Amazon’s Lending Library Raises Publisher & Author Hackles

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Last week Amazon introduced a Kindle Owners Lending Library for Amazon Prime members. While touting that thousands of books available would be borrowed, a report claims that many publishers and authors had no prior knowledge of this program.

The program as announced allows Kindle owners with an Amazon Prime membership the ability to borrow up to one title per month for free with no due date. Amazon created a Lending Library mostly from books that were self-published, published by Amazon or its affiliates, or from houses that published by the wholesale, rather than the agency, model. Amazon was paying for a borrowed book the same way as if it had been sold.

However, Publishers Weekly reports that only Houghton Mifflin Harcourt gave the nod for its books to be used in the Lending Library, although only for a handful of titles. Apparently the program changed from the initial proposal, to what was announced to the public last week. The current program may present problems paying royalties since the books are not actually being sold.

The Association of Author’s Representatives (AAR) isn’t happy about the current program. It issued a statement saying it is “unaware of how publishers plan on compensating authors for this sort of use of their books” and how it’s difficult to “see how this program is in the best interests of our clients.”

Apparently at least one author received a letter from a publisher apologizing, saying that the company had no idea that the authot’s book was going to be in the program.


Currently the Lending Library has around 5,000 titles available and it’s unclear how many come from which publishing model. Publishers are still trying to determine how many and which of their titles are in the program.

They are also reviewing their contracts to see if there is further action that will be pursued. There is room for interpretation as the program could be seen as a distribution arrangement or as a licensing agreement. While nothing has been filed yet, this may eventually be one for the courts to decide.

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Two things:

(1) While I certainly don’t mind my out-of-print titles being distributed like this, I most certainly would not allow any in-print titles to be “loaned” out with no hope of collecting royalties. Clearly, they need to work on how authors will be fairly compensated for their work.

(2) With only 5,000 titles available, and the ability to borrow only one per month, this service seems about as useful as Netflix streaming.


How is this substantially different than a physical library?  There, several copies are bought and loaned out until they fall apart.  Here, a user can borrow a book for a month.  To the end user, it’s about the same.

If Amazon said “Hey, we’ll buy one copy of every book and setup a queue system for each title we own so it can be passed around” would people still be angry?  I’ll bet they would.  We seem to have moved from a civilization that understands “the greater societal good” to one where any and every presentation of anything with a hint of copyright means that someone must be paid.  It’s insanity.

Just because we _can_ do a thing does not mean we _must_ do a thing.


I wonder if those same writers will also file their lending complaints at the brick/mortar libraries and with people who personally lend out books.

Beginning to think that Book publishers will start acting like the RIAA/MPAA and expect payment for each/every eye and each/every ear that can see/hear their stuff everytime (i.e, each book is a disposable one-time read, read twice - pay twice).


To mlanger re (2)

“me-ow” What a catty comment. I get sick of people maligning Netflix. I find plenty of value for $7.99 a month—plenty of independent, foreign, documentaries, classic TV and more.

Please list what books you write, so I can make sure not to purchase.


I wonder if those same writers will also file their lending complaints at the brick/mortar libraries and with people who personally lend out books.

For a physical library to do what Amazon is doing would require that they make 1,000,000 xerox copies of a book and loan them all out at the same time.


The comparison to a physical library in this instance is wrong. A physical library purchased the books that it lends. Amazon did not purchase any of these books that they are lending. They are using eBooks that authors have published through Amazon, in which the authors make a portion of the final sales price and Amazon takes it’s cut.

I recently pulled all of my RPG books from Amazon because they were wildly discounting our products without any input from us and only providing payment when a book was sold. They never bought anything from us like a regular distributor or retailer would. As a content creator I wouldn’t like what they are doing either. They are attempting to add value to one of their services (Kindle) using content they have not paid for.

Dale Copps

Let’s figure out what’s really going on (can you hear me, Amazon?) before we all get bent out of shape.

If Amazon is buying a copy of a book at the same wholesale price which they would pay to the publisher when and if a customer bought the book through them, then they own that book just as a public library does and, I assume, have as much right to put it into their “Lending Library” as any public library would. If they then loan that copy to a Prime customer and another Prime customer wants it while the first one has it, Amazon will need to buy a second copy of the book before lending it out to two people simultaneously, in order not to be in violation of copyright. I am assuming that is what they are doing, at least in those instances where they have not negotiated a flat fee with the publisher for a given title.

I have no argument, as a writer or a reader, with this arrangement. As an advocate for public libraries, however, I am very concerned about how this may affect the future viability of that institution. Indeed, if Amazon can fully develop a service which at present is very minimal in its offerings, it could spell the end of public libraries. I expound upon this horrific eventuality at greater length on my blog at

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