This new service from Amazon lends out selected, mostly backlist titles, with promoted books coming from publishers including Scholastic, Norton, Bloomsbury, Grove/Atlantic, Workman/Algonquin, F+W Media, Lonely Planet, and Amazon's own publishing imprints.
Rosetta Books tells the WSJ they alone are contributing about 200 titles. None of the six largest publishers are participating.
The program is available only to Amazon Prime members, and titles can be browsed and checked out only through Amazon ereading devices. Users can "borrow" only one title at a time, and only one title a month.
While Amazon boasts the collection includes "over 100 current and former NYT bestsellers," Publishers Lunch observes that the emphasis is very much on "former." Browsing for titles on the device will be an impediment to discovery for many users (and incentive to upgrade to Fire, on which that will be easier). But general Amazon product pages prominently announce to Kindle Device Owners that they can "borrow this book for free, with no due dates."
According to publisher gossip, Amazon offered "a lot of money" to participate in the program. Amazon says in the announcement that most publishers have received "a fixed fee" for the included titles (apparently for a two-year agreement--and any additional titles added during that period would yield further licensing fees.) But "in some cases, Amazon is purchasing a title each time it is borrowed by a reader under standard wholesale terms as a no-risk trial to demonstrate to publishers the incremental growth and revenue opportunity that this new service presents."