Myth or Fact: Does Amazon Own My Ebook When I Publish On Kindle?

We’ve all heard rumors about e-publishing and having all of your rights stolen without payment. Sometimes these rumors are spread by someone malicious, and sometimes they’re spread by people who misinterpret agreements they’ve read online. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes hard to figure out whether a rumor is a myth or a fact.

So, here’s an article based on a question posed by a student in my course, Publish and Sell Your Ebooks.

Question: Does Amazon Own My Ebook?

Smartphone screen with apps
Smartphone screen with apps

After watching an episode of CBC Marketplace titled, Are Your Apps Spying on You, a student became nervous about what the language in agreements you sign to use products and services online really allows.

Shows like this, though, rather than telling you not use apps or websites or any of the multitude of services we have online, are designed to show you how important it is to read those agreements before you check the “I agree” button and download or install them.

The student went on to investigate Amazon, the Kindle app she was using, and selling ebooks through KDP. This was her interpretation of what she read: Anything posted on their site belongs to them, becomes their copyright and by letting them post it you give them perpetual and irrevocable rights to reproduce it without royalties in any form in any media whatsoever, even to reconfigure it as well.

The Answer

Copyright symbol and keyboard
Copyright symbol and keyboard

No, you don’t give your books or your rights to Amazon when you become a publisher and upload your ebooks to sell on their website. Amazon is a store not a publisher (they do, however, also have their own publishing company, but that’s different). You sign the same agreement as some of the biggest publishers in the world, who sell all of their print and digital ebooks through Amazon.

Selling your own ebooks through KDP is a very good deal for you as an independent publisher!

You set the price you want to sell your book at (which dictates the amount of royalty you’ll get) and unpublish your book whenever you want. Amazon doesn’t control your book in any way, except to remove it from their store if there are enough complaints about the quality of writing, grammar and spelling, until you fix it.

The Kindle app is something altogether different and that’s what Amazon owns. It’s a piece of software that Amazon has created and chosen to give you in order to read ebooks published in the Kindle Store. It’s just another piece of software or an application, such as Microsoft Word or Paint.

Whether you’re given permission to use it for free or you buy it, commercially licensed software someone else develops typically says you can’t do anything to it, like going in and rewriting the code or copying the trademark protected components to apply to a similar product you sell yourself. The rights to the product belong to the publisher.

It’s exactly the same as a book or article you write. When someone buys your book (hardcover, paperback, or electronic format), they buy the right to read it, but they can’t rewrite the book a little and sell it as their own.

When you’re selecting apps to download to install on your phone, check the star ratings first. If an app has one or two stars, skip it. Look for 4 or 5 star averages if possible. Read through the comments left by others who have downloaded the app. If they’re bad, skip it. Finally, read the agreement yourself and be sure you understand the language, as it can be confusing.

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