Amanda Hocking “Switched” away from digital lending

Earlier today, we received an email from a Lendler / Amanda Hocking fan, letting us know that there is an issue with Hocking’s book, Switched:

You may or may not be aware of this situation, seeing as how I always see this set of books being added to the site frequently.  Actually, I am seeing that you do know about this situation after looking at the “available now” section.  Anyway, I have someone wanting to borrow “Switched” by Amanda Hocking from me.  Trying to lend and it will not work.  I originally borrowed two of this series through lendle (yay), but after reading an article on the author’s blog last week, I went ahead and purchased the two that I had lent, in case I wanted read them again and the new books will  be at a higher price.  She is planning on unpublishing the series from Amazon and re-releasing through her publisher in a few months.

The pertinent bit from the Amanda Hocking blog post:

Which brings me to the next point. As of August 1, 2011 I’m going to be unpublishing Switched. The release date for the St. Martin’s edition of Switched is set for January 2012, and we (both me and the publisher) want that to have the most success it can, so we want to give Switched some time off the market.

I’m leaving both Torn and Ascend for sale until September 1, 2011 when I’ll be unpublishing them both. I’m leaving for sale longer, so people who buy Switched now have a full month to purchase the other two books in their current state at their current price.

The upshot to all this is that anyone who bought (or buys) these books will no longer be able to lend them, once they’re nuked from Amazon’s catalogue. It simply won’t be possible. We think that’s a bit rotten, but it’s happening.

We reached out to Hocking, via Twitter, and she was kind enough to respond:

I didn’t know this would happen until after I did it. But that should be taken up wit Amazon. I think it should still be lendable PERMALINK

We agree, of course. Unfortunately, or predictably, when situations like this arise, Amazon’s stock answer is to lay blame at the feet of publishers. This leaves readers stuck in the middle of a finger pointing contest that rarely, if ever, leads to straight answers. Indeed, when we asked an Amazon CSR about the status of purged books, we were incorrectly told that they were still lendable. We’ve since confirmed that this isn’t so. 

At any rate, Amazon is far more likely to listen to Amanda Hocking, successful novelist, than to Lendle, lovable lending site. Given that she believes her book should still be lendable, it seems as though it’s her responsibility to ask why it’s not — especially given that it’s her legion of loyal fans that is now left in the lurch.

Looking toward the future, we’ve followed up with Hocking in an effort to find out if the new editions of her books will be lending-enabled. Given that she’s signed with St. Martin’s Press, a Macmillan imprint, this seems unlikely — though we’re hoping our cynicism is unwarranted.  

If it’s not, this would be a bit of a change of pace for Hocking, whose success has been based largely on the word-of-mouth of her fans, and the devoted following it has engendered. It’ll be a shame if she’s forced to offer a less-compelling product based on a new publishing arrangement. 

It should be said that we’ve got nothing but respect for any author who can do what Hocking has done, and we certainly don’t begrudge her the decision to “go pro” — we sincerely hope she finds even more success now that she’s earned the backing of a major publisher. If her fans love her books, we think that means they’re worth more than the $0.99 she’s been charging, and that she’s earned the right to ask for more without being criticized.

Still, we definitely hope she’ll have more of an influence on St. Martin’s Press and Macmillan than they’ll have on her. They could learn a lot from Hocking’s early successes, so hopefully they’re paying attention and not just cashing in on an underdog story.

They could learn a lot from us, as well: We found out about all of this from a Lendler who only bought Amanda Hocking’s books after borrowing them through our service. She read them, liked them, and was nevertheless willing to pay for them. That’s Neil Gaiman’s vision, and it’s a success strategy that’s been proven out time and again in other industries. What’s so hard to understand about that?

Ending on the bright(er) side:

Also because I did this, Switched will be more readily available in libraries, so it will actually be more lendable in the future PERMALINK

That’s something, anyway.