Amazon’s Lending Library Raises Publisher & Author Hackles

Kindle tablet

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.