US Authors Guild attacks Amazon over Kindle Lending

US Authors Guild attacks Amazon over Kindle Lending

The US Authors Guild has accused Amazon.com of "boldly breaching its contracts" with publishers by signing them up to its new Kindle Lending programme without permission.

It claimed it is doing this to drive sales of its Kindle Fire, which is up against the Apple iPad and Barnes & Noble Nook in the US' increasingly fraught e-reader wars.

The lending service was launched in the United States earlier this month although none of the "big six" publishers - Random House, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Macmillan - have signed up to it. US Kindle owners with Prime membership can download one book per month for free, but only borrow one at a time.

The US Authors Guild claimed Amazon's attempts to enlist publishers outside the big six have largely failed. However, it said many of these publishers' titles have appeared on the service because of a "tortured reading" of boilerplate contracts. It said: "Amazon has decided that it doesn’t need the publishers’ permission, because, as Amazon apparently sees it, its contracts with these publishers merely require it to pay publishers the wholesale price of the books that Amazon Prime customers download. By reasoning this way, Amazon claims it can sell e-books at any price, even giving them away, so long as the publishers are paid."

The US Authors Guild said Amazon's boilerplate contracts "specifically" refer to the sale of e-books and nothing else. It said: "Amazon, in other words, appears to be boldly breaching its contracts with these publishers. This is an exercise of brute economic power. Amazon knows it can largely dictate terms to non-Big Six publishers, and it badly wanted to launch this program with some notable titles."

It recommended authors check if their titles are available through the service and it believed publishers do not have the right to lend titles through Amazon's boilerplate without author approval.

Amazon.com was unavailable for comment.