Amazon’s new lending feature is probably going to anger some publishers

by Chris Walters

When it comes to Kindle features, Amazon tends to follow the aphorism that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. This strategy doesn’t always work–see the text-to-speech controversy–but it helps give Amazon the element of surprise in the marketplace.

With that in mind, I have a feeling that some indie publishers are going to be up in arms about the new lending feature that was enabled this morning, because of how Amazon rolled it out.

Yesterday, Amazon quietly updated the terms and conditions for publishers who use its Digital Text Platform to publish to the Kindle Store. It added section 5.2.2, which explains how the Lending Program works. In particular, it explains the following:

  • all DTP titles have lending enabled by default;
  • titles using the 35% royalty option may be opted out;
  • titles using the 70% royalty option must participate in the lending program;
  • any opt-outs are not retroactive, so anyone who purchased the title while lending was available will continue to have access to the feature.

This means if you’re a publisher and you hate the idea of the lending program, you have to scramble today to go into your DTP account and manually disable the lending feature for each eligible title. While you’re doing that, anyone who buys a copy will still be able to lend it in the future.

What’s not clear in this circumstance is what happens to all the customers who bought a copy before lending went into effect, since they’re not explicitly described in section 5.2.2. Do they also get to keep the lending feature? If so, then essentially any anti-lending publisher just lost control over lending for all previous purchases; if not, then some customers may find this feature suddenly disappearing from select indie titles. We’ll have to see what develops, and which group gets to angrily (and perhaps legitimately) denounce Amazon’s policies.

I’m hoping publishers don’t freak out about this too much, but you know what control freaks they are when it comes to Kindle editions. (Ha ha, I kid! No I don’t!)

Still, it seems strange to me that Amazon didn’t make the feature opt-in. The whole opt-out approach is the kind of maneuver Facebook and other companies use when they want to roll out something that they suspect will get a lot of criticism and pushback. Unfortunately, while it makes strategic sense for Amazon, it stomps on the rights of DTP participants.

“Kindle Book Lending – FAQ” [Amazon DTP]

(Photo: romulusnr)

reposted from Booksprung


  1. Zigwalski30 December, 2010

    We don’t know that the publishers were not given the chance to opt out before today. Amazon had announced that they were going to add the feature some time ago.

  2. Perry30 December, 2010

    as an indie publisher who goes through Amazon, I’ll confirm we didn’t get asked about this ahead of time.
    I’m not sure right now how I feel about the lending feature. I like the fact that it is now like a print book in that I can share it. I hate the fact that people will be able to read the book without paying (scroogy me).
    Thanks for posting this information.

    1. Robert30 December, 2010

      How would it be different if your book was published on paperback and I loaned it to a friend after I got done reading it?
      The lending feature is only once per book and only for 14 days… so at worse case it would be read by only one other person unlike a paperback that can be loaned out any number of times or I can toss it on a lounge anywhere so anyone can read it?

  3. Zigwalski30 December, 2010

    You would know more than I do.

    Did you contact Amazon for the past two months when they started telling people they were going to do this? Just curious about the process.

    Also, are your books lend-able on the Nook?

  4. Michael1 January, 2011

    This brings to mind one of my pet peeves about Amazon DTP: I do wish they would provide a way to do bulk updates. It stinks having to change something on each title individually to effect a global change.


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