By Rorie 17 Comments
I like reading, and I like reading books for free, although I rarely get to the library anymore. That's why the Kindle Owner's Lending Library is so poopy. In theory, it's a grand idea; as part of your Amazon Prime yearly membership, you get to check out a book a month for free, read it as much as you like, then return it and get another one after a few weeks. Great! But even though there's like 300,000 books in there, well, it doesn't take much browsing to see that most of them are of this level of quality:
Even disregarding the woeful amalgamation of science fiction and fantasy (I'm sure there are plenty of people who like to read both, but I'm not one of them), it's pretty clear from even a cursory examination of any of the categories that Amazon's been scraping from the bottom of the self-publishing barrel to populate their lending library. Even if you find a curated listing of the best books in the library (something Amazon should really be doing, considering the thousands of spam or crap titles in the library), they're usually dominated by the stuff that Amazon clearly laid down a little money to throw in there as a loss leader: the Hunger Games books, the Harry Potter books, an assortment of Kurt Vonnegut...and really not that much else. Take a look at what they've added in the last 30 days if you want to see a lot of books that describe themselves as the second installment in some vaguely-defined (and assuredly open-ended) saga or are some half-hearted 50 Shades of Grey knockoff.
This doesn't feel like it's all that insoluble of a problem. Netflix faced and faces much the same dilemma: you can populate your library with nothing but crap, but people are going to notice and complain. People still complain about Netflix' selection, sure, but their ability to create some pretty great original shows and license a few popular mainstream movies every month (World War Z, uh, The Avengers, uhhhh, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, uhhhh....well, whatever, as long as I can watch any 30 Rock episode at any time, they're all right by me) keeps me paying them the $whatever a month that they demand of me. Someday I'll catch up on Luther, I swear.
I suppose the issue with the Lending Library is that it's a very small part of the Amazon Prime program and everyone's focus over there is attempting to remain competitive with Netflix. Honestly, they're doing a good job of that; the libraries are fairly similar on a movie basis, and Amazon's willingness to shell out what was very likely hundreds of millions of dollars to get the HBO back library is a sign that they're pretty serious about staying in the streaming race. Still, I love my Kindle, and I love reading, and I'd love to having something decent and free to read from the Lending Library. Pay a little money to get some Stephen King books from the 80s; pay someone to make a really killer Kindle version of the collected Shakespeare; do a reader's version of an out-of-copyright translation of War and Peace and do a book club around it. Do something. Just don't keep making me scroll through endless pages of shit like My Cursed Lover's Skeletal Curse...In The Scottish Highlands or The Xeembots Attack: Part Five of the Quadronian Saga to get to something worth reading. I don't believe I would like to spend my time doing that.