Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Amazon Extend Lending Library to UK

Amazon have been running a lending library for eBooks for some time in the US, but this week they have extended the facility to the UK and Europe.  They claim that members can borrow from thousands of books - they don't identify how many thousand but do mention that there are more than 100 current and former New York Times bestsellers on the list.  Sounds like a good scheme, how do we join?

First and foremost you need a Kindle device.  Well, maybe you don't, any device capable of running the Kindle App will probably do, but please check before you sign up.  The critical point is that you can only borrow books to an Amazon environment, which is probably quite reasonable given its an Amazon initiative.

You also need to sign up for Amazon Prime.  This is a scheme where you pay Amazon £49 a year, just under a pound a week, to qualify for free one day delivery for a very large number of items purchased on Amazon. And it's available for up to four persons from the same household so that's a useful consideration if there are multiple Amazon customers under your roof.  If you're a frequent purchaser from them and have a burning need to have your purchases the next working day, Prime is probably a good option.  Me, I plan a little ahead and generally can wait a few days, so I get free shipping from them anyway.  And I don't buy shed loads of stuff from Amazon.  I shop around instead.

But if you do sign up for Amazon Prime and want to access free eBooks from their lending library - I understand all the Harry Potter books are in there, not my bag but they do seem quite popular - then it could be for you.

I don't know how comprehensive this library is - my books aren't in there, or at least I hope they're not - but I'm sure that won't sway most people.  Your other favourite authors may not be represented either.  You see, there's another facet to the lending library.  To be listed, authors have to commit to giving Amazon exclusive rights to any books that are to be listed.  To be fair to Amazon, they're putting up $700,000 a month to be shared amongst the authors whose books are borrowed - no wonder they've just posted a quarterly loss.

Me, I don't like this exclusivity.  I think books are undergoing one of the most liberating processes since Mr Gutenberg invented the printing press.  My books, and the books of many other authors are available from Amazon as eBooks and for those of us prepared to wrestle with Amazon's subsidiary Createspace, in paperback too.  They are also available on the Apple iBookstore for those who prefer to buy their books from Apple.  Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, WH Smith and many other bookstores stock them as well.  The pure existence of these bookstores provides the competition that should keep prices keen.

Amazon are attempting to bribe authors to starve their competitors of books.  And the lending library, good an idea that it is, is part of that strategy.  I don't think Amazon need the exclusivity to succeed in this endeavour.  I would suggest that if they dropped the exclusivity clause they would do well.  they'd also have a lot more books to include in the library, which is really an added incentive for their customers to engage in Prime, which in itself is just a way to try and get people to shop with them by default.  They would have an enlarged library that also encouraged readers to visit them often.


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