Publishing News: Early response to the Kindle Lending Library

Amazon launched its Kindle Lending Library, and a publisher goes after BitTorrent users.

Big personal publishing news: I started reading books on my iPad this week (staunch holdout on the ereader no more, I suppose) — it seemed the most honorable way to read Steve Jobs’ biography.

On to a few of the bigger publishing stories that caught my eye …

Amazon extends its Prime tentacles into lending

KindleLending.pngAmazon launched its Kindle Lending Library this week, with, according to the Wall Street Journal, a relatively small list of 5,000 titles to start. Amazon’s release claims more than 100 NYT bestsellers are included, but the WSJ article notes that “none of the six largest publishers in the U.S. is participating.” Mathew Ingram has a nice analysis of this particular Big Six point over at GigaOM: “Much like newspapers are doing with paywalls, book publishers seem to be trying desperately to maintain the control they used to have so they can prop up their traditional business model.”

The publishers who are participating are being compensated under a couple different payment models. From the WSJ article:

Russell Grandinetti, vice president for Kindle content, said “the vast majority” of participating publishers were receiving a flat fee for their titles, while a more limited group is being paid the wholesale price for each title that is borrowed. “For those publishers, we’re treating each book borrowed as a sale,” he said.

Some publishers are looking at the lending program as an exposure opportunity. Arthur Klebanoff, chief executive of RosettaBooks LLC, said to the WSJ: “I’m attracted to the incremental promotion/visibility for participating titles … All site promotion, especially of backlist titles, drives sales in the Kindle Store.”

Other publishers see issues with the program. O’Reilly’s Joe Wikert posted a piece here on Radar that questions the flat rate associated with the Kindle Lending Library:

So no matter how popular (or unpopular) the publisher’s titles are, they get one flat fee for participation in the library. I strongly believe this type of program needs to compensate publishers and authors on a usage level, not a flat fee. The more a title is borrowed, the higher the fee to the publisher and author. Period.

There’s no question about the significant effect the Kindle has had on ereading and e-lending — the WSJ post points out that “[a]t the Seattle public-library system, e-book borrowing rose 32% in the month after Kindle books became available.” The bigger picture here, though, speaks to Amazon’s unrelenting journey to create an all-encompassing platform — the lending library only is available to owners of Kindle devices (driving device sales) and to members of Amazon Prime, a program Amazon has been increasingly pushing into all sectors of its business. As my editor points out, “[Amazon Prime] is not a ‘pivot’; it’s more like a tornado that’s sucking up everything in its path.” Indeed, I think Prime may be a key part of the support structure for Amazon’s growing ecosystem.

For more on the lending library and how it works, there’s a nice overview at PCWorld.

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Publishing gets litigious on piracy

This week, the publishing industry joined an elite club that, according to TorrentFreak, had previously only included independent and adult film studios as members. Global academic publishing company John Wiley and Sons has filed suit against 27 BitTorrent users who allegedly downloaded illegal copies of several “For Dummies” titles on October 18 and 19 of this year. TorrentFreak quoted an attorney for the plaintiff:

“Defendants are contributing to a problem that threatens the profitability of Wiley. Although Wiley cannot determine at this time the precise amount of revenue that it has lost as a result of peer-to-peer file sharing of its copyrighted works though BitTorrent software, the amount of revenue that is lost is enormous,” Wiley’s attorney writes.

“Photoshop for Dummies” appears to be the central title. The suit states the book has been downloaded 74,000 times since the summer of 2010. Copyright expert Susan Kohlmann told PaidContent: “The problem affects book publishers as it affects all content owners, and with the growing popularity of ebooks, various strategies to address illegal file-sharing, including litigation, will necessarily grow as well.” The piracy issue is controversial at best — and some say ill-informed — but how this case proceeds and whether it achieves its desired effect (or any effect) will make this an interesting test.

Let’s put our heads together

The Books in Browsers conference wrapped up last Friday, and this week, the keynote videos started rolling out — you can peruse the playlist here. Brian O’Leary (@brianoleary) had a particularly inspirational talk that topped off the conference. He talked about content abundance and how it affects the publishing industry as a whole. O’Leary said he’s increasingly come to think that “we all have to hang together, or, surely, we will hang separately.”

O’Leary’s presentation is available in the following video:


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