If you remember the Kindle 2’s “Read-to-Me” feature, and the firestorm around it as the Author’s Guild called it a “swindle for authors” in terms of audiobooks, here comes another contentious issue surrounding the Kindle.
The prior issue was eventually settled when Amazon.com said publishers could determine on a book-by-book basis if “Read-to-Me” would be supported on a book. This was despite the fact that an audio expert (and just plain listeners) could tell that “Read-to-Me” was no threat to true audiobooks.
The Authors Guild is chiming in on the new Amazon.com Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. Recently announced, it gives Kindle owners who are also members of Amazon.com’s Amazon Prime program a library of e-books. That program costs $79 annually, includes free two-day shipping, lower-cost one-day shipping, and access to Amazon’s Instant Video service, along with the new library service.
The Kindle Owner’s Lending Library means that Kindle owners (not app users) can “borrow” one e-book a month, with no due dates. There are more than 5,000 titles available. Quickly, literary agents responded, saying “It is difficult to see how this program is in the best interests of our clients.”
Now, the Authors Guild (yes, them again) are calling the program “a mess.” In that post, the Authors Guild explains to its members what to do if they believe their book is in Amazon.com’s program without their permission.
The Authors Guild claimed that both the six largest US trade book publishers, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Macmillan, and the next tier or publishers, as well, refused to participate in the lending library, but that Amazon.com went ahead with the library anyway. Where have we heard that before?
The Authors Guild says that Amazon.com doesn’t believe it needs permission to include the books, 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. 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.”
The Guld most definitely disagrees. It says, “Amazon’s boilerplate terms specifically contemplate the sale of e-books, not giveaways, subscriptions, or lending. Amazon can make other uses of e-books only with the publishers’ consent. Amazon, in other words, appears to be boldly breaching its contracts with these publishers. “
The Guild then adds something that’s pretty obvious: Amazon.com is doing this to help Kindle Fire sales. Of course it is, and we don’t need the Guild to tell us that.
But it’s also about Amazon Prime, as well, and it’s already known that Amazon.com loses money when just hardware Kindle Fire sales are taken into account. It needs the Kindle Fire sales to foster Amazon Prime sales, and other sales as well.
As we’ve said before, this back infrastructure and huge retail store of just about everything you can think of, gives Amazon.com a big advantage over any other manufacturer (although we know the company is outsourcing that) of Android tablets.