Amazon on Thursday launched the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, which will let customers with an Amazon Prime membership borrow e-books for free.
The new program will start out by offering 5,000 titles free-of-charge to Kindle e-reader and app owners with a $79 annual Amazon Prime membership. Titles include Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, The Big Short and Liars' Poker by Michael Lewis, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
Amazon said available e-books will come from "a range of publishers under a variety of terms," though the Wall Street Journal said the six largest U.S. publishers are not participating due to concern over future sales.
The company said that in most cases, Amazon has worked out deals with publishers to include the book for a fixed fee while others will be paid each time it is borrowed. Users can borrow one e-book at a time, and any notes or bookmarks will be saved if you re-borrow the book down the road.
"Owning a Kindle just got even better," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. "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."
Amazon's library lending program went live last month.
The company did not mention if the e-book lending program included participants from self-publishing platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) or Kindle Singles. Most e-books offered by major publishers in the Kindle store are generally priced much higher than books from self-publishers, who tend to offer their work for $0.99-$2.99 per book. Will the new program have an adverse effect on authors such as Amanda Hocking, who recently managed to sell 1 million e-books through self-publishing? And will Amazon's move to generate interest in Amazon Prime ultimately kill the goose that laid the golden e-book egg? Only time, and consumer tastes, will tell.