Amazon is testing an ebook rental service called "Kindle Unlimited", as GigaOm pointed out today. The e-commerce company put up test pages for the service, which will offer "unlimited access to 600,000 titles". Users would pay $US10 a month for access to the online lending library. The question is: Will they?
Amazon already offers a lending program for users who subscribe to Prime. It's not clear if this new service will give people access to a different collection of books, or if Amazon plans to offer this "Kindle Unlimited" subscription as an alternative way to access the pre-existing lending library.
The current Kindle Owner's Lending Library has a one-book-per-month cap, so this could be an option for Prime users who want more access. The Kindle Unlimited test pages also offer around 8000 audiobooks, something the current lending library doesn't have. And the promo banners for Kindle Unlimited said subscribers could access their books from "any" device. This likely means any device that supports the Kindle app, like iOS, Android and Windows phone.
Looking at the cached test page for the Kindle Unlimited, the first titles that pop up are the same as the titles highlighted by the Kindle Owner's Lending Library. Here's the books that pop up on the first page of the Kindle Owner's Lending Library:
And here are the books listed on the cached test page for Kindle Unlimited:
Not exactly identical (Thomas Piketty's Capital only appears in the test roster), but too close to be completely distinct.
Gizmodo has contacted Amazon for more information and will update when we hear back. This could all just be an experiment... but if it is, it's a very thorough one.
Book lending services like Oyster shouldn't freak out just yet. Amazon doesn't have any books from the so-called "big five" publishers: Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Hatchette. Some of these big houses have agreements with Oyster, as well as Scribd, and are likely not cooperating with Amazon's new service. It might be a long time before Hatchette's titles appear in the Kindle Unlimited program, considering the ongoing down and dirty battle between Hatchette and Amazon.
Here are some screenshots from the cached pages: