Kindle Unlimited: Reader and Writer Perspective
Last month, when Kindle announced its subscription reading service, Kindle Unlimited, I jumped on board the free trial as a reader, both feet planted firmly. I’d already tried the Scribd version of subscription reading and while the selection was amazing and filled with tons of books I’d wanted to read, having to read on my iPad was miserable (Scribd can’t—and I doubt will ever—allow reading on an e-ink device).
The reader part of me thought that Kindle Unlimited, at $9.99 a month, would be a tremendous bargain. I’m a reader, not a collector, so I had no trouble with the concept of reading books and giving them back before downloading more. It may come as a surprise that, on Sunday when my free trial is up, I will be cancelling the service. Why? Because for the most part, the collection subscribers have access to contains books I want to read that are available for free through my library, books I don’t want to read, or books I want to read that, purchased once a month, are less than the cost of the subscription. Since I do most of my reading through the library (which has a rockin’ eBook selection in this area), it’s not unreasonable to think that I might only spend $3-$6 a month on books that I could have read through KU (books not available in the program wouldn’t count since I’d have to buy them anyway).
Right now, as a reader, KU just isn’t worth the price of the subscription.
As a writer, or self-publisher, I’m not sure where I stand. I can see the potential for profit with the tools that Amazon provides its exclusive authors (in order to get a book into KU, you will generally have to go exclusive with Amazon), but I don’t trust that the payout for KU (which is triggered when a reader goes past the 10% mark in your book) will remain high enough to make it worth having novels in the program.
Additionally, I’m concerned about their tracking accuracy. Last month, KDP noted that they had inadvertently tracked all book opens as a read past 10%. Since this was their mistake, they’re still paying the authors who were under the mistaken impression that their books got read past the payment point, but this leaves me feeling icky in my gutsack about their accuracy going forward. Also, they shaved about 10% off the usual payments for Kindle Prime borrows (since those are now basically lumped in with KU borrows). Now, I don’t think anyone is surprised that Prime borrow payments went down—I mean, you don’t have to be a math whiz to understand that the pool got diluted with KU—but if Amazon starts adding pricier traditionally published books to the KU pool, for which *if I understand this correctly* they pay publishers the full book commission, indies could see their pool of KU/Prime funds shrink exponentially.
Naturally, this is all conjecture. My tea leaves this morning were all jacked up and my chakras are smudged and whatever. Like many others, I’ve chosen a few books to put into KU to test it out and measure it against historical sales at other outlets. And while I’m ultimately interested in profit, I’m also interested in some form of stability. Right now, I just don’t see how I can count on that with KU. But, you know, maybe I’ll be wrong.