Startups can react to unforeseen obstacles in one of two ways:
- Oh, S**T! How does this hurt us? or…
- How does this help us?
Today, Amazon announced that Prime subscribers would be able to instantly borrow (with limitations) from a selection of new titles — even those on the NYT bestsellers list.
Predictably, our inboxes are flooded with questions about how we’re reacting to the news.
First, this isn’t an unforeseen development. We’ve been hearing rumors for some time now that Amazon might do something like this and, frankly, even if we hadn’t heard rumors, we’ve known all along how lending can lead to sales, and we don’t think we’re any smarter than the folks at Amazon.
So, what’s our reaction?
We’re signing up for Amazon Prime. So should you.
More importantly, we immediately thought of several ways that this could make Lendle even better. Better for us, better for Amazon, and — most importantly — better for our Lendlers.
Fortunately, we’re built for this sort of situation. Everything we do, we do in house. That means any code we have to push out can happen relatively quickly.
A month or so ago, we got in touch with Jeff Bezos, and we said:
What [we were] hoping to see, though, was news about lending rights. Specifically, any indication at all that there’s some sort of effort on Amazon’s part to convince publishers that lending can be a key component in driving ebook sales. You once said that the Barnes & Noble model was a joke — you were right — yet Amazon adopted that model for the Kindle. Since that time, publishers have been more likely to opt out than in. The big names are all but absent. The titles people want to read and share aren’t lending enabled.
Is lending still on the radar? (Specifically lending rights appended to the ebooks we purchase from Amazon. [We’re] aware that library lending via OverDrive is now a go.) Has Amazon given up on this front?
The answer we got was hopeful:
Thanks for writing about your desire to see more Kindle books eligible for lending. We know this is important to our customers, and we’ll continue to work with publishers directly and ask that they enable their content for lending on Kindle. I’ve also shared your comments with the Kindle team.
We responded with, in part:
While many of our competitors are billing themselves as ebook “rental” services — selling a service that Amazon gives away, essentially — we’ve gone to great lengths to build a service that compliments and strengthens your offering without undermining your credibility with publishers. We’ve no interest in selling access to a license you already give away; we love books, we think publishing is ripe for a sea change, and we set out to build a service that could help make the case for that change.
We can only do so much, though. Publishers need to be educated. My wife is a librarian — Lendle was her idea — so we know first hand what we’re up against. The publishing industry is protecting an old model. Change doesn’t come by sitting around and waiting for old models to die.
Recently, on Twitter, someone said that Amazon had already won — and the ever-cynical undercurrent was that this was somehow a bad thing, that Amazon was growing too large.
We disagree. We think Amazon is winning because they’re making smart moves, because they’re the best, because they’re looking out for their customers. Indeed, they’re not waiting for change, they’re moving forward with their own publishing imprints — lending enabled — and they’re using the money they make to offer innovative and forward-thinking new features.
We can relate. We’ve always said that this was about being part of an exciting new chapter in the publishing industry — the first new chapter in a long, long time.
The plot just thickened.
We think that one of the best things about being a reader, and we suspect most book lovers will agree, is spontaneous discovery. It’s finding “that book” on someone’s bookshelf and becoming obsessed with a whole new world in print.
That sort of love translates to sales, even if it didn’t start with one.
Lendle’s never been (primarily) about money — we just need it to survive. Still. If money were all we cared about, we’d not be giving away most of our profit in order to offer our Lendlers a way to earn Amazon gift cards by lending.
This is why our first thought wasn’t to dwell on how this could hurt us.
Instead, we realized that we offer something that Amazon does not: A growing community that is dedicated almost exclusively to spontaneous discovery.
With the new version of Lendle that is just around the corner, our community is going to become even stronger.
And, in the end, Amazon’s big announcement is all about a button.
Which means we just need that button.
We don’t know exactly what that means, yet. But you can bet we’re on top of it.
If you’re smart, you’re signing up for Amazon prime so that you’ll be ready just as soon as we are.
The future is bright.