expect results.
This software update will not just include Kindle support. It will also mean an improvement to the experience for all library patrons. The acquisition process will be simplified significantly, for example. While the Kindle will be the only device that maintains persistent notes (meaning that anything you annotate in your library rental will still be there next time you rent or buy the text) , everybody will benefit in some way. There will also be an emphasis on allowing readers to express their preferences when it comes to library ownership. Not every library can keep every title in stock, especially with some publishers disliking the idea of eBook rentals enough to force libraries to keep repurchasing their books constantly, but now users will be able to point out their desired titles to the library or even go directly from the library rentals page to a purchasing option if they don’t feel like waiting.
From the sound of things, this is going to be the biggest thing to hit libraries in a long time. OverDrive is reportedly putting systems in place to handle demand a hundred times more intense than this past year. Kindle support will certainly do a lot to contribute to those numbers, but this may end up being the beginning of a whole new way to view libraries. If everything goes as planned and September is indeed the month of release, it is going to be a big one. Having a library card has never been such a good investment for the eReading enthusiast.
At this point we know that the Kindle as a physical purchase is not where Amazon is looking to make their money. If anything, the fact that they have gone to ad support indicates that there has been a need to get inventive to further reduce prices while not actually losing money on every sale. Knowing this, we have to assume that the big focus will always be on selling the most content. With an emphasis on renting, lending, and sharing eBooks lately, though, is this a genuinely achievable goal?
Right now we are hearing about the fact that Overdrive will soon be bringing Kindle compatible library books. Definitely a selling point for Amazon, since up until now it has been a major complaint against the platform. We also now have textbook rentals that can save renters as much as 80% over the purchase price of the book. Between the two options, I’m seeing a theme forming and looking to other media rental business models that seem like they have a real chance of finding their way to the Kindle.
The obvious one would be the Audible.com approach. Get users to subscribe for a monthly fee, perhaps as a means of getting a cheaper or free eReader, which locks them into picking out a certain number of eBooks to add to their library on a regular basis. Amazon has experience with this one and it would certainly work as a way to reduce eReader prices even beyond what the Kindle w/ Special Offers has been able to do. I don’t think it will happen, though. For something like this to work, Amazon would have to be able to provide value to subscribers beyond what they have control over with the current Agency Model pricing. Lack of control means lack of options.
More likely, to me at least, is the Netflix model. Picture spending $10 per month to access as many books as you want, so long as you only have one checked out at a time. There would have to be some sort of artificially produced swap delay, of course, since otherwise subscribers could simply jump back and forth at will, but if the system only allowed a book to be checked out once per month or only allowed one change per day (which doesn’t seem unreasonable since the Kindle Store already generally provides sample chapters and this would only be for reading entire books) then it would work. The profit would be available since most everybody has periods where their reading tapers off in spite of best intentions, and one would have to assume that an arrangement for multiple-use licenses would still be cheaper overall than per-user purchases. If something like this could be managed in spite of the total control that publishers want over their distribution, it would be the next big thing for the Kindle. Admittedly, it is something of a divergence since reading has always had a certain element of collection attached to it for many people, but I think the opportunity to save the money would make all the difference.
Over the past few months, comments have been made repeatedly about the potential for the Kindle‘s lack of library compatibility being a deal breaker when it came time to make the purchase of your new eReader. Well, apparently Amazon has been listening to you too. In a press release this morning, Amazon(NASDAQ:AMZN) has announced that they have been working with Overdrive to integrate the Kindle into a library lending friendly system and will be rolling out the product of these efforts later this year.
In terms of basic features, there shouldn’t be too many surprises. Expect all the basic Overdrive Library functionality and book selection, given the interaction between Amazon and Overdrive. You should even be able to grab all your borrowed books via the WiFi. What makes this a unique addition to the eBook library lending situation, to the best of my knowledge and aside from the fact that it brings in the largest eReader owner base on the market, is the annotation feature. Users can expect to be able to annotate, highlight, and generally personalize their reading experience as they always have with any purchased book and, while these alterations will not pass on to the next borrower, all this will be preserved should the book be borrowed again or purchased at any point in the future.
