Amazon Touts Lending Library Growth, Claims It Boosts Sales

In early November, Amazon launched the Kindle Lending Library program. It allows Amazon Prime subscribers and Kindle owners to "borrow" one book a month, return it, and check out another. There's no cost to the reader, though Amazon actually purchases a copy of each book at their own expense in order to satisfy contractual obligations to authors.

According to the company, the Lending Library has proved to be a hit, and it's earning a return for the authors that participate in the Kindle Direct Publishing program as well. Those who publish through KDP can choose to allow their books to be part of the Kindle Owner Lending Library (KOLL) and earn a return from interest in their books. The company's press release states:

"Paid KDP sales grew rapidly in December - and results show that paid sales of titles participating in KDP Select are growing even faster than other KDP titles. On top of this growth in paid sales, KDP Select authors and publishers on average are receiving an incremental 26% in December as a result of their participation in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library." KDP Select is a bonus program that pays authors an additional percentage of a special bonus fund depending on how often their book was checked out per month.

Book publishers, unsurprisingly, are less than thrilled at Amazon's recent activities. Book publishers are looking for pays to crack down on lending practices where digital copies are concerned; Harper Collins announced last year that digital copies of its books will "expire" and must be purchased again after 26 loans.

The Author's Guild attacked Amazon after the Kindle Lending Library was announced, claiming that the program (in which Amazon actually purchases a copy of the book at cost to itself) "appears to be boldly breaching its contracts with these publishers. This is an exercise of brute economic power."

In the last few weeks, the hot issue has been book piracy, with the Kindle mentioned out as an enabler of digital book theft. From what we've heard, publishers are deeply concerned about both the Kindle Lending Library and the entire concept of digital book borrowing -- this issue isn't going to go away anytime soon.