Amazon's Kindle Unlimited: Netflix for Books?
Apparently, someone in Amazon’s product development department subscribes to my newsletter. Just two weeks after my review of Scribd, Amazon came out with Kindle Unlimited, their Scribd-killing 'all-you-can-eat' ebook offering. Here's the scoop...
Hello Kindle Unlimited, Goodbye Scribd
As I mentioned in my article Is Scribd For Dummies>, Scribd charges $8.99 per month for unlimited access to e-books. Kindle Unlimited charges $9.99. Scribd has about 400,000 e-books from nearly 1,000 publishers. Amazon claims over 600,000 titles from an unknown number of publishers, though we do know that five big ones are missing.
HarperCollins (who’s on Scribd), Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and MacMillan are not on Kindle Unlimited. Industry speculation is that these publishers are not happy with Amazon’s Walmart-like negotiating tactics, as exemplified in its ongoing dispute with Hachette, the fourth largest U.S. book publisher.
Details of the fight have not been revealed but the fallout is painfully evident. Amazon has delayed deliveries of some Hachette titles and removed the option to pre-order “The Silkworm,” by Robert Galbraith, who is really “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.
One does not frustrate Potter fans with impunity; recent surveys reveal about 20 percent of those aware of the Hachette issue are buying more of their books from non-Amazon sources as a result. Stephen Colbert, a Hachette author, lambasted Amazon on his satirical TV show, calling upon authors to boycott the e-tailer.
The European Union’s anti-trust arm is “trying to understand what is going on,” perhaps the most charming admission that has ever come out of a government agency.
And over in North Carolina, startup Entitle, a self-described “hybrid of Netflix and a book club” is trying to put a brave face on things. Entitle, founded by a former pharmaceutical sales rep with no tech or retail experience, wishes everyone to know that it does have all the publishers that Kindle Unlimited lacks and competition is a good thing. Entitle's $9.99 plan entitles you to read two ebooks per month.
Marketplace Disruption: The New Normal
Amazon is disrupting the book-selling business once again, earning the ire and adulation of publishers and readers, respectively. But this might be a good time to note that Amazon has not shown a significant profit in any of its twenty (that’s “20”) years. One must wonder what Jeff Bezos is really up to, and why the stock market loves him.
Bezos would cast Amazon as the liberator of authors enslaved by publishing houses. Amazon offers authors Kindle Direct Publishing (Kindle KDP), a means to publish their works as Kindle e-books and share in a global revenue fund. Who needs publishers that chisel authors with complicated contractual gotchas, right?
Except Amazon has its own chisels. Along with the debut of Kindle Unlimited comes the announcement of a change to the Kindle KDP Select program that does not look favorable to authors. Formerly, authors earned money when their books were downloaded; now, they earn nothing until a reader actually reads at least 10 percent of the book. Presumably, Kindle reader software counts each digital “page turn” as a page read, and that’s how Amazon will determine when 10 percent of a book has been read.
Kindle KDP Select pays authors when their Kindle e-books are purchased or borrowed in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. In return, authors agree not to distribute the digital versions of their works anywhere else.) Royalty rates vary by country, reaching up to 70 percent of revenue in Japan, Brazil, and a few other places.
But of course, 70 percent of pennies is still pennies. The trend for Kindle edition prices is inexorably downward. Authors run the same risk of starvation by obfuscation that they run with traditional publishers.
Is It Worth It?
For readers, “unlimited books for $X per month” is a rather disingenuous proposition. There are more free books in the smallest public library than anyone can read in a month. Realistically, four books per month is probably the high end of the consumer’s comfort zone, assuming the reader has any life at all.
But according to Digital Book World, the average price of a best-selling ebook is about $7.50. So avid readers of popular and current titles who consume at least two books per month may find the price point of Kindle Unlimited attractive.
Will you pay ten dollars a month for all the ebooks you can read? How many CAN you read in a month? Inquiring minds want to know, so post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 25 Jul 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Amazon's Kindle Unlimited: Netflix for Books? (Posted: 25 Jul 2014)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved