The big news of the day is Amazon’s introduction of a potentially huge incentive for authors to make their content exclusive to the Kindle platform. Starting immediately, any author or publisher who chooses to go entirely Kindle will be eligible for a share of the monthly Kindle Owners’ Lending Library fund after 90 days. it isn’t a guarantee of immediate profit any more than self publishing is an inevitable path to success, but for successfully marketed books it can spell some great new income in return for withdrawing from overall less profitable competing stores.
The payment scheme is based on the total number of rentals in the Lending Library, the percentage of rentals of a given book within that larger number, and the amount of money placed into the monthly fund by Amazon. The promise they have given in the press release is for equal distribution based on the popularity of a title, meaning that if 500,000 people each borrow a book then every rental will earn one dollar. If fewer than that join in, which seems likely at first since the pickings have been slim enough to prevent much excitement in the program so far, then each could be worth significantly more. Best case scenario, this has the possibility of being more profitable than actual sales revenue for some authors.
Since at present the monthly installments are expected to remain at $500,000 through at least the entirety of 2012, the only real question is how much interest can be drummed up for a given title and the service as a whole. Amazon does not release numbers on this, but the success of both the Amazon Prime program and the Kindle in all its many iterations would seem to indicate an impressive amount of overlap being likely, especially as the Kindle Fire continues to enjoy ongoing popularity and extra Amazon Prime functionality. Each such instance is eligible to participate, supporting a favorite author if nothing else.
The fact that this requires the authors and publishers in question to completely withdraw from the Nook, Kobo, and other platforms will likely cause more ideological upset than financial distress for participants. In general many make as much as 90% of their digital sales revenue through the KDP program already, according to some sources. In doing so, however, these individuals may incur some bad press overall. No author wishing to make a living on their craft is likely to easily make the decision to turn down an increase in income, but there is the very real possibility that this could be a crippling blow to other eBook vendors.
This is clearly a move on Amazon’s part to increase the Kindle platform’s lead over the competition. Not only does the new program mean that more high quality titles will be showing up in the free-ish category that the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library represents, it decreases the value of competing devices by taking away the content they need to thrive. Self publishing is an increasingly important area to control, given how much the Agency Model pricing scheme imposed on digital book vendors cripples competition over pricing of products passing through traditional publishing. It’s easier to get your books out on the market than ever before thanks to Kindle Direct Publishing, but it’s worth weighing the decision carefully when it could mean fewer options in the long run.
Don’t mistake me for being against the program. I’m not. Anything that supports authors and makes books more readily available to readers with Kindles is wonderful in my eyes. There is definitely reason to worry about it being too successful in the end, however.