Amazon launched a free ebook lending program for Kindle owners just over a month ago. It had a limited supply of ebooks as well as some . But what it didn't have was a way for the self-published and small publishers to submit their ebooks. Today that has changed.
Update: The press release is now out so I have added an addendum to the end of this post.
There's a new page up on the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing site. Amazon is now asking authors to submit their titles so they can be lent to Prime members. Amazon calls the program KDP Select. At first glance it looks like it's there to provide ebooks for the "Kindle Owners' Lending Library", but there's more to it than that.
BTW, "Kindle Owners' Lending Library" is actually part of the Amazon Prime Membership. If you have an Amazon Prime account and you own a Kindle, you have the option of borrowing 1 free ebook a month at no charge and with no need to return it. That's pretty good for customer, but what's in for the authors?
Amazon has set aside half a million dollars to pay KDP authors to agree to lend their ebooks. And that's just for December; Amazon also plans to allocate 6 million to pay authors during 2012.Author's will get 1 share for each time one of their ebooks are borrowed. The half million will be divided among all participants equally based on the number of shares.
But I wouldn't jump into this too quickly; there's a catch. Authors have to agree to give Amazon an exclusive on any ebook in KDP Select, and that means they cannot sell it in other ebookstores. I don't know about you, but that would kill any interest I had.
I'm a little surprised at that condition, but I'm also surprised that it was leaked a few weeks back and Amazon used it anyway. Yes, the terms of the KDP Select program leaked a few weeks back. I didn't post the leak at the time because I didn't believe it; the terms were simply too bad for authors. I had thought that the rumor had details wrong, but today's news confirms the entire leak.
Let's think about this for a second. Amazon expects authors to give up the rest of the ebook market in exchange for the potential of getting a tiny fractional share of half a million dollars. I don't even need to do the math to know that the average author gets the short end of that deal; it's pretty obvious.
But this might actually benefit some authors; it depends on where they get most of their ebook sales. If they already sell mainly via Amazon then they won't be missing much.
I have to say that this is a disappointing departure from Amazon's past offers. In the past Amazon usually promised authors some valuable enticement to get authors to participate. For example, authors can price ebooks the way Amazon wants and get a larger share of the selling price. Or they'll offer big name authors a unnamed but hefty bonus to sell exclusively with Amazon. But there's really not much to say about today's deal besides Yech.
Update: The program was officially announced within minutes of publishing this post. Amazon already has a number of authors signed up, including "31 of the top 50 KDP author." These authors include J. Carson Black, Gemma Halliday, J.A. Konrath, B.V. Larson, C.J. Lyons, Scott Nicholson, Julie Ortolon, Theresa Ragan, J.R. Rain and Patricia Ryan. I wish I new the terms these authors got from Amazon; they have to be better than the public ones or the deal makes little sense.