This article in Moconews raises a lot of questions.

How do authors get paid? The publishers who agreed to include their books in the program are receiving a lump sum from Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) no matter how many times their titles are borrowed. “I strongly believe this type of program needs to compensate publishers and authors on a usage level, not a flat fee,” writes Joe Wikert, general manager and publisher at O’Reilly. “The more a title is borrowed, the higher the fee to the publisher and author. Period.”

SEE ALSO: ‘Kindle Free Book Lending Holy Sh*t!’

Wikert thinks the release of the Kindle Fire is going to lead to a surge in Amazon Prime members, and “there’s no way to estimate how many times a book might get loaned out. That also means it’s impossible to come up with a reasonable estimate on a flat fee for a publisher’s list.” Though Wikert is generally a big Kindle fan, he says he can’t support the Lending Library as a publisher unless it switches to a pay-for-performance model.

According to literary agents’ group Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR), Amazon has “confirmed that they will be reporting title activity back to subscribing publishers.” But…

Why don’t authors get to decide whether their books will be included? The AAR issued a statement today (emphasis mine):

The agent and author community have 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. But we think 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—nor do most contracts have any stipulation for how an author would be compensated for such a use. Without a clear contractual understanding with their authors, it is unclear to us how publishers can participate in this program. We take very seriously our role to protect the interests of our clients, and at this stage it is difficult to see how this program is in the best interests of our clients.

More in the article.


  1. In other words authors are paid…exactly the same way they would be if a copy were sold to any other lending library. Gee, how awful. See the red spot on my shirt? That’s my heart bleeding…oh, wait. Sorry, that’s a ketchup stain from lunch.

  2. Seems to me that a) some people are getting their knickers in a twist way too fast, and b) yet again the attitude of too many writers and publishers to the quality of their contracts is found seriously wanting.
    Firstly what is the lump sum being paid ? how any loans does that represent ? Secondly who exactly is losing money here ? Who benefits and who loses how much ?
    Thirdly when are writers and publishers going to emerge from their never never land and start generating international business standard contracts when assigning rights ? I wrote many moons ago, in a conversation here, about what I thought ought to be in every contract and was laughed out of it by some writers. I never expected to be still encountering this kind of thing sol much later.

  3. Wrong.

    Lending libraries have to pay for each print *copy*. If they have a lot of demand, they will often buy more copies to satisfy that. And/or reduce the loan term. In the UK, authors additionally get a small fee for each loan.

    Amazon pays a fixed price for each *title*. More than a single print copy would cost, obviously. But one which is completely independent of how much they’re lending that title.

    Amazon’s gambit here is presumably “trust us, we’ll adjust the price appropriately as usage grows”. Banking on that all that trust they’ve built up with publishers over the years… heh.

  4. Apologies for any confusion; the comment above was a response to Peter. When I posted, I could only see Peter’s. Not sure what was going on. Guess I should have been explicit anyway.

  5. No problem Alan … mine was stuck in limbo for a while and then popped in.

    All this lending stuff brings me back to opinions I posted a number of months ago where I opined that if online library lending becomes rampant and widespread and easy, the motive to buy will shrink considerably.

  6. Well, count me in as one of those who has little desire to borrow books either from Amazon or the library since the e-books I have bought are piling up waiting to be read. Before having a Kindle, 99% of the books I read were checked out of the library, so now the publishers/authors are getting way more from me than they were previously.

    Also, I don’t see what kind of a “threat” the loan of one book a month is going to be. If someone borrows a book and likes the author, won’t they buy other books by the author? Yes, I know there are those who say they get along fine only reading free or cheap books, but I don’t really get that. Because of my backlog, I do try to wait for price drops, but even so, am spending a good amount, and a price drop to me might be $9.99 from $12.99—not the 2.99 price point which many seem to have.

  7. I really like the idea of a subscription lending service (like Netflix/Hulu and Pandora/Spotify, none if which of course are available to Australians). I think this is the trend for digital media, and will become the base earner for publishers and creators.

    $9.99 per month for All You Can Read (and available to Australians)? Ooh, yeah. :)

  8. I would be extremely embarrassed to have my name associated with this article Paul. Have you not ever heard of libraries? Because if not, they’re not a recent invention. They’ve actually been around since around 1900BC. I’d look into that if I were you!

  9. Gemma, I would be even more embarrassed to have written your snide remark about how long libraries have been around. The model Amazon is using for Prime lending is totally unlike any other library model. Did you READ Paul’s article?

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