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Is the Kindle Lending Library Breaching Contracts?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on January 03, 2012 5:54 AM

A new book-borrowing service for Amazon's Kindle e-reader is coming under fire. Several writers groups are suggesting they may sue, alleging the new Kindle Lending Library is a breach of contract.

Amazon launched the Kindle Lending Library earlier this month. It allows Kindle users with an Amazon Prime membership to borrow one ebook per month for free with no due dates, The Guardian reports.

Customers have more than 5,000 titles to choose from. But some authors say Amazon shouldn't be allowed to put their books up for borrowing, and insist they are overdue for extra compensation.

Amazon maintains it doesn't need new permission to include ebooks in its Kindle Lending Library. The online retail giant says it's only required to pay publishers the wholesale price of titles that are downloaded, The Guardian reports.

Most ebooks in the Kindle Lending Library are included for a fixed fee that Amazon pays to publishers, while other ebooks are included as a no-risk trial, Amazon says.

But the Authors Guild disagrees. The U.S.-based group insists Amazon's contract terms cover only the sale of ebooks, not free online lending, The Guardian reports.

The Authors Guild also claims the six largest U.S. publishers all refused to participate in Amazon's Kindle Lending Library. But Amazon ignored those wishes and put their ebooks in its lending library anyway, the Guild says.

"How can Amazon get away with this? By giving its boilerplate contract with these publishers a tortured reading," the Guild said in a statement.

Amazon has not specifically responded to the Guild's allegations, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

The Guild is advising authors who don't want to participate in the Kindle Lending Library to read their contracts and tell their publishers. At the same time, the Guild is also suing several universities to stop plans to scan copyrighted books and make them available online.

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