Lending & Borrowing mean different things at Amazon

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


Amazon has two completely unrelated Kindle programs which use similar words.

  • borrowing: readers can borrow Kindle e-books through Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited.
  • lending: the Kindle Book Lending program allows customers to lend one book to someone else for up to 14 days.

These two programs have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

To make matters potentially more confusing, Amazon uses the word lending in KOLL: Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. In this abbreviation, ‘lending’ does actually refer to Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime. But in Kindle Book Lending, the word ‘lending’ means something entirely different.

Both options—borrowing as it relates to Kindle Unlimited and lending as it relates to Kindle Book Lending—appear in different places when you publish an e-book with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

  • The top of the first page of the publishing process has the option to enroll in KDP Select. This includes your book in Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime (which are two separate programs).
  • The bottom of the second page of the publishing process has the option to participate in Kindle Book Lending. This has nothing to do with Kindle Unlimited (or Amazon Prime).


This allows a customer to lend the Kindle e-book to one friend or family member for up to 14 days:

  • Each customer can only lend the e-book one time only.
  • The original customer can’t read the book until it’s returned.
  • It can only be loaned for up to 14 days.

Authors have no control over this if they choose the 70% royalty option.

If authors choose the 35% royalty option, then can choose to opt out of Kindle Book Lending.

Since each customer can only loan the e-book to a single person, any possible loss through lending is severely limited.

The Kindle Book Lending option doesn’t affect Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime in any way.


Customers can subscribe to Kindle Unlimited for $9.99 per month in the US (the fee is different in the UK).

A monthly subscription to Kindle Unlimited entitles customers to borrow as many Kindle Unlimited e-books as they would like.

Not all e-books participate in Kindle Unlimited. All KDP Select books are included in Kindle Unlimited, plus about 100,000 traditionally published books.

Approximately 1,000,000 of over 3,000,000 Kindle e-books are included in Kindle Unlimited.

Customers can borrow up to 10 books at a time. After that, the customer must return one of the 10 books before borrowing another.

Kindle Unlimited is unrelated to Amazon Prime.

(While Kindle Unlimited now pays authors by the page, customers are not charged by the page. Customers pay $9.99 per month and can then read as many pages of Kindle Unlimited e-books as they would like with no additional charge.)


Customers pay an annual fee to join Amazon Prime.

Amazon Prime offers many benefits, such as free two-day shipping of many eligible products, instant streaming of Amazon Prime videos, and borrowing up to one Kindle e-book per month.

There are about 100,000 Kindle e-books which are available to Kindle Unlimited customers, which are not available for Amazon Prime customers.

Unlike Kindle Unlimited, Amazon Prime customers can only borrow one Kindle e-book per month.

Customers must browse for Amazon Prime e-books using a Kindle device registered to the Prime account. (Before Kindle Unlimited, Amazon Prime customers could shop for Kindle e-books from their pc, mac, or laptop, but now they must shop for Amazon Prime books using a registered Kindle device.)

(In contrast, you don’t need to own a Kindle device to use Kindle Unlimited.)

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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