Reading Unlimited, Kindle Edition
Today’s Brew: Hot Blueberry. I have the AC going and I’m actually cold. The first world is a good place to be sometimes.
The big news in publishing this week was Amazon’s roll of of Kindle Unlimited. For 9.99 a month, customers have unlimited access to over 600,000 titles in Amazon’s print and audio library. If you missed it, here’s the announcement from Amazon:
Today we are excited to introduce Kindle Unlimited – a new subscription service for readers in the U.S. and a new revenue opportunity for authors enrolled in KDP Select. Customers will be able to read as many books as they want from a library of over 600,000 titles while subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. All books enrolled in KDP Select with U.S. rights will be automatically included in Kindle Unlimited.
KDP Select authors and publishers will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund each time a customer accesses their book from Kindle Unlimited and reads more than 10% of their book – about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books – as opposed to a payout when the book is simply downloaded. Only the first time a customer reads a book past 10% will be counted.
KDP Select books will also continue to be enrolled in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Japan where authors will continue to earn a share of the KDP Select global fund when their book is borrowed. KOLL borrows will continue to be counted when a book is initially downloaded.
For July we’ve added $800,000 to the fund, bringing the July fund amount to $2 million.
Too bad I am not the least bit tech savvy, because when I first subscribed to Netflix back in the way day, one of my first thoughts was, “Someone needs to do this with books!” Of course, at the time, no one had heard of an e-book, and I couldn’t figure out a way to make shipping heavy books back and forth profitable. Now that it exists, I still love the idea, but now that I’m an author, I have a whole difference set of questions, besides where do I sign up?
DISCLAIMER: As of writing this, my books are not in the KDP Select program or eligible for Kindle Unlimited.
Amazon isn’t the first company to do this. Scribd and Oyster have similar programs with a similar amount of inventory. But remember that number. 600,000. That sounds like a lot, and of course, the program is new, but that’s certainly not everything. Even if I were to get a tally of the books available on Amazon as I wrote this, it would be inaccurate by the time you read this. I’ve seen Amazon rankings as low as five million, so 600,000 is a great selection, but not everything.
Well, what’s included? So far, the big five publishers seem to be holding off. When I looked at the Kindle Unlimited Library, it reminded me a lot of Netflix. There isn’t a ton of new stuff featured, and even though there are some best sellers available, they’re not all available.
What’s not included? Self-published books are not eligible to participate unless they are signed up with KDP Select. If you’re not familiar with that program, it’s offered to self-published authors as well as small presses. Amazon gives special promotional opportunities, such as free download days and Kindle Countdown Deals, in exchange for an exclusive listing. The books KDP Select and now Kindle Unlimited can only be purchased, or now borrowed, from Amazon.
With the deluge of books that are being uploaded to Amazon and other retailers, free and discounted prices don’t pack the punch that they used to. When I uploaded my books, I didn’t think twice about distributing them to all retailers. Now indie authors may think twice about that, depending on the success of this program. I did, however, opt in for the lending option, which is available to Kindle Prime members.
I’m not crazy about limited choices. While there are some upfront benefits to exclusivity, there are some drawbacks that can always rear their ugly head. First, you’re limiting the amount of people who can have access to your product. Secondly, when there is no competition, there’s no need to be competitive. If the terms of the contract start to change, and the competition has been eliminated, then what do you do? You better start liking it, because there aren’t any other options. No thank you.
Subscribers pay a flat monthly fee, but how do authors and publishers get paid? Self published authors will be paid for Kindle Unlimited borrows through the KDP Global Fund, equal to a “lend.” Traditionally, this amount has been around two dollars per lend. However, traditionally published books will be compensated as if the book was purchased. I’m not exactly sure why there is a difference, but there is.
What does this mean for books? We’ll have to wait and see. For readers, it’s potentially amazing. However, I know I grew frustrated with Netflix. They didn’t have the selection I wanted, I didn’t always have a chance to watch my movies quickly enough to make the program really work for me. I never figured out how to stream from my computer to my TV. Eventually, I cancelled my subscription, and now I’ll get a movie from Redbox if I want to watch at home or actually go to the movies. (Note: I don’t watch a ton of movies, and I don’t even own any. I know, I’m weird.) As an author, I have noticed a slight dip in sales on Amazon since the program launched, but there are still sales. However, my sales on other retailers have remained strong, and right now they’re outperforming my Amazon listings by about three to one. Had I not had my books available on other retailers, would I have the same amount of lends through KU? There’s no way to tell, but right now, I’m not scrambling to disable my listings on the other retailers.
This is definitely something to watch. I think all of us, as writers and readers, just want people to read and discover great books. The program is super new, and it will grow with the needs and wants of its subscribers. I want to see it succeed, because anything that gets more people reading more books is a good thing.