Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kindle Unlimited: Provides Significant Limitations for Authors & Readers

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

As you may have heard by now, Amazon has released its latest program, Kindle Unlimited. It's a subscription based service much like Netflix for movies and directly competes against Scribd and Oyster, distributing a list of ebook choices for a monthly subscription fee. 


Yet, the service is not so unlimited

While Scribd offers up to 400,000 ebooks for a monthly fee of $9, Oyster offers 500,000 and Kindle Unlimited is now offering up to 600,000 for a monthly fee of $10 per month. These services do not offer readers choices from the latest bestsellers lists, unless those books happen to be published through Simon & Schuster or Harper Collins since Scribd and Oyster have made special arrangements with those publishers. 




Kindle Unlimited Offers Significant Limitations for Readers

  • The latest bestsellers will not be offered. If readers want to read these books, they will still have to purchase them separately in addition to paying this monthly fee or find them for free in a library system--when they become available. The big five publishers are not included in the Amazon Unlimited selection. If you have any self-published favorite authors, their works will not be included either--unless they publish exclusively with Amazon in their Kindle Select program. 
  • Some Amazon Unlimited books are already offered to Amazon Prime members for free. The difference is, with Prime readers can only download one free book per month and those books must be downloaded on Amazon devices. Kindle Unlimited allows readers to download up to 10 books per month simultaneously, on up to six devices, and those devices do not have to be Amazon devices. Audio books are not available with Prime, but they are with Kindle Unlimited. 
  • A portion of Kindle Unlimited ebooks are also available for FREE at Project Gutenberg. As many as 45,000 of these ebooks are available in the public domain at Project Gutenberg. It makes the mind wonder, how many of these books have inflated that 600,000 number that Amazon Unlimited is offering. The service is heavy on classics and self-published books through their Kindle Select program.
  • Readers need to be reading at least 2 books per month for the service to have value. For readers who may only read a book per month, it wouldn't be worth paying the monthly fee. The typical American only reads five books per year. This statistic is from Pew Internet and American Life Project--and could be why so many authors are struggling to make a living at writing books. Most authors have to supplement their writing income with other jobs. 


For the record, I believe Kindle Unlimited will still be profitable and a successful business model. Netflix and Hulu have proven the success of this business model, and Amazon may be the one to prove it in the book industry, if other services like Scribd and Ortho have yet to prove it to you. There are enough people out there who will subscribe to this service---even in the absence of the big five book publishers and their bestsellers lists. Some of my favorite books never made it to the bestsellers lists, so I wouldn't make my decision based on their absence or presence, and I'm sure there are many others who are like me in that regard. I have other reasons for not subscribing to Kindle Unlimited--at this time.

Kindle Unlimited Offers Significant Limitations for Authors


  • Most self-published authors must be enrolled in the Kindle Select program. This means they will not be able to sell their books on any other site or platform, including their own website. Their books will not be available on Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, Apple's iBook store, etc. A few select bestselling authors may be the exception to this requirement, as well as traditionally published authors.
  • Self-Published authors will not know how much they are being paid per book. Each month Amazon will set aside a pool of money that will be used to pay self-published authors in the Kindle Unlimited program. It may vary from month to month. Traditionally published authors will be paid the same as they would if the book had sold to a reader. 
  • Authors will not be paid until 10% of a book is read. It isn't enough that a reader download an author's book. The author will not be paid until the reader reads up to 10% of the book. This could cut into an author's income significantly. Think of all the people who buy books and set them aside for awhile before actually reading them. Through Amazon's normal system, if a book is purchased and downloaded, the author is paid regardless of when or how much the book is read. Through Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited, there is the potential that thousands of books could be downloaded and the authors never receive a payment. Think about it. How many books do YOU have on your shelf or downloaded on your device that you haven't yet read?

All my books are traditionally published  through a publisher with the exception of one book, Awakened Redemption. I made it available on Kindle Select for a few months, but did not re-enroll into the program because while it was okay, I was not impressed enough to keep giving Amazon exclusivity. Rather than re-enroll this book so it can be available for Kindle Unlimited, I'm planning on releasing it in other formats such as the Nook, Kobo and iBooks. 

2 comments:

Thanks for this overview. I received an email about Kindle Unlimited and I thought it sounded amazing. I think I will pass.

You are so welcome Emma. Promotions don't always tell the details. Have a great day!