Rent an ebook from Amazon? Maybe.

Amazon makes headlines again because they are going to be introducing a service something similar to NetFlix… for a set fee, you “rent” ebooks.


Interesting, maybe.  But it has a lot of growing to do.  First off, Amazon said they will start it by linking to those with Prime memberships, just like they did with their video service.  Second, they are starting with older titles.  My guess is most of it will be free of use material for Amazon, so they don’t have to haggle with publishers up front.  Public domain works.


So, the idea is there.  I believe Konrath touched on it a while back (him and his damn crystal ball he has!).  What’s the impact? 


I’ve been sitting on this all day.  I was eager first thing this morning to talk about it, but I let it stew in my brain all day.


First… it’s going to be a while.  Take that into consideration before packing your bags and retiring from the book world.  Amazon takes their time, works slow, and makes sure it benefits them and their customers. 


Next… if the program succeeds, we as authors will probably get paid a per download royalty.  But my thought process is this:  If the ebook is only $0.99, do you really need to rent it?  Can’t you just preview it and buy it?  Then again, I don’t know what the membership fees are, so I can’t argue too much into this.


Now, the next point.  The biggest… this is a service for the Big 6 guys.  Not us.  How so?  Because the Big 6 is charging $13 per ebook.  They need a service like this to survive.  Need an example?  I have NetFlix.  I love it.  Why?  Because I REFUSE to pay $20 for a DVD.  I don’t have the income to do so.  But for me to pay $20/mo, I can watch all the movies I want.  That’s fair to me.  NOW, on the same note… if there were indie movies being sold somewhere for $5, or even $10, I’d buy them instead of renting.  They are in my price range.


The Big 6 need a lifeline for the moment so they can catch their breaths and figure out what to do next.  This may be it then.  Someone could pay, for example, $10/month and download 5 books.  Well, now the Big 6 doesn’t have to be so concern about the new (INSERT BIG NAME AUTHOR HERE)’s book coming out for $14 for the ebook.  I’m not sure Amazon will be able to pay the publishers, etc. – perhaps some kind of licensing fees like NetFlix does with networks. 


I’m also trying to see the benefit for us in this deal though.  It’s a stretch here, but stay with me.  Let’s say a customer signs up for Amazon’s new service.  They enjoy it.  For $10/month, they enjoy books.  Cool.  Good for them.  NOW, instead of paying, say, $20/mo for two ebooks, they only pay $10/mo for their subscription.  Wouldn’t it stand to reason that they now have $10/mo left over to perhaps start buying our books?  That $10 could go a long way… considering my novels are only $3.99 and my story collections and novellas are only $0.99.  Hell, for $10 someone could buy everything I have for sale on Amazon right now. 


Would customers do that?  I don’t know.


Also, bear in mind, when this happens, I’m not so sure Amazon will open the flood gates for indies to pour in.  They will select and grow it slow.  Just like their @Author program.


AND finally, if they did include everyone and every book on Kindle, don’t sweat it.  Why?  My theory is this:  if someone can read your book, you want them to.  That’s why people throw books up for free.  That’s why they do giveaways.  We all need exposure and readers.  The goal isn’t for a sale today… it’s for a sale forever.  We want to build a base of fans and readers who will be there for every piece of writing we publish.  So if Amazon put The Devil’s Weekend (for example) into the rental program, I’d chew my nails for a little while.  But then I’d relax.  Because my hope would be once the reader’s done, they’re now a fan.  And they’ll buy the books from me.


Possible?  Maybe.


One more note… I personally want to own everything, so rentals don’t work for me.  Not with books.  Even with libraries, I love them, but I don’t go to them that often.  If there’s a book I want, I buy it.  I want to own it forever.  But hey, that’s just me.


SO, to conclude this over-written post, your best bet to see this thing waiting in the winds.  We don’t know if it’s good or bad.  We don’t know when it’ll happen, or how fast it’ll happen.  Amazon is known to take their time, so that’s good.  But in the end, the best thing you could do is get a list of books on the site, ready for purchase.  Remember, and I’ll repeat it again, it’s not about the sale today… it’s about the sale forever.  You want someone to buy your book today, read it, love it, and stick with you forever.


About Jim Bronyaur

Jim Bronyaur writes mystery, thriller, and horror books. Grab a book at Tweet him @JimBronyaur And for those who have Kindles and Prime, you may be able to get some of Jim's books for FREE!
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2 Responses to Rent an ebook from Amazon? Maybe.

  1. H.E. ELLIS says:

    I like your optimism. I also like what you said about wanting to build readers/fans more than customers. I’ve talked with many writers who think I’m crazy because I gifted over 100 copies of my self-published ebook to troops overseas. They said at $.99 per book I’m out $100.00 and then they called me crazy. I say so what? I couldn’t buy publicity for $100.00! Never mind the fact that it puts my book in the hands of people with few (entertainment) distractions AND if they enjoy it they might consider suggesting it to a loved one back home AND…really, when all is said and done I think it’s the least I can do for someone who I want to be a fan of mine.

  2. Brian Kung says:

    Love the point you make about the Big 6 needing it – that’s precisely it. For indie authors who are also avid readers, there’s no conflict of interest. We can get our reading on at the Big 6’s expense (I’ll read the hell out of that subscription if I get it) and indie book sales are unaffected.

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