Amazon to start Kindle Unlimited, a service similar to Scribd/Oyster?

Nate at The Digital Reader broke a fascinating story this morning. Some authors on KBoards noticed an Amazon webpage for “Kindle Unlimited.”

kindle unlimited page?

Image from KBoards via Dear Author

According to Nate:

Details are still vague, but at this point I know that about 6 hours ago several authors noticed that there was a new page in the Kindle Store. That page was shortly taken down, but while it was up it was titled Kindle Unlimited, and it offered readers access to a catalog of 600,000 ebook and audiobook titles for $9.99 (per month or per year, I don’t know).

As you might expect, there’s been much discussion of this on the KBoards thread. Readers are loving the idea of unlimited audiobooks, but authors are less thrilled. Here is a comment from one author

Considering that ACX already reduced the royalties and has 100% control over the sale price, you can darn well bet audiobook people are going to get 100% screwed on this. They already discount audiobooks to oblivion.

Another author noted that is was (briefly) in the Select FAQ this morning and quoted this (admittedly from memory, so take with a grain of salt).

Books in Select will automatically be enrolled. Like the KOLL you won’t be able to opt-out if you’re in Select.
You will be payed if you someone reads 10% or more of your book.
The payment will come out of the same KOLL fund, just as if it was a borrow.

What has some authors (justifiably) concerned is that there was no mention if the Select fund was going to be increased. While I think that’s unlikely, it’s a valid concern. The more people who use the service and read books, the less each book will get per borrow. I think it’s unlikely however, because there is a cost to this service. My hunch is that at least some of the cost will go to increasing the fund.

Also, if the author’s memory is correct, don’t you love that 10% is becoming the “accepted” amount for payouts in subscription services?

Obviously, it’s all speculation at this point, but it’ll be interesting to see what actually comes of it. Any bets that it will go live on July 25, the same day the Fire Phone ships?

4 Comments on Amazon to start Kindle Unlimited, a service similar to Scribd/Oyster?

  1. Hmmm … it will be interesting to see if it has any of the books that I wait for from the library. It would be nice not to be 77th in line. 😉

  2. @MrsMac, you may still be waiting. More sites are covering the story, and it sounds like there are no Big 5 books in it yet, which are likely the publishers of the books you are waiting for.

  3. I’ve been signing up for library distributions elsewhere, but I suspect I’ll do whatever it takes to opt out of Kindle Unlimited.

    Why? Check the Amazon detail page for any printed books you might have. It’s quite likely you’ll find a link to used versions. I just did for one of mine, a $12.95 paperback that had 14 used copies available for as low as $7.15. I won’t get a penny if Amazon customers buy used, but Amazon will. Like I’ve said repeatedly, Amazon isn’t an author’s friend. It’s no one’s friend but itself.

    Now imagine Amazon adding a Kindle Unlimited link to that same page. I make a little under $3 if they buy that paperback. I doubt I’ll make more than a fraction of that if readers get it through Kindle Unlimited.

    Keep in mind what’s going on here. On the detail page for your books, Amazon has several ways a reader can get your book. In some cases you earn decent money, in some your earn a pittance, and in some you earn nothing. Amazon doesn’t care since, in every case, it earns money, substantially so for most ebooks. (My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that Amazon, for various reasons, earn about twice as much profit per-sale as Apple.) You can’t prevent those used sales, but you can prevent library rentals that pay a pittance.

    For authors and small publishers, I suggest watching what the Big Five publishers do. They can test Kindle Unlimited with a few titles and put their experts onto seeing if that pays or not. If they stay out, you’d be well-advised to do likewise.

    One additional note. The fact that Amazon is mentioning that 600,000-book figure suggests that it is coming up with some scheme that forcible opts authors into Kindle Unlimited, requiring that steps be taken to opt out. Than hints that Amazon doubts the program makes much sense for the typical author.

  4. @Michael Perry, I doubt you’ll have to worry about it. It appears this will be a Select only option, as my article indicated. Since you’re not in Select and not likely to ever be, you won’t be eligible to be in the program. Neither will I since I’ve always thought Select was too limiting.

    If I’m wrong about it being Select only, then I’ll evaluate it the same way I’ve evaluated my other distribution channels. Personally, I’ve been happy with my payouts from Scribd. No one’s read me yet in Oyster. :(

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