When it comes to Kindle features, Amazon tends to follow the aphorism that it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission. This strategy doesn’t always work–see the text-to-speech controversy–but it helps give Amazon the element of surprise in the marketplace.

With that in mind, I have a feeling that some indie publishers are going to be up in arms about the new lending feature that was enabled this morning, because of how Amazon rolled it out.

Yesterday, Amazon quietly updated the terms and conditions for publishers who use its Digital Text Platform to publish to the Kindle Store. It added section 5.2.2, which explains how the Lending Program works. In particular, it explains the following:

  • all DTP titles have lending enabled by default;
  • titles using the 35% royalty option may opt out of the lending program;
  • titles using the 70% royalty option can NOT opt out;
  • any opt-outs are not retroactive, so anyone who purchased the title while lending was available will continue to have access to the feature.

This means if you’re a publisher and you hate the idea of the lending program, you have to scramble today to go into your DTP account and manually disable the lending feature for each eligible title. While you’re doing that, anyone who buys a copy will still be able to lend it in the future.

What’s not clear in this circumstance is what happens to all the customers who bought a copy before lending went into effect, since they’re not explicitly described in section 5.2.2. Do they also get to keep the lending feature? If so, then essentially any anti-lending publisher just lost control over lending for all previous purchases; if not, then some customers may find this feature suddenly disappearing from select indie titles. We’ll have to see what develops, and which group gets to angrily (and perhaps legitimately) denounce Amazon’s policies.

I’m hoping publishers don’t freak out about this too much, but you know what control freaks they are when it comes to Kindle editions. (Ha ha, I kid! No I don’t!)

Still, it seems strange to me that Amazon didn’t make the feature opt-in. The whole opt-out approach is the kind of maneuver Facebook and other companies use when they want to roll out something that they suspect will get a lot of criticism and pushback. Unfortunately, while it makes strategic sense for Amazon, it stomps on the rights of DTP participants.

“Kindle Book Lending – FAQ” [Amazon DTP]

(Photo: romulusnr)

Via Chris Walters’ BookSprung blog