Saturday, 16 May 2015

Self-e, Library Journal, and Kindle Unlimited

A friend (Ross Coleman, very recently retired from the University of Sydney's Rare Books department), sent me a link to The Library Journal's self-published ebook awards:

Library Journal Honors the Best Self-published books in the genres Romance, Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy.   It's related to the Self-e programme, which this article describes as 'a fairly new program designed to connect indie authors with libraries and create a win-win partnership. Authors provide their eBooks to the program for free; no royalties are paid to the author. The libraries then provide the books free to their patrons. In the past, indie authors have had difficulty getting their books into the library systems, but this new partnership will mitigate that hurdle and the author will have nationwide exposure. This is no small measure, since the Library Journal deduced that, “Over 50 percent of all library users go on to purchase eBooks by an author they were introduced to in the library.” '

You can enter your book in the Library Journal Honors the Best Self-published books contest by providing it in ePub format or as a PDF file, and grant Library Journal the right to electronically publish your work to libraries (and only libraries).  Since I'm considering publishing my book through the Kindle Direct Publishing scheme, I wondered what that meant as far as Amazon's licensing arrangements.

However, knowing now that the Kindle Unlimited (KU) scheme is basically a subscription library service, and knowing that “exclusive” generally means “exclusive”, I believe that if you are publishing your book through Amazon's Kindle Select programme, you would not be eligible to enter the book into the Library Journal's contest. That's just my guess, though. I should really ask Amazon, I suppose.

While trying to find a discussion about the legal position, I stumbled over several articles related to the KU scheme.  I'd seen KU mentioned on Amazon's site (those notes about “Did you know you can get this book for free on Kindle Unlimited?”), but wasn't sure what it meant, and never took up the offer.  It seemed too much like a free lunch.

Having looked into it a little more, I now understand that KU is a subscription library service. For about US$10/month, you can read as many books as you like from the subset of Amazon's ebook content that is available under KU (about a quarter of Amazon's full set of ebooks). But I also came across this interesting article from Library Journal: Kindle Unlimited’s Two-Tier System Makes Some Authors Second-Class Citizens , the gist of which is that while traditional publishers who provide content for KU get the normal rights they're accustomed to, self-publishers who use Kindle Select don't: specifically, their books must be available exclusively through Amazon. Why the difference? The article's author claims that it's simply because Amazon can get away with those terms for self-publishers, whereas traditional publishers would never agree. To me, that sounds completely correct: Amazon is a business, trying to maximise its profits, and by making a lot of content available exclusively via Amazon, they significantly strengthen their position in the market. However, it should be noted that the Kindle Select programme runs on a 90-day cycle, and if the author opts out of the Select programme, then at the next renewal date they're released from the programme and are free to offer their book elsewhere (including the Kindle Direct programme).

Another unfairness is how much you as an author is paid for KU borrowings. In both cases, the author is only paid if the borrower reads past the 10% mark of the book. Now, if you're not in Kindle Select, but a traditional publisher who opted in, then you're paid the same price as if the person bought the book. If you're in Kindle Select, the size or price of your book is ignored; Amazon decides on a pool of money to provide for borrowings for the upcoming month; this is dividied by the total number of borrows in that month. That amount usually comes out to about US$2. Members of Kindle Select are then paid this amount for each time their book was borrowed in that month. Hmm.

I also came across this 2012 web page that describes how to publish your book with Kindle: Publishing Your Novel on Kindle (using Microsoft Office). It's a very straightforward article, describing everything in simple steps. It has excellent advice, like carefully checking each page of your book after you've uploaded it to Kindle, and before you make it publicly available (since various formatting problems may occur). It also has a detailed section for non-US citizens, about tax and the process you need to go through to get a ID number suitable for the US Internal Revenue Service. Now, from what I've seen on the Kindle Direct Publishing site, if you're in a country that has a reciprocal tax arrangement with the US, none of that long and complex process is necessary any more, in 2015. I think! No doubt I'll find out the truth of that myself, in due course.

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