Are publishers now opting out of ebook lending?

Are publishers now opting out of ebook lending?

One of the reasons we’ve been so keen on tracking statistics surrounding the number of lendable books in our catalogue is that it means we’re harvesting information about an industry in its formative stages. Almost no one else has this information — and if they do, they’re not sharing it.

One of our most prominently featured stats is “available titles”. As we’ve mentioned before, that’s not the total number of lendable books our users own — that number is much, much larger — it’s the number of unique lendable titles currently available to borrow from our Lendlers. In other words, we only count “The Hunger Games” once, even if hundreds of people own it.

That number was growing at a pretty steady clip until a few weeks ago when we stalled out somewhere between 7000 and 8000 unique titles. On a couple occasions, we’ve seen that number drop pretty drastically and we’d (of course) prefer to see the numbers moving upward, faster.

  • We’ve seen evidence that the drops are due, at least in part, to publishers switching the status of books from lendable to non-lendable, en masse. Macmillan, as an example, was brought to our attention by a Lendler when several of their lendable books suddenly went non-lendable, all at once. Others have noticed the same thing on their profiles. (Disclosure: We believe that if you purchase a lendable copy of a book, it remains lendable even if the publisher later changes the status of the book. We’ve seen no evidence that publishers are revoking lendability from books which have already been purchased.)
  • Given the large size of our user-base, we suspect our numbers are representative of virtually all of the lendable titles that people actually want to read. This explains, in part, why our “total lendable copies” number continues to go up even as our “available now” number stalls out. 

Questions that we’d love to see put to publishers and, to a lesser degree, Amazon and Barnes and Noble:

  • Can we expect consistent (or even more drastic) cuts to lendable titles?
  • Are any publishers thinking of expanding their lendable selection or moving in a more positive direction?
  • Will the status of individual titles continue to switch back and forth between lendable and non-lendable? Why the changes?
  • How long will “lending” be touted as a feature of both the Kindle and the Nook with such a limited and (it would seem) dwindling selection of lendable titles?
  • Surely there are some prominent authors (Neil Gaiman is an obvious candidate) who could/would advocate for lending when it comes to e-books? What happens when a book as popular as American Gods goes lendable? 

We continue to believe that lending is a great marketing tool, and that it’s a feature which can be used to increase sales and cultivate a culture of reading. We also continue to see evidence that Lendle is driving book sales.

Despite all this, Lendle is still the best community of Kindle readers around, we’re doing some really great things with what we have, and there’s much more to come. Ultimately, the best bet for turning things around is an active and vocal community with a clear interest in lending (and buying) Kindle books. 

We hope this is just indicative of an industry in flux, and that as time goes on we’ll see our unique titles resume their upward trajectory, as well as more and more popular titles added into the mix. 

Fingers crossed.

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