Amazon is ramping up its book lending program whereby Amazon Prime members will be able to borrow any number of bestselling and other books as part of their membership. It’s another way of offering you a free sample in the hopes you’ll come back and buy more where that came from.
Not that it’s totally free. You have to pay to be member of Amazon Prime, the publishers and authors get paid a small percentage to have their books available in the lending library, and Prime members are limited to one free read each month.
The downside? Only one I see at present is that Amazon is asking writers who make their books available through the lending library for a minimum of 90 days to make those e-books available exclusively through Amazon. Not their physical counterparts, but the electronic versions. This isn’t an insignificant demand, given that Amazon, for all its behemoth stature in the industry, still sells fewer than half the electronic books worldwide. (No hard stats backing that up. Just my own e-book sales and those of most of my writer friends.)
Given Amazon’s previous aggressive moves to dominate book retailing, it’s not hard to see it trying to expand this exclusivity concept in the future.
But back to the concept of free sampling. My prediction? The lending program will be a moderate success for Amazon, targeting mostly readers who only read the occasional bestseller. Avid readers (who make up a big chunk of e-book readers) know there are already huge numbers of stories and novels up for free every month. Some are deservedly free, put up by people who have more technical self-publishing ability than writing ability. Others are by talented newer authors looking to get their names out there or well-established authors seeking to draw in new readers.
Either way, we’re in a golden age for e-book readers, with the ability to explore new worlds and follow favorite authors more easily than ever before. Not to mention the opportunity to delve into a favorite author’s backlist of both novel-length fiction and short stories, something that used to be difficult to impossible for all but a few bestselling authors.
Which brings me at last to my own quick plug: not one but two of my short stories are available for free in a growing number of e-book retailers. Neither are free in Amazon.com as of this writing (though they should be shortly), but for a limited time “The Tides” can be found at Smashwords, Barnes and Nobles, iTunes, and Diesel. “The Substitute” can be found at Smashwords.
Happy reading, and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Sadeh, Pancha Ganapati, Yuletide, and celebrations to all!