A Few More Details Emerge On Amazon’s E-Book Rental Plan

Following the report this morning that Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) is in discussions with publishers about an e-book rental service for Amazon Prime members, a bit more information has trickled out.

Book publishing industry website and newsletter Publishers Marketplace spoke with some publishers on background (paywall; register here). Those sources said that Amazon is offering them a lot of money for the rights to “wide swaths” of backlist e-books–with higher fees to come if and when frontlist titles are included–and that Amazon is seeking those rights on an exclusive basis, which would differentiate this from Amazon’s Instant Video offerings for Prime members. It appears that that exclusivity is one of the primary reasons publishers are reluctant to enter into these deals, though certainly not the only reason.

Amazon has also told these publishers that only about 10 percent of Prime members own Kindles, seemingly as a reason that publishers shouldn’t be nervous about too many people being allowed to read their e-books for free. It’s unclear whether that 10 percent figure includes not just device owners but also Kindle app owners or whether it’s limited to the actual devices.

I mentioned earlier that this sounds more like a library-type model than a Netflix-type model, and indeed access might be restricted in certain ways, such as Prime members only being able to access a certain set of titles at a time.

Also, as one of our commenters pointed out earlier, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) lets Nook owners read any Nook e-books for free in the store for up to one hour per day. That deal applies to all books in the Nook Bookstore, not just those from certain publishers. I am not sure how B&N has structured this form of access from a rights standpoint or whether publishers receive any form of payment when their books are accessed. I’m going to ask around and will update this post when I hear back.

These nuts and bolts aside, the general impression from the piece is that publishers are quite reluctant to sign onto this program. But that’s not to say that some kind of agreement won’t be reached: Amazon is hoping to roll it out by the holiday season.