The Authors Guild, in a contentious blog post today, called Amazon’s recently launched ebook lending library a “mess” and claimed that Amazon appeared to breaching contracts with some publishers by including their titles in the lending program—an action it calls “an exercise of brute economic power.” Publishers that did sign on for the lending program, the post goes on to say, may be doing so without required author approvals.
As LJ reported, the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library was launched November 3 with about 5000 titles. It allows Kindle-owning users of the $79-per-year Amazon Prime service to borrow one ebook a month with no due date, and with notes and highlights saved after the ebook is returned, in case the ebook is later purchased or reborrowed. (Amazon began shipping its latest tablet, the Kindle Fire, today.)
Among the ebooks available through the lending library are Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy (not available via OverDrive library ebook lending), and Howard Jacobson’s Man Booker Prize-winning 2010 novel The Finkler Question (which is available via OverDrive).
According to the Authors Guild, Amazon approached the six largest U.S trade book publishers—known as the Big Six—earlier this year about taking part in the lending program but was turned down; many other smaller publishers were then approached, but “[m]any, perhaps all, also refused.”
Amazon, however, enrolled many of the second-tier publishers’ titles in the lending program without permission, according to the Authors Guild—a right that the Authors Guild says that Amazon does not have under its boilerplate publisher contracts, which “specifically contemplate the sale of e-books, not giveaways, subscriptions, or lending.”
The Authors Guild post also asserts that publishers that did sign on for the lending program must get prior approval from authors to do so, according to “our reading of the standard terms of these contracts.” The Authors Guild then urges authors whose books are in the lending library program without their approval to confront their publishers about the inclusion.
The Authors Guild has long been a voice regarding high-profile ebook issues. It is a party in the long-running Google Books case, and, with several other organizations and authors, is currently suing HathiTrust and five universities over alleged copyright infringement involving ebooks.