Starting with just 5,000 titles during early November 2011, Amazon announced today that the Lending Library service on the Kindle now provides access to over 100,000 titles. Available to anyone with an Amazon Prime subscription, consumers can download one book for free every month to a Kindle device without any restriction of an upcoming due date. An Amazon Prime subscription costs $79 per year, but also provides free two-day shipping on all Amazon purchases and offers instant streaming access to over 13,000 movies and TV shows. More than 100 New York Times bestsellers can be found on the Amazon Prime service in addition to a third of the Top 20 bestsellers on the Kindle store.
The number of available titles skyrocketed during December when Amazon opened up the program to self-published books within the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program. Authors that self-publish books through KDP can earn up to a 70 percent royalty on sales of their works.
In addition, Amazon management claims to have distributed approximately $1.8 million in royalties to authors since the inception of the program. Kindle owners taking advantage of the Lending Library service have borrowed more than a million self-published titles since December. For authors, exposure within the Lending Library service can encourage increased sales of other books within their portfolio.
While Amazon is pushing ahead with an aggressive lending strategy, the Barnes & Noble strategy for the Nook e-reader is more complicated and still comes with a due date. For instance, a user can “lend” a book only once after purchasing the title and users that receive the digital copy through the LendMe service only has 14 days to complete the book. In addition, the user that lends the book cannot access the book until the 14-day loan has expired. In order to lend a book to another user, the publisher has to have given Barnes & Noble permission to include that book in the service.
Announced during April 2011, Amazon added support for public libraries to lend out Kindle titles and libraries across the United States have rapidly adopted the service. Amazon has partnered with Overdrive to accomplish this feat, a provider of 650,000 ebook and audio book titles offered within 18,000 libraries, schools, and colleges across the globe.
Amazon also includes the ability to marks notes, highlights and the last page read in borrowed titles. If the user decides to purchase the book or borrow it again in the future, all previously created annotations will remain within the book.
In order to access these digital books, users can log into their local library’s site and select the “Get for Kindle” option. The user is sent off to Amazon to download the borrowed book and the loan period naturally expires over a period of time dictated by the library.
Most libraries also allow users to wait in a queue for access to more popular books and notify the user by email when the book is available. Users have to connect over Wi-Fi to download the book or connect to their personal computer via the provided USB cable with the Kindle. Overdrive also offers a global search engine for quicker access to information regarding the availability of the book at a local library.
Also announced this week, J.K. Rowling and Sony are partnering with Overdrive to bring the Harry Potter series in digital form to public libraries and schools for the first time. Anyone with an e-reader or a tablet will be able to access all of the Potter books on the Overdrive service very soon. With over 400 million copies sold to date, it’s unlikely that including the series on Overdrive will have a significant negative impact on future sales.