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What Does the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Mean for Authors?

Writing.ie | Resources | Digital Publishing | Getting Published

Vanessa O'Loughlin

Kindle owners with Amazon Prime membership can now borrow thousands of eBooks for free with no return dates as part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. The library includes more than 100 current and former New York Times bestsellers, an array of popular titles and categories, as well as fiction and non-fiction eBooks. Books can be borrowed and read on all Kindle E Ink devices and Kindle Fire, and users can ‘check out’ books as frequently as a book a month.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO says “Prime Members now have exclusive access to a huge library of books to read on any Kindle device at no additional cost and with no due dates.”

So what does the Kindle Owners Lending Library mean for authors?

Under Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select, authors who agree to make their eBooks exclusive to Amazon’s Kindle Store for 90 days are eligible to have their work added to the lending library program.

They also have the opportunity to earn from a $6 million fund set aside for self-publishers.

Users can only borrow one eBook per month, and one at a time. At launch there were about 5000 selections available but that amount has vastly increased over the past few weeks and will continue to grow – self-published authors can submit anything from a single book to an entire catalogue.

In December 2011, Amazon contributed $500,000 to the royalty fund and the amount participating authors earned depended on their share of the total number of KDP books borrowed in the lending library.

How does it work for the reader?

Independent Book Publishers Association Board Chair Stephen Blake Mettee explains on his blogThe Write Thought “Amazon Prime members who are also Kindle owners are now presented with a “Borrow for Free” button next to the “Buy” button on selected books. When the member chooses to borrow a title, Amazon credits the publisher’s account with the same dollar amount as if the e-book was sold rather than loaned. At this point, the Amazon Prime member gets to read the book as a part of his or her yearly fee and the publisher effectively gets a full-priced sale.”

This has caused concern amongst larger publishers, firstly because publishers weren’t notified that they were being included in the scheme, but also because as Steve says “Amazon plans to report revenue from this program to publishers as a lump sum leaving the publishers to allocate this revenue their authors. Amazon is said to be basing this lump sum by looking at the 12-month sales history of titles included in the program. A rather nebulous reporting method at best.”

However, as Florrie Binford Kichler President of the IBPA, points out, “The reality is that Amazon has levelled the playing field for smaller publishers, enabling them to reach readers online in huge numbers, and publish their content quickly, easily and efficiently.”

Any of you who have been keeping an eye on the news will know that Amazon reported sales of around a million Kindle units each week in the lead up to Christmas. This has an inevitable knock on effect for authors. Amazon tell us “The top ten KDP Select authors earned over $70,000 in the month of December from their participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, a 30% increase on top of the royalties they earned from their paid sales on the same titles in the same period. In total (paid sales plus their share of the loan fund), these authors saw their royalties grow an astonishing 449% month-over-month from November to December. The list of top 10 KDP Select authors includes Carolyn McCray, Rachel Yu and Amber Scott.

Carolyn McCray, a writer of paranormal romance novels, historical thrillers and mysteries, earned $8,250 from the KDP Select fund in December. “KDP Select truly is a career altering program,” said McCray. “I couldn’t be happier with the tools, support and exposure it has given me. To say the trade-off of exclusivity on Amazon for the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has been a profitable one would be a gross understatement. Participating in KDP Select has quadrupled my royalties.”

Rachel Yu is a 16-year-old author of children’s books who earned $6,200 from the KDP Select fund in the month of December. Her thoughts? “It’s so cool to be part of the success of KDP Select,” said Yu. “It’s just like a library but with easier access. There’s truly no other opportunity like Amazon for self-publishing.”

Amber Scott is a romance writer and earned $7,650 from the KDP Select fund in December. “Enrolling in KDP Select utterly transformed my career,” said Scott. “I’ve experienced not only a surge in royalties but a surge in readership thanks to the increased exposure. I love the chance to earn new readers through the innovation of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. What an exciting time to be an author!”

Customers borrowed 295,000 KDP Select titles in December alone, and KDP Select has helped grow total library selection to over 75,000 books. From the $500,000 December fund, Amazon tell us, KDP authors have earned $1.70 per borrow. In response to the strong customer adoption of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Amazon.com, Inc. has added a $200,000 bonus to the January KDP Select fund, raising the total pool from $500,000 to $700,000.

Sound good? 31 out of the top 50 KDP authors have already enrolled titles, including many popular names such as 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. These members can further access new promotional tools including the option of promoting their KDP Select enrolled titles for free for up to 5 out of every 90 days.

So how is the monthly share calculated?

According to epubconversion.com Monthly fund share for each KDP select enrolled author or publisher is based on their enrolled book’s share of total number of borrows across all participating KDP books in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. As an example, if one author’s book is borrowed from the library 1500 times and if the entire borrows of all participating KDP titles are 100,000 in December, that author will earn $7,500 besides royalties from KDP select. Enrolled books will anyway remain available in the Kindle store for sale to anyone and the author will keep earning his regular royalties through these sales.”

The Library initiative is already exposing individual authors and publishers to a new royalty stream and, importantly many more readers amongst the growing number of Amazon Prime customers whom they may not have previously reached.

How do authors and publishers enrol in KDP Select?

KDP Select is available for titles participating in both the 70% and 35% royalty options. Authors can start by enrolling a single book, the entire catalogue, or anything in between.

To enrol a book that is already uploaded, the author has to click on “Enrol” tab next to the book in the bookshelf. To enrol more than one book that is already uploaded, the author has to check the boxes next to any number of titles, then click the “Action” tab and chose the option “Enrol these books in KDP select”. All these books will be immediately enrolled in KDP select. Authors must ensure however, that they withdraw their books from other digital platforms for 90 days in order to comply with the Kindle Lending Library terms.

If the author wishes to enrol a new book which is not already uploaded, they have to just check the “Enrol this book in KDP Select” box while submitting the details about their book and proceed to publish their books as usual. In case of new books, the books have to be available for sale on the website for them to be included in KDP select.

Eoin Purcell, digital publishng expert and founder of Irish Publishing News told writing.ie:  “It is worth experimenting with especially when an author has multiple books. On the other hand if it was the sole source of income for authors $6 million a year is not a huge amount of money spread over many authors and many titles.”

About the author

© Vanessa O’Loughlin January 2012

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