November was the first full month that overseas customers with Amazon Prime were able to borrow a Kindle eBook from participating publishers for free. Apparently they rushed to do so, because in spite of the addition of $100,000 to the $600,000 shared pot for self publishers participating in Select for November, the average payment per borrow plummeted by 20%. Combined with the increase in the pot, that suggests that around 30% of KOLL book borrowing in November took place overseas.
The payment fell below the magic $2.00 mark, where self publishers with $2.99 Kindle titles earned more by having them borrowed than by selling them. That hadn’t happened since the first two months of existence for the Select program, which may indicate that Amazon underestimated international demand. It could also mean that the mix overseas was different, perhaps fewer trade publishers made their titles available to KOLL (Kindle Owners Lending Library), which would increase the relative share overseas for self publishers. Or perhaps a higher proportion of overseas self publishers signed up because they were already exclusive with Amazon.
I’ve never seen any data breaking down the percentage of self publishers in the US vs. the UK who are exclusive with Kindle, but intuitively, it would make sense for more UK publishers to be exclusive with Amazon since Barnes&Noble had no retail stores there to drive Nook adoption. Yes, there’s a Nook store on the web, along with Apple devices, Kobo and Sony readers, but the main eBook reader competition for Kindle in the US has been Nook.
Amazon has already announced a “holiday bonus” of $1.5 million dollars to the Select pot for the winter, an extra $700,000 in December and the rest spread over January and February. That might result in compensation for next month jumping over $4.00 per borrow, but I suspect the $5.00 per borrow I targeted a few weeks ago is by the boards.
I suppose it’s also possible that the KOLL borrows overseas will be higher in the first month or two and then fall back as people return to their normal entertainment consumption habits, as apparently happened in the US. But it could be cultural differences in some of the overseas Kindle markets will lead to a permanently lower Select share for American publishers. This will happen if readers in those countries avail themselves of their free KOLL borrow every month, unlike some American Kindle owners who join Prime for the free shipping and movies.
As always, there will be winners and losers. I’m a net loser on Select going international because my most popular titles are available in the US only. US publishers whose titles are available and equally popular overseas will break even, while those who hit a cultural sweet spot in another country or publish in multiple languages will come out ahead. Stay tuned for the week of January 15th and the December payout.