Diva Chat: Kindle Unlimited
With the start of Amazon’s new program Kindle Unlimited, I asked the Divas to weigh-in on the pros and cons.
For those not in the know, Amazon rolled out Kindle Unlimited, a subscription e-book service. For $9.99 a month, subscribers receive unlimited access to participating e-books and audiobooks listed on Amazon.
I asked the Divas to answer the following questions:
- How will it impact the indie book industry?
- How will it impact readers?
- Is it a good idea? Is it a bad idea? And why.
On the surface, this looks like a great deal for the reader, but when you take a closer look, it’s not as good a deal as one would think. Let’s look at the price: $9.99 a month. That comes to almost $120 a year. When compared to Amazon Prime at $99 a year, which includes 1 free e-book a month, the Lending Library, streaming videos and free two-day shipping on Amazon orders, Kind Unlimited doesn’t look as bright and shiny. But what if you read more than one book per month? You’ve got me there, but unless you limit your reading to the self-published and indie markets, you’re not going to get access to as many of the best-selling published authors as you’d expect. Why?
The Big Five publishers are not participating. That means anything published by Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster will not be part of the subscription.
That’s a lot of books. Add to that authors who don’t want to participate (we’ll talk about why in a minute), and the catalog of books available for Kindle Unlimited doesn’t seem as all-inclusive anymore. On the plus side, you’re not locked into the service for a year like Amazon Prime. You can cancel at any time if you’re not satisfied, plus there’s a 30-day free trial period.
From the author side of the program, it may or may not be a better deal. Authors certainly won’t make as much money per book with Kindle Unlimited. However, if you are an author who typically lists your books for free or $0.99, you might see a small increase in profits. The issue here is that if you enroll in Kindle Unlimited, you cannot sell your books anywhere else. KDP does the same thing, but it has a time limit of three months, so after that, authors can sell their books wherever they want. Not so with Kindle Unlimited.
My advice for authors is to do your research before you sign up for Kindle Unlimited. Simple logic will tell you that $9.99 a month split between a bunch of authors means less money per author, because you know Amazon is going to take the bigger piece of the money pie, if not now, then certainly later when they control a bigger part of the market. There’s a reason the Big Five opted out of this program. Aside from the obvious fact that Amazon wants to rule the publishing world, I suspect much of it has to do with the bottom line. Most who publish, whether traditional, indie or a self-published, are ruled by profits. So ask yourself why the Big Five said no, see if the reasons are sound, and if they apply to your situation.
I gotta tell you—I was intrigued. I read a lot, and I’m always on the lookout for a bargain, so it sounded good. $9.99 isn’t that much, not really. When you multiply it by twelve, it’s a different story, but let’s not go there yet. For now, I’m just a reader. I’ll be an author later.
Almost everything I read is in electronic format. Not that I have anything against print books; actually, I love print books. I’m not normally a repeat reader, though, so buying the print book just isn’t fiscally responsible, in my opinion. And while I understand the price points around e-books, I tend to buy them when they’re on sale—so less than $3.99 each.
When you add that all up, on the surface this might sound like a good deal… but still I hesitate. I borrow from my local library; its e-book selection is quite extensive. I have been known to receive complimentary ARCs from NetGalley for review, and I do love to surf the free listings from online retailers. See where I’m going with this? Not all the books I read are actually paid titles. And this doesn’t even take into consideration the in-progress titles I’m lucky enough to read while I’m editing. And then I see that the top five houses have said no to Kindle Unlimited. That kind of made my decision even easier.
As a reader, I’ve said no to Kindle Unlimited. I don’t think it’s worth the money for me—or for readers who read exclusively electronic format. There are too many other options available, which make it not cost effective.
As an author, the exclusivity is what stalls me every time I consider the options.
I’m not a fan of the monopoly, and that’s what I think Amazon wants to be. I’d like to be free to sell my book at Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and indie online bookstores—if they’d like to carry it.
