What do you think of Kindle Select? is the question I've heard several times over the past two weeks. When the market for eBooks is dominated by one company, and that company offers special promotions and cash, you need to pay attention.
Here's how it works: the publisher appoints Amazon the only store where someone can buy their book and Amazon will share a pool of money based on how many times a person borrows that book from their new “lending library”. Similar to a traditional library where people can borrow books for free, Amazon's lending library is available to their Prime members to read books for free. The publisher can also make this title available for free for up to five 24-hour periods during the minimum 90 day exclusive period.
Update: Read my three-part series about my own experience, complete with sales numbers and resources.
I've highlighted below a number of considerations but the two most important questions a publisher should be asking themselves are:
1. Am I selling my title in other stores and if so, how much money am I making?
2. Do I believe that promoting my title at $0 will lead to increased sales or exposure?
Looking at question one participation is a no-brainer if you are not selling your title in another store and do not have plans to do so. Otherwise you'll have to remove your title from the other stores during the exclusivity period. If you do you are hoping to make more money from the Amazon lending program than you'd make from selling via the other stores. Tough call.
The answer to question two is more complex. There is ample evidence that offering a book for free is a great way to introduce readers to an author. However, this works best when an author has several titles that their new readers can choose from. Offering a book for free is a great tactic when it is part of a larger marketing and promotions strategy.
Still undecided? Here are a few less obvious things to keep in mind.
1. If you don't remove your books from other stores you are taking a chance. Amazon's systems are sophisticated. If you get caught you run the risk of being cut off from the largest eBook retailer.
2. The program is available only to Prime members in the United States who own a Kindle. Amazon doesn't release Prime membership subscriptions but a Wall Street analyst estimates it to be 5 million members. How many of them will find and borrow your book?
3. If you do opt-in Amazon will automatically renew the 90 day period if you don't opt-out!
4. You can't distribute your eBook from your website but you are not prevented from promoting your books on your website by referring people to Amazon. This is a key distinction.
5. It is important to understand the restrictions placed on people borrowing books because this limits the number of potential borrowings you might expect.
• Readers can read Kindle books on just about any device but only Prime members in the USA that own Kindles can borrow from the lending library. That means anyone using an iPad, PC, Android device, etc. is not eligible.
• Readers can borrow only one book per calendar month. They can keep it as long as they like but must “turn it in” to borrow a new one. If they borrow it a second time you won't get a commission.
Like any new program there are going to be people who complain when terms and conditions seem restrictive or unfair. That's why it is important to think through the trade-offs with this program before signing up. Also keep in mind that Amazon is making commitments to its customers based on your intentions. For more information be sure to read the Amazon KDP Select FAQ.