The Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program debuted this past fall, and so far they’re off to a great start whether you’re a consumer or an author. As a refresher, the Lending Library is available to anyone with a Kindle and an Amazon Prime account, and you can download one book per month free of charge through the service. The KDP program offers perks to authors willing to sign up exclusively with Amazon, including a share of a $500,000 pool per book borrowed through the program. Needless to say, the exclusivity clause has been a subject of debate among ebook fans, since it tightens Amazon’s hold on the digital book market immensely, and the biggest criticism/question has been whether it was worthwhile for the authors.
The answer, according to Amazon, is yes. (Control your surprise!) They’ve pulled back the magic curtain to share some details on how the program has done in its infancy:
The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is off to a strong start: customers borrowed 295,000 KDP Select titles in December alone, and KDP Select has helped grow total library selection to over 75,000 books. With the $500,000 December fund, KDP authors have earned $1.70 per borrow. In response to strong customer adoption of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (as well as seasonal, post-holiday use of new Kindles), Amazon.com, Inc. has added a $200,000 bonus to the January KDP Select fund, raising the total pool from $500,000 to $700,000.
Paid KDP sales grew rapidly in December — and results show that paid sales of titles participating in KDP Select are growing even faster than other KDP titles. On top of this growth in paid sales, KDP Select authors and publishers on average are receiving an incremental 26% in December as a result of their participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
“KDP Select appears to be earning authors more money in two ways. We knew customers would love having KDP Select titles in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. But we’ve been surprised by how much paid sales of those same titles increased, even relative to the rest of KDP,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content. “Due to this early success and a seasonally strong January, we’re adding a $200,000 bonus to January’s KDP Select fund, growing this month’s total pool to $700,000.”
The top ten KDP Select authors earned over $70,000 in the month of December from their participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, a 30% increase on top of the royalties they earned from their paid sales on the same titles in the same period. In total (paid sales plus their share of the loan fund), these authors saw their royalties grow an astonishing 449% month-over-month from November to December. The list of top 10 KDP Select authors includes Carolyn McCray, Rachel Yu, the Grabarchuk family and Amber Scott.
300,000 borrows on 75,000 titles is a pretty good return, especially when you consider that borrows are limited to once per month, it requires a Prime membership, and you can only browse and borrow the selection from a Kindle device. Plus, with only 75,000 titles, a smaller author has a MUCH better shot at being noticed through KDP than they do as just another book in the 1 million+ titles that Amazon (and B&N and Kobo) carry. A self-published author has to be their own marketer, and it’s significantly easier to stand out in a smaller crowd, especially when the price to the consumer is free AND the author still gets paid.
Now, the downside is that this may not last forever. Amazon is able to subsidize this program heavily, but time will tell if it remains this generous for all parties as it continues. Plus, the real threat to KDP authors doesn’t come (entirely) from Amazon pulling the plug on the program or changing the rules; the concern is that as Amazon recruits more and more titles, authors, and publishers, the competition is going to get tighter, and those generous royalties may shrink. Of course, as more users flock to the service, sales and royalties may increase anyway (in that “rising tide lifts all boats” sort of way).
If you’re curious, you can check out Amazon’s full press release, and be sure to let us know in the comments if you’ve taken advantage of the Lending program yet!