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U.S. Authors Fussing Over Amazon Ebook Lending

By - Source: AARdvark | B 29 comments

Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library has caused turmoil with American authors and their agents.

Earlier this month, Amazon launched the Kindle Owners' Lending Library service which allows subscribers of Amazon Prime to borrow one virtual book a month for free, with no due dates. Customers can choose a book from a library of over 5,000 titles, including more than 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers, and read them on their Kindle device.

"Titles in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library come from a range of publishers under a variety of terms," the company said. "For the vast majority of titles, Amazon has reached agreement with publishers to include titles for a fixed fee. In some cases, Amazon is purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader under standard wholesale terms as a no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents."

Literary agents quickly lashed out at Amazon over the new service, claiming that the agent and author community had not been consulted about "this new sort of use of authors' copyrighted material, and are unaware of how publishers plan on compensating authors for this sort of use of their books, which is unprecedented." They also stated that "free lending of authors' work as an incentive to purchase a device and/or participation in a program is not covered nor was anticipated in most contracts between authors and publishers."

Now The Authors Guild has stepped forward to vent its frustration over the virtual book lending, calling Amazon's new service a "mess." Even more, the Guild claims that the six largest U.S. trade book publishers were approached by Amazon earlier this year to participate in the program, but they all refused. The online retailer then attempted to enlist the next tier of U.S. trade book publishers, major publishers that are slightly smaller than the "Big Six," but most of these also refused to participate.

"No matter. Amazon simply disregarded these publishers’ wishes, and enrolled many of their titles in the program anyway," the Guild states. "Some of these publishers learned of Amazon’s unilateral decision as the first news stories about the program appeared. How can Amazon get away with this? By giving its boilerplate contract with these publishers a tortured reading."

"Amazon has decided that it doesn’t need the publishers’ permission, because, as Amazon apparently sees it, its contracts with these publishers merely require it to pay publishers the wholesale price of the books that Amazon Prime customers download," the Guild continues. "By reasoning this way, Amazon claims it can sell e-books at any price, even giving them away, so long as the publishers are paid. Amazon, in other words, appears to be boldly breaching its contracts with these publishers. This is an exercise of brute economic power. Amazon knows it can largely dictate terms to non-Big Six publishers, and it badly wanted to launch this program with some notable titles."

To read the entire rant from the Authors Guild, head here. As of this writing, Amazon has not released an official statement in regards to comments made by the writers and their agents.

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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    FlayerSlayer , November 17, 2011 3:10 PM
    Maybe I'm not reading this right, but Amazon is paying for titles to the book publishers on the reader's behalf in order to lend these titles for free to readers. The book publishers are getting paid. Admittedly it's a wholesale price instead of a retail price, but I'd rather get wholesale price for 10 books people read at no cost than get retail price for the 1 book people were willing to pay for. Isn't this a GOOD deal for the publishers?
  • 19 Hide
    Anonymous , November 17, 2011 3:25 PM
    Ever hear of a Library!
  • 19 Hide
    soccerdocks , November 17, 2011 3:17 PM
    Looking like the Authors Guild is trying to become the next MPAA and RIAA.
Other Comments
    Display all 29 comments.
  • 21 Hide
    FlayerSlayer , November 17, 2011 3:10 PM
    Maybe I'm not reading this right, but Amazon is paying for titles to the book publishers on the reader's behalf in order to lend these titles for free to readers. The book publishers are getting paid. Admittedly it's a wholesale price instead of a retail price, but I'd rather get wholesale price for 10 books people read at no cost than get retail price for the 1 book people were willing to pay for. Isn't this a GOOD deal for the publishers?
  • 11 Hide
    oxxfatelostxxo , November 17, 2011 3:11 PM
    im confused, if amazon is paying the price that the customer would have paid anyway and just letting them use it free. Then whats the issue... they still get paid.
  • 18 Hide
    Naxos , November 17, 2011 3:15 PM
    Have these authors ever been to library? My god what are they thinking at these places loaning books to people without charging them. Maybe Amazon should stop selling these greedy authors titles see how they like that. But that will never happen cause in the end it's all about the $$
  • 19 Hide
    soccerdocks , November 17, 2011 3:17 PM
    Looking like the Authors Guild is trying to become the next MPAA and RIAA.
  • 13 Hide
    slabbo , November 17, 2011 3:18 PM
    Amazon is paying for it, so why can't they do what they want with it? If I'm in the wholesale business and you buy 1000 or 10,000,000 from me, I could careless what you do with it. I already made my money. Why should the publishers dictate how Amazon makes theirs?
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , November 17, 2011 3:23 PM
    Agents and publishers think they should get a bigger cut of an Author's work, maybe? What percentage of sales of a printed book sold does an author get? I'm not sure how this is going to affect what they receive negatively. Sounds like a win-win for authors and publishers.
  • 19 Hide
    Anonymous , November 17, 2011 3:25 PM
    Ever hear of a Library!
  • 10 Hide
    slabbo , November 17, 2011 3:27 PM
    soccerdocksLooking like the Authors Guild is trying to become the next MPAA and RIAA.


