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Friday, December 9, 2011

Amazon KDP Select Library

Hello all. Thanks for stopping by Self-Publishing Central.

Well . . . Amazon has been busy lately. Not long ago, they announced their acquisition of Marshall Cavendish's U.S. book titles. This is really no surprise, since Amazon has been firing up its "traditional publishing" market entry for quite a while.

And their latest offering (just in time for Christmas, by the way), is called KDP Select. If you somehow have managed to miss all the publicity regarding this new service, I'll give you a brief summary.

Summary of KDP Select: Kindle publishers (like you and I) can elect to sell any or all of their titles exclusively through Amazon Kindle. In exchange for this exclusivity, Amazon lets the publishers sign up to place their title(s) in the Select Lending Library, where Amazon Prime Members can borrow the book(s) for free.

Why would anyone want to sign up for this arrangement? Oh yeah . . . I left out the money part. Amazon is setting aside $500,000 each calendar month to be divided between the KDP Select publishers on a pro rata basis, according to a ratio between the number of times one's book is borrowed versus the total number of borrowings of all books that month.

More KDP Select Details: To clarify the above, the following will apply to any titles you may choose to enroll in the KDP Select program:

1) You may not sell that title as an ebook through anyone but Amazon Kindle. The instructions say the exclusivity is for a period of 90 days. If you look deeper, you'll see that the entire Select program runs on a 90 day cycle. In other words, you need to commit to a new 90 day period of exclusivity every 90 days. Or to put it plainly, as long as your title is part of the Select program, you may not sell ebooks of that title outside of Amazon Kindle.

2) Prime Members may think this sounds like a great deal. After all, there is no due date for any borrowed book. Wow! I might consider paying for a Prime membership, if it weren't for the following caveat: Prime Members may only borrow ONE BOOK PER MONTH for free. That's right. You can borrow 12 books per year. Big whoop! Do you think the Prime Members will borrow the 99 cent books? No. They can buy those. They'll borrow the expensive ebooks. It only makes sense. I no longer feel enticed to join Prime.

3) Just which books are going to end up in the Select Library anyway? Good question. Amazon boasts a starting lineup of 5,000 titles - including NY Times Bestsellers. I read "NY Times Bestsellers" as J.A. Konrath and maybe one more. You can bet that the traditional publishers aren't going to restrict their ebook sales to Amazon only. Heck, Amazon is their arch enemy. On the other hand, maybe this opens the door for more indie titles to get a piece of the borrowing pie, and thus, a piece of the $500,000. That remains to be seen. No one has ever tried this model on a large scale before (at least as far as I can tell).

Is it smart to sign your titles up for KDP Select? Here's my take.

The whole thing is a big experiment, which if successful, will allow Amazon to further squash Barnes & Noble and its other ebook competitors. If Amazon has its way, the end of this path would leave Amazon as the sole ebook provider. Oops! Monopoly! All of a sudden, Amazon wouldn't have to compete for authors. So author royalties go down. We're all at the mercy of Amazon (which we know to be a merciful and benevolent non-profit enterprise, right?). No. Amazon will ALWAYS act in ways that benefit Amazon, all others be damned.

Conclusion:

Might you be able to make a few bucks by listing your title(s) with KDP Select? Sure. It's possible. Stick a toe in if you want. That's what I'm doing. I'm signing up a book that I sell almost exclusively on Amazon Kindle already. And this book's sales are a small percentage of my overall book sales. It's a "toe"!

In my opinion . . . and I'm certain many will disagree . . . putting all of your titles into KDP Select risks alienating other sales channels, losing sales rankings in those other channels, and supporting Amazon's predatory bid for an ebook monopoly, in which we will ALL lose.

You should know that, in general, I have a bias against monopolistic companies and in favor of free trade. I think our economy works best that way. So why are all my books for sale on Amazon? No choice, really. B&N sells very few of my ebooks and won't let me shelve my paperbacks at all. Local book stores (with very few exceptions) won't even take a FREE copy of the books for review. iBooks has a proprietary interface that requires you to upload your books using a Mac and Mac software - which is equally anti-competitive, and a pain in the @#%. And my books are listed on Smashwords, but the sales there are meager compared to Amazon.

So there you have it. My two cents. For a contrasting viewpoint, check out Jeff Bennington's The Writing Bomb blog.

I hope you found today's post helpful. Thanks again for stopping by.

Cheers!

John

Here's some reading material from Amazon's KDP Select contract, in case you're interested:

5 Your Commitment. Your commitment to these terms and conditions is important, and the benefits we provide to you as part of this option are conditioned on your following through on your commitments. If you un-publish your Digital Book, we will remove it from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, but you must continue to comply with these commitments, including exclusivity, through the remainder of the Digital Book’s then-current 90-day period of participation in KDP Select. If you don’t comply with these KDP Select terms and conditions, we will not owe you Royalties for that Digital Book earned through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Program, and we may offset any of those Royalties that were previously paid against future Royalties, or require you to remit them to us. We may also withhold your Royalty payments on all your Digital Books for a period of up to 90 days while we investigate. This doesn’t limit other remedies we have, such as prohibiting your future participation in KDP Select or KDP generally.