This new feature, if you want to call accessibility of this sort a feature, will be available to every user of the Kindle platform, not just owners of the Kindle eReader. This means that pretty much anybody who owns a device with a screen should be able to borrow themselves an eBook now, and that reading borrowed eBooks has become practically uncoupled from device concerns. While I doubt that the end goal of this was to empower libraries as players in the digital marketplace, I would guess that it suddenly got a lot more important for publishers to avoid boycotts like those that HarperCollins has managed to stir up.
For those who might be unfamiliar with the Overdrive book lending system, it is essentially to institutionalized eBook lending what the Kindle is to eBook reading. Sure there are probably other options, but in general it sets the standard. I have yet to come across a decent implementation of another type of eBook library software, in fact. The way it works at present involves downloading a book to your computer as a step in the process, but it sounds like Amazon is planning to do away with that given their mention of WiFi book downloading in conjunction with the service. Maybe this is what took so long to get working? Other than that step, I have never been inconvenienced by a borrowed eBook, though the waiting lists can get a bit long at times. The only question that remains to be answered, for me, is whether or not this extends to downloadable audiobooks. While I’m aware that these aren’t a big thing at all libraries, it would be great to see that sort of thing be possible for Kindle users. Let’s hope, given how long this has all taken, that every possible option is left open for readers.
Without much of an announcement, Amazon has rolled out the Kindle feature that many people has been waiting for since it was announced two months ago. Kindle books can now be lent and borrowed for a period of 14 days. The feature is only available for some of the books. Here’s official Amazon help page about eBook loan feature.
At the moment it is not integrated into Kindle device software so you have to visit amazon.com website to loan and borrow books. You can do it either via “Manage Your Kindle” page or by visiting product pages of the books that you’ve already purchased. Either way you will see one of these links.
After clicking on this link, you will be prompted to enter recipient email address, name and a personal message. They will then receive an email with the link to accept book on a loan if they wish.
The whole thing is relatively simple and straightforward. It is up to publishers to enable to disable this feature. Since I didn’t explicitly enable it for my dictionary books and they are available for lending, I guess that it’s enabled by default.
What percentage of books is lendable is hard to say at the moment. I did a quick check of my Kindle library and it roughly seems 50/50. В Typically it’s either free out-of-copyright books that have lending disabled or popular bestsellers like “Lord of the Rings” or Gunslinger series by Stephen King.
To get a feel for how this new feature works, I’m going to loan out all of the lendable books in my collection. If you like anything from the list below, just drop me a comment and I’ll loan you the book. If enough people would get interested, I would set up a book loaning exchange website, where people can list Kindle books they are willing to loan and people who would like to borrow can find them.
Kindle 3 vs Barnes and Noble Nook side by side
The moment we have all been waiting for has finally arrived. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) has finally announced plans to allow Kindle book sharing among Kindle users. Like the Nook, the Kindle book can only be shared one time, and will have a 14 day lending period. The book will not be available on your Kindle while it is on loan to another person. This feature should be available by the end of this year.
I will admit, as much as I love my Kindle, the fact that I couldn’t share books with people was a real disappointment for me. Part of what makes reading so enjoyable is the ability to share and discuss books with people close to you. I bought The Help, a bestseller by Kathryn Stockett, and knowing that several others wanted to read it, I had to buy the hardback version.
This new development is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t quite allow the lending freedom we’ve all hoped for. Lending rights will be up to the publishers, or whoever holds the rights to the particular book. Considering the war over e-book prices, it will be interesting to see how strict publishers are about allowing lending capabilities.
Speaking of lending books, I would like to see more headway in allowing Kindle e-books to be checked out in libraries. Contrary to popular belief, libraries are at the forefront of emerging technology and digitization trends. Many libraries are purchasing Kindles to loan to their patrons to use, and that system has shown signs of success. As of now, since the Kindle has its own copyrighted e-book format, it cannot be used. Other e-readers have open book formats that allow their e-books to work in libraries.
If Kindle books were available to check out in libraries, I think that would boost sales of the device itself. It would also reach out to an even wider variety of readers who may not have had the opportunity to learn or explore the idea of using an e-reader.