    that's exactly what I was thinking. If publishers could put DRM on books, I bet they would.
  • 16 Hide
    tolham , November 17, 2011 3:35 PM
    i don't see why amazon needs to do business with publishers in the first place. if an author types their book on a laptop/computer, they can send a copy to amazon, then amazon can publish it. what's the point of a middle-man?
  • 11 Hide
    everygamer , November 17, 2011 3:39 PM
    If Amazon is paying the wholesale price, then the author is getting paid the same. Book stores buy at the wholesale price, and the retail price defines the markup where the Retailer is making a profit. So Basically as long as the wholesale price is being paid, and paid for every book being read then the publishers and authors are making exactly the same ... if not more because those people who read those books might never had read the book if they had to pay for it in the first place.

    What the authors are getting bent out of shape for is that anytime there is a new distribution model, it is a chance for them to negotiate pricing and compensation for that new model.
  • 4 Hide
    everygamer , November 17, 2011 3:41 PM
    SLABBOthat's exactly what I was thinking. If publishers could put DRM on books, I bet they would.


    Booksellers already put DRM on books, books purchased from B&N and Amazon can not be moved to another e-reader unless that e-reader is supported by their service. A good example is if you purchased a book on the Nook, you will not be able to read it on the Amazon Fire unless you can install the Nook App on the Fire.
  • 3 Hide
    g00fysmiley , November 17, 2011 4:00 PM
    my first hought... people still read books? 0.o

    jests aside though they are getting paid, so what is thier issue with this?
  • 4 Hide
    willwayne , November 17, 2011 4:43 PM
    Well, if the authors are so upset about this, perhaps I'll just go back to buying physical books second-hand so they don't get a dime.

    RIAA: it's too late for you. Cheap, used media FTW
  • -6 Hide
    Niva , November 17, 2011 4:44 PM
    The issue is simple, the publishers refused to participate, yet Amazon went ahead and placed their content there. This has the potential to blow up both ways. The idea of E-lending books is based on the way physical libraries operate, but is not quite the same in the end. Ultimately, if the publishers said "no" their request to stay out of the service should have been honored.
  • 3 Hide
    kinggraves , November 17, 2011 4:54 PM
    Another excuse for lawyers to drive up their pay negotiating contracts.

    For the record though, Amazon is no angel in this situation. They are trying to weasel their original contracts instead of negotiating new contracts for these types of transactions. Also, while they call their service a library, it is NOT the same as the public library system. Amazon is not offering a fully free library as a public service in the pursuit of knowledge, they are using their "library" as a marketing tool to sell Kindles. It is still a private service of the company for Prime members. It isn't comparable to the public library system.

    Now, it seems like Amazon would get the worst of this because they have to buy a book to loan one, so I feel like there's something we're missing from this story. They could just set down a new contract that allows for loans, so why not just do it? I'm not on the publishers side either though, they're probably refusing to go along with it because they want to make more money. Once books start getting lent with a great deal more convenience than a public library, people might stop wanting to pay for them. The average person isn't going to read a book more than once, unless it's reference material. Loaning is a dangerous idea for authors.
  • 4 Hide
    hoof_hearted , November 17, 2011 5:10 PM
    I guess Redbox and Blockbuster shouldn't give out promo codes either.
  • 1 Hide
    gm0n3y , November 17, 2011 5:36 PM
    This article is either very misleading or the publishers / Author Guilds are idiots. I'm thinking that there is more to this than is stated here.
  • 4 Hide
    v1ze , November 17, 2011 5:45 PM
    kinggraves.Now, it seems like Amazon would get the worst of this because they have to buy a book to loan one, so I feel like there's something we're missing from this story.

    It could also be that Amazon is eating this cost as a way of potentially getting new customers through extra features.
  • 4 Hide
    eddieroolz , November 17, 2011 5:46 PM
    Considering that books are a dying medium, if I was an author I'd be overjoyed that Amazon is handling my book.
  • 0 Hide
    Camikazi , November 17, 2011 6:00 PM
    NivaThe issue is simple, the publishers refused to participate, yet Amazon went ahead and placed their content there. This has the potential to blow up both ways. The idea of E-lending books is based on the way physical libraries operate, but is not quite the same in the end. Ultimately, if the publishers said "no" their request to stay out of the service should have been honored.

    Yes the issue IS simple, the publishers are greedy, Amazon is doing what any person can do, they are paying for each copy yet the publishers want more money. Nowhere does it say that Amazon cannot buy each copy individually as needed and lend them out for free, the publishers are just upset that they didn't line up with Amazon when they had a chance and are trying to squeeze Amazon for money they are not entitled too.
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