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Amazon’s Subscription eBook Service Now Offers 475 Thousand Titles, Supports Over 450 Thousand Users

Amazon isn’tkindle owner's lending library usually one to give us all the details when they toot their own horn, but sometimes we can piece together disparate reports and discover details that Amazon hasn’t shared.

Take the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library, for example. This free book service lets Kindle-owning Amazon Prime members borrow one free ebook each month, but how many are making use of it?

Amazon has only disclosed that this 2 year old service now has a catalog of 475,000 titles, but they have yet to tell us how many of their customers are making use of it. This is intensely frustrating to any numbers geek, but if we look elsewhere for the data we can get a good idea of the minimum number of users.

Earlier this week Amazon released their annual back-patting press release. There weren’t any details on the number of Kindle tablets or ebook readers sold, nor did Amazon say anything about how many ebooks they sold. Amazon did tell release details about the additional 200,000 exclusive titles in the Kindle Store, and that only 150 indie authors sold more than 100,000 copies of their ebooks via KDP (100k is not a huge number for an author with a decent sized backlist).

And most importantly for this post, Amazon told us that the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library stocked "more than 475,000" titles. That is up considerably from the "over 250,000" titles which Amazon claimed last year. Yes, the catalog nearly doubled in size, though it’s not clear where the titles came from.

kindle owner's lending library

If I had to guess I would say that some of the titles are from indie authors who signed up with KDP Select. Some were interested in the promotional value, but others were interested in pursuing the 70% payment option for the Kindle Stores in India, Brazil, Japan, and Mexico. In order to get the higher payment option in those specific markets, Amazon requires that a title also be in KDP Select (the feeder program for Kindle Owner’s Lending Library). Any title in that program must be exclusive to the Kindle Store.

I’m not so sure that those markets are important enough to attract 200,000 new exclusive titles, not when most of western Europe (as well as NZ and AUS) is included in the 70% option with no exclusivity requirement, but I could be wrong.

So now that we know that KOLL has a catalog of "more than 475,000" titles, would anyone care to guess how many of Amazon’s customers are actively using it?

My guess is that there’s at least a million readers participating every month, but all I can say for certain is that there are at least 447,000 active users.

I got that number by looking at Amazon’s publicly disclosed funding for KDP Select. KDP Select has been averaging about 400 thousand to 500 thousand loans each month for all of 2013 (aside from January, which hit 760,000 loans). In November the created a pool of $1.1 million to pay to participating authors, and averaged $2.46 per loan with about 447,154 loans made.

Credit goes to Morris Rosenthal of Foner Books for tracking the payment and funding every month.

This of course doesn’t present a complete picture of how many readers participate in Kindle Owner’s Lending Library; it is almost certainly low (I think it misses about half). But it does give us a minimum threshold for participants. It also tells us that KOLL is almost certainly one of the top 3 ebook subscription services.

The only one that I think could have more customers is Scribd, which launched their service in early October, taking it international on day one. But since neither Amazon nor Scribd has shared any hard data your guess is as good as mine which is more successful.

Would anyone care to make a guess?

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Juli Monroe December 27, 2013 um 11:22 am

I don’t know about "most countries," but I receive 70% from UK, DE and CA. Other than India (where I’ve sold 2 copies!), those are the only countries I’ve sold in other than the US.

And yeah, I agree with you. A 70% option for India and the others are not worth the exclusivity. I just joined Smashwords, and so far I’m happy with direct sales. I’m hopeful that I’ll see some good numbers when my titles are shipped to Oyster and Scribd.

Morris Rosenthal December 27, 2013 um 2:04 pm


You can blame me for mistitling my post, I should have said "Select borrows are up" rather than "KOLL borrows."

You can’t really dervive KOLL membership from Select borrows because KOLL includes many bestsellers from the trades which aren’t in the Select program, which is only for KDP publishers. For example, if trade books are 10X as popular with Prime borrowers as indie books, it would mean there are at least 5 million Prime members borrowing a book from KOLL each month. If trade books are 20X as popular, then 10 million KOLL borrows per month. I don’t have a clue what that multiplier is, though I suppose with enough leg-work it could be estimated from sales ranks of top titles from both groups.


Nate Hoffelder December 27, 2013 um 2:19 pm

Blame you for what?

I am aware of the difference and I was careful to explain it in my post. (Wasn’t I? I’ll go double check.)

Greg Strandberg December 28, 2013 um 12:04 am

And what’s the overall or even general quality of those Select books? There’s no filter there; anyone can put a book exclusively in KDP when they publish. And we all know from some of the comments on the main KDP forum that many new authors are automatically doing that. While I’m sure many are great books, are all?

They’re also releasing this press release post-Countdown, are they not? How convenient. We know many jumped back onto the Select bandwagon after that hit, but how many are regretting it and waiting to bail come January or February?

Kind of makes me wish for a graph of their users and the fluctuations from month to month. Ha, I can wish in one hand and…

David Gaughran December 29, 2013 um 7:51 am

Re the January bump in borrows, that was likely from the free 30-day trial of Prime they were giving with new Kindle Fires.

David Gaughran December 29, 2013 um 7:55 am

Also: I suspect that most people are in Select to take advantage of the extra promo treats (free days or Countdown) and borrow income, rather than extra royalties in India etc. Borrow income tends to follow a power curve like everything else, but for *some* of those at the top, it’s significant enough to be greater than income from other retailers would be. There might also be some laziness involved – it’s quicker and easier to upload to Amazon, who have most of the market anyway. Finally, I know quite a few self-publishers who will enroll new titles in Select and use the promo extras to give the book a good push at the start, then un-enroll after that first term and upload everywhere else.

Mostly though, it’s the promo extras. (which are of dubious value, IMO)

Weekend Roundup: Support Independent Bookstores, Zero to Well Read in 100 books and more | Teleread August 24, 2015 um 5:37 am

[…] Amazon’s Subscription eBook Service Now Offers 475 Thousand Titles, Supports Over 450 Thousand Use… (The Digital Reader) Amazon isn’t usually one to give us all the details when they toot their own horn, but sometimes we can piece together disparate reports and discover details that Amazon hasn’t shared. *** […]

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