I’m pretty sure I don’t want a smaller piece of a muddy pie, which is what I’m afraid authors will be left with instead of actual book sales. Could this service get titles out to those readers who perhaps indie authors have never reached before? Definitely. But I don’t think the additional restrictions will benefit as many indie authors as Amazon imagines it will.
Do I think Kindle Unlimited will impact the indie book industry? Not really. Do I think it will impact the readers? Perhaps short-term; I think there will be readers signing up for the free trial, but I don’t think many will continue on with the paid service.
On the outside, to the regular reader who may read two or more books a month, this sounds like a great program. Ten dollars a month pays for at least two e-books, so it could be worth your money. There’s 600,000 titles to choose from here. Who wouldn’t find the value in that? I see the WIN in that scenario. For the reader who reads here and there, not so much. The cost wouldn’t justify the use. But if you think about it, Kindle Unlimited isn’t really for the reader who only reads one book a month. It’s for the reader who devours books. How would it impact readers? I don’t see a big change now. There have been programs like this for a while. It’s just that now Amazon is offering it, and Amazon has the highest profile with the biggest influence.
The impact it can have on the book industry, I think, would have been more significant if the Big Five decided to participate in the program. But alas, they opted out.
They knew it would hurt their sales and if they knew this, wouldn’t it hurt indie authors’ sales too? Amazon wants indie authors to publish exclusively with Kindle Unlimited to take advantage of the program. Because, hey, indie is where it’s at in e-books these days. I’m sure there are added financial gains in it for authors, but to me, it’s putting all your eggs in one basket. Why would you limit yourself to one publishing source? Granted Amazon is the biggest e-book publisher, but there are still markets to be found with other sellers of e-books and they can impact sales of indie books.
Is it bad or good? That remains to be seen. With the trends in publishing changing so much, Kindle Unlimited could change it yet again.
So… Janine asked us what we think about this new service from Amazon, and I cringed because I knew there was a bit of a soapbox in my future. Don’t get me wrong. I’m attached to my e-reader at the hip, but there is a huge part of me that mourns the loss of print books. And there is an even bigger part of me that sees this whole trend from ownership to access as extremely troubling. I’m a big proponent of ownership over renting—whether it’s my house, my car, or my books. If you are going to spend money, why not spend it on something you have—not something you have until you stop paying or someone says you can’t have it any longer? There really is something to be said for owning something tangibly.
Kindle Unlimited has been compared by some as an updated (and paid for) version of the public library, and while that is true on the surface, it’s really not. And reason is found in the limitations of Kindle “Unlimited.” Kind of an ironic title, isn’t it? The truth is, this new program is extremely limited. You can’t find books from Random House or Simon & Schuster or really hardly any books from authors you may actually want to read—unless the books are public domain. If I go to my public library, not only are my favorite authors there, but they are there for me to read for free. What’s more, in Tennessee the public library offers a site that allows its users to download e-books and audio books (from all my favorite Big Five publishers) for free as long as I have a library card. It’s called R.E.A.D.S. And Tennessee isn’t the only state that offers this service. So again, why would I pay for access to Amazon’s service?
It’s convenient no doubt…but it’s not that convenient, especially when it involves Amazon pilfering my bank account every month.
My other concern is that this product sets Amazon up to become a bigger monopoly than it is now. When companies become monopolies, they become tyrannical. It’s arguable if Amazon has fallen into the tyrannical category yet, but… Let’s face it, if Amazon gets the biggest market share in this new trend toward renting, who’s going to suffer? Perhaps not the consumers—not yet—but the authors surely will. They will suffer from cut payouts, reduced shares, exclusivity, etc. And they will submit because they have no choice but to go to the place where the market is. And when (not if) this company closes their fist on the market and the authors, and there is no competition to keep the prices low, that is when the consumer will also pay.
So while I applaud the opening of new markets to indie authors because it will help them get their books out there, I do not rejoice when I see a company like Amazon becoming bloated and exclusive and avaricious.
Now it’s your turn to sound off. What do you think of Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited? Are you planning to participate as a reader, as an author, or both?
Now… go write something!