Recently, Amazon.com announced its KDP Select program. This allows authors who publish ebooks directly in Amazon’s Kindle Store to enrol their books in Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. According to Amazon “[t]he Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a kindle can borrow once a month, with no due dates.”
Books that are borrowed would earn a share of a fixed pool of funds. In December 2011, the fund is $500,000. Amazon explains it thusly:
Your share of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Fund is calculated based on a share of the total number of qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles. For example, if the monthly fund amount is $500,000 and the total qualified borrows of all participating KDP titles is 100,000 in December and if your book was borrowed 1,500 times, you will earn 1.5% (1,500/100,000 = 1.5%), or $7,500 in December. (from the FAQ)
Sounds pretty great, right? I thought so, too, and was all ready to enrol my three Kindle titles in the program. Until I read the fine print: “When you choose KDP Select for a book, you’re committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc.”
From the Terms and Conditions:
Exclusivity. When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or content that is reasonably likely to compete commercially with your Digital Book, diminish its value, or be confused with it), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.
So you are stuck with Amazon’s Kindle Store as the only place the digital copy of your book may appear. All those readers who don’t use Kindles or Kindle software have no way to access your book. Worse, still, all those readers who live somewhere not services by the Kindle Store, have no way to read your ebook. So, even if you want to sell (or give away) your book in Switzerland, where Amazon’s Kindle Store does not operate, you can’t.
“But,” you ask, “everyone uses Amazon, right? And there’s Kindle software for everything, PCs, Macs, smartphones, tablets. Who cares if I only sell on Amazon?”
Maybe you don’t care that you are forcing your readers to use only Kindle products. Maybe you don’t care that all those potential fans who already use other technologies will never see your book.
“What potential fans?” you say.
Well, according to Publishers Weekly, a recently study indicated that Amazon had 38% of the ebook market and its market share was dropping. Indeed, a reduction in market share is a fine reason for them to introduce this kind of program.
Let’s say that study is out of date, or just plain wrong. Let’s say Amazon actually has 50% market share. By making your books exclusively available on Amazon, participants in the KDP Select program are losing half their potential sales in exchange for the mere inclusion of their books in a list of books which include bestsellers by well known authors. The real potential for income generation by inclusion in the Select program has yet to be seen, but the cost is clear: the readers from all those other sales channels.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program is overall a great boon to independent authors, but it seems evident to me that the KDP Select program is a net loss to independent authors who publish ebooks.
Think before you click Enrol.
Douglas E. Welch says
As I understand it, you dont HAVE to enroll in KDP Select to sell your books via Kindle. In fact, for most Indie authors it probably doesn’t make much sense as your potential earnings would probably be low since you are competing with all the big boys for a share of a limited pie.
Without enrolling in KDP Select, you are free to sell your books anywhere else you like, as far as I understand it. It is only KDP Select that requires exclusivity.
Douglas, you’re right, KDP Select is optional.
I was aiming this post to people who already sell their books on the Kindle Store and were thinking about opting in to the KDP Select program. Thanks for making it clear that the two are separate programs, with separate terms.
after nearly 1 year of launching KDP Select…
are your opinions stand still? 🙂
I read at techcrunch… that Kindle has 60% of the market, while Nook only has 27%
Still unfair to end reader, as this leaves out 40% of potential readers (to all other devices combined).
what do you think?
I definitely still stand by my opinions. I think that participating in business practices that are unfair to your customers is a sure-fire way to alienate those customers and ultimately lose them.
For authors who are in this business for the long haul, I believe that it’s just shooting yourself in the foot to screw over your readers in favour of getting a quick buck. This is also why I”m an opponent of DRM, and make all my ebooks and audiobooks available DRM-free.
(I am also philosophically opposed to the very concept of exclusivity, so it would be tough for me to participate in such a program and still pass that bathroom mirror every day.)
Even if you’re not bothered by the practice, it seems to me that 60/40 is nowhere near enough to justify the lost exposure elsewhere. There seems to be some anecdotal evidence that participating in KDP Select hasn’t been that valuable to people: Chuck Wendig has some thoughts here and Brand Gamblin wasn’t impressed with his experience either.
For the sake of argument, though, here are John Mierau’s thoughts on why he’s decided to lock in with Amazon.