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Kindle Unlimited: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Posted on 2014-Jul-29

by Paul Salvette

Amazon’s Latest Foray

In case you missed it, during the time frame between when Amazon announced its new smartphone and when they launched a 3D Print on Demand service, they rolled out Kindle Unlimited. This new program allows unlimited reading of around 600K eBooks and access to audio books for $10/month. The idea of a “Netflix for eBooks” is not new as Scribd and Oyster have been trying this model since 2013. Although, now that big, bad Amazon is in the game, this may usher in a new era in the way readers consume eBooks.

Indie Discrimination

While BB eBooks is generally supportive of Amazon’s business decisions (hey, they’ve helped our clients make a lot of money), there are some troubling aspects for the way that books get enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. Mark Coker touched on this and Digital Book World has some good details on the downsides of the program. Basically, if any of your books was in KDP Select, your book is probably available in the Kindle Unlimited library right now, whether you like it or not. Kindle Select, of course, requires you to not publish your eBook anywhere except through KDP. For indies to get their books into Kindle Unlimited, they have to be in KDP Select; however, for big publishers there are exceptions.

Most disturbing is how authors are paid out. Big publishers get paid out the same as a sale when a Kindle Unlimited reader passes the 10% mark in the eBook. However, indie authors who use KDP Select get paid out of the KDP Select Global Fund. The fund is currently $2,000,000, which may sound like a lot, but consider that there are 600,000 eBooks in the program. So assuming you have an average selling eBook, you’ll get a lousy $3.50 or so. That’s not even enough to buy a rope to hang yourself.

Feedback from Authors

We’ve spoken with some of our well-respected clients who have many good selling eBooks on the market. Many unintentionally had their eBooks brought into Kindle Unlimited since they already had eBooks enrolled in KDP Select. Some saw their sales drop overnight as the result of Kindle Unlimited, which means that the avid super-readers may be switching over to Kindle Unlimited. Also, many indie clients of ours are understandably ticked off with the two-tier royalty payment system. However, some authors are happy with their eBooks in Kindle Unlimited since their sales and genre ranking has shot up.

Amazon’s Foibles

Amazon needs to be careful about causing huge drops in income for indie authors, or they are going to kill the golden goose. I’m going to go on a hunch and say that very little author feedback was solicited in the development of the Kindle Unlimited program. The feudalistic mentality of “we know what’s best for you little authors” is becoming apparent in most eBook vendors and is why many indie authors abandoned their big publishers. If Amazon totally commoditizes eBooks, then authors won’t be able to write full-time and KDP will only become a platform for hobbyist writers rather than indie authors who treat their work as a business. People who write a book to fulfill a lifelong ambition are great, but most of the hot-selling eBooks from KDP are from authors who have written a lot of eBooks and have spent a lot of time learning about their fan base and publishing. If KDP is just for hobbyists, then readers should be prepared for a lot less novels and a whole lotta memoirs.

Additionally, the new Kindle Unlimited program will make it a bit tougher for new authors starting out, since they won’t be able to as effectively use a lower price entry for their eBooks.

You Can Only Trust Yourself

Unlike many of the tech companies, BB eBooks does not purport to know what is best for writers. However, one common trend we notice among successful authors is that they do not count on any one company or organization for their success. Consider the pros and cons before putting an eBook into Kindle Select/Kindle Unlimited and how it will affect your bottom line. Also, Amazon is a business and looking to make as much money off writers’ hard-work as possible. While not having your eBook on Amazon would be foolish at this stage of the industry, consider other channels you could publish your eBook (iTunes, Nook, Kobo, Google Play, etc.) Recall that publishing through Kindle Select only allows your eBook to go through one channel, and Amazon can do whatever they like with it. Above all, it seems that success is determined largely on what you write and who your fans are rather than where and how your eBooks are sold. Best of luck out there.

Label: Self-Publishing

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