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March 11, 2012
What is "KDP Select" and Does It Matter?
In response to my entry a couple weeks ago on who decides what e-books you buy
, Copyfight reader Amy pointed me to a column by Terri Giuliano Long on indiereader.com.
In the column, called "The Down-Low on Exclusivity Clauses", Long talks about Amazon’s KDP Select program. This program, which Amazon introduced at the end of 2011, allows authors to sign up to have their books placed in the "Kindle Owner’s Lending Library". This (virtual) library allows Kindle owners to "borrow" one book per month. That is, they can download a free copy with no due date of any book on the list. Since the reader doesn't pay, Amazon has offered an enticement to e-book authors to have their books in the library. Amazon will put forward a pool of money and each time a book is borrowed the author of that book gets something from the pool.
According to Long's column, in January authors were getting USD 1.60 per borrow. That's not much, but it's not a huge amount less than most authors get on e-book sales, and in theory the author can get borrow money on top of royalty money. That's the upside. The downside is exclusivity. If you're being borrowed on a Kindle then you can't be read on other devices, including Kindle apps that run on other devices. In effect, you're agreeing to have your book locked to one device in order to help Amazon sell more devices that will (work with me here) further lock in readers. Awesome.
As usual in these sorts of situations where an author sits on the publicity/popularity curve says a lot about how good this deal is. If you're a New York Times bestselling author then your readers are likely all over the marketplace and single-device lock-in is bad for you. If you're an unknown and need to build readership numbers, then the extra publicity of being in the library may be a boost. But then again, what do you do if your unknown book turns into a hit and readers can't get it elsewhere? A new author may be crippling her audience reach by agreeing to this lock-in, without even knowing what the potential reach of that audience is.
Long tries to end her column on a balanced note; as she says, the situation wasn't exactly a rose garden in the days before e-books. Perhaps that's her professorial (she teaches at Boston College) fairness showing through. Me? I have only sympathy and faint contempt for people who feel they need to buy into someone else's exclusive locks. This may be why I don't own an e-book device myself.
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