What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
- Ecclesiastes 1:9
If you're at all interested in self-publishing and eBooks, then you probably know about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Amazon.com's service that allows authors to load their eBooks directly into the Amazon storefronts. Using KDP, I'm able to sell Pay Me, Bug! through the Amazon.com website, and also directly through the Kindle application.
KDP appears to be wildly successful. There are stories of self-published authors making ridiculous sums of money (Amanda Hocking being the most obvious example) through it, and while self-publishing is still not an easy, or even obvious path to success, it seems more accessible than it ever was in the past. You're still climbing up a sheer cliff with razor-sharp vines that dig into your flesh, and there are still pointy rocks and alligators hanging out at the bottom... but it's a shorter climb, you know? And every once in a while you'll come across a piton some other climber left behind.
Whether or not Amazon's entry into publishing is a good thing for the publishing industry at large (and there are articles that make a pretty damned compelling case why it isn't), it has been a really good deal for some self-published authors, and has given the rest of us another avenue to pursue that we didn't have before. That's signficant, it's important, it might be revolutionary, it's definitely meaningful to me.
Now Amazon has KDP Select, a new service that appears to trade exclusivity for free money. The basic idea: if you make your eBook exclusive to Amazon or a month--take it off BarnesandNoble.com, take it off Smashwords, take it off iTunes, take it off everything but Amazon -- then Amazon will put it in a special lending library where readers can check it out for free. Every time someone checks out your book, you get paid from a pool of money Amazon sets aside every month. The payment is based on a ratio of how many times your book was checked out compared to how many times every other book was checked out, so if your books are checked out more than anyone else's you get more money. In January the pool was $700,000, in February it appears to be $600,000.
Get paid just for having people borrow your book! It looks revolutionary, but it isn't -- it's been done before, and based on my past experience with something similar I'm not sure it's a good thing for authors. If you want to know why, come with me on a journey back in time and below the fold.