“Wow! That’s fricking awesome!” my girlfriend said when I told her the news. Amazon’s making thousands of new ebooks available for free to anyone’s who’s subscribed to Amazon’s Prime shipping service. The service offers one year of free two-day shipping for a flat fee of $79 — and as a bonus, it includes free access to Amazon’s online library of movies and TV shows. Now as an added incentive, you’ll also get access to “the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.”
“Kindle owners can now choose from thousands of books to borrow for free,” Amazon explained today in their press release, “including over 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers – as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates.” The selection looks very appealing — I see over 5,000 ebooks, and they’re ebooks that I’ve actually heard of, and ebooks I actually want to read. For example, there’s Moneyball Michael Lewis’s exploration of professional baseball (which was recently turned into a movie with Brad Pitt). And this library also includes Lewis’s other more-recent books about Wall Street — The Big Short and Liars’ Poker — plus the entire Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
And whether or not you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can still can browse the library right now on your Kindle. Just go to front page of the Kindle Store. (One way to do this is by pressing your Kindle’s Alt key and the HOME button at the same time.) Then select the link at the top of the page (in the second column) which says “See all categories”. The link triggers a pop-up menu, and as of today the bottom of that menu is displaying a brand new choice: the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Click the link, and you’ll see over 5,000 titles to choose from!
They’re sorted by which ebooks are the best-selling, which means three of the first four choices are from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy. But there’s a link at the top-right of the page which lets you narrow the selection into 28 categories — like fiction, nonfiction, mystery, humor… “Owning a Kindle just got even better…,” Amazon’s CEO said in a statement today. “Prime Members now have exclusive access to a huge library of books to read on any Kindle device at no additional cost and with no due dates.”
Remember, you can only check out one ebook a month, but at least some Prime members are feeling excited. “I read really fast,” my girlfriend told me, “and if I can read it without having to pay for it and then return it to the lending library — that’s fabulous!” In fact, she belongs to a book club, and at least three of the books they chose to read are already available for free in the new lending library. (There’s Water for Elephants and The Finkler Question.)
So how can Amazon afford to loan the ebooks for free? In some cases, Amazon is purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader…,” their press release explained. Amazon’s getting the cheaper wholesale price, but still covering the cost themselves “as a no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents.” And for “the vast majority” of the library’s ebooks, Amazon’s just negotiated a single flat fee with the publisher for the right to include the book in their lending library.
The bottom line is that now you’ll have a wider selection of free ebooks to choose from. And “Just as with any other Kindle book, your notes, highlights and bookmarks in borrowed books will be saved,” Amazon’s press release adds, “so you’ll have them later.” I feel like this is a news story that speaks for itself, so I’ll give Amazon the last word. On the web page for their lending library, they explain the entire program in just eight words.