Kindle Unlimited Not a Great Deal for Readers or Authors

One of my Goodreads friends recently asked if he could find my works on Amazon’s recently launched Kindle Unlimited scheme. Here is what I told him:

My books aren’t enrolled in Kindle Select and won’t be. Authors who participate are mostly losing money compared to before. Authors who aren’t in it are also seeing sales drop. Everyone is losing money but Amazon. There are now 700,000 books on Kindle Unlimited. That may sound like a lot, but unless you only read indies, most books you want to read are not there. Traditional publishers can put books into Kindle Unlimited and still sell those  books in other venues like Nook Books and Kobo. However, indies have to also be enrolled in Kindle Select to be on Kindle Unlimited, which means they have to sell those ebooks exclusively on Kindle, and many authors (and readers) feel that that lack of competition is not a good thing.

Here’s are some more  reasons why Kindle Unlimited is bad for authors: Readers can use Kindle Select as a private (but expensive) library. They can borrow your book, but if they don’t bother to actually read it, you get NOTHING. If they do read more than 10%, you get something, but it’s far less than if they bought it. It’s a flat fee — not sure how it works, but what you want to charge or the length of the book has nothing to do with it. I’d still have the same issue of making mine stand out and get noticed, but then even if someone noticed it, I wouldn’t get paid much. The ranking on Amazon, which is important because a higher ranking means Amazon shows your books to more people won’t be spike from a borrow the same as it will from a sale. It’s not like I’m making much now, but I would  make less using Select. That’s the experience of authors so far. It only makes sense if you are using it for the first in a series — the kind you could write quickly, or for some short stories or something. Because most  books in Kindle Unlimited ARE indies, it further keeps my books in the “indie jail” where mainstream readers won’t even see them.

Here’s why it’s a bad deal for readers: (1) You could buy all the works I have on Kindle for THE SAME MONEY as enrolling for one month on Kindle Unlimited, and they’d be yours forever. Most indie books are very inexpensive even now, and there are plenty of ways to save more money on books, such as:  (2) You can decide to buy a Kindle book after you read a sample, so you could save money just by downloading and reading the samples before you buy. (3) If you buy a book — even an ebook, it is yours theoretically forever. If you use Unlimited you can only borrow a limited number of books to read at a time. They aren’t on your cloud, and if don’t get to them and want more, you have to return the unused ones. You also lose them if you quit the program, so if you haven’t gotten to them after one month, you’re still paying a kind of “storage fee” for them the next month. (4) Most traditionally published new books are NOT available on Kindle Unlimited, and not all indie books are, so the “select” part of Indie Select is not great. (5) Here are even more better ways of getting books cheap and/or for free: (a) Read more indie books! They are mostly priced between 99 cents and $4.99! (b) Many indie authors will give away their books in exchange for honest reviews,so you can write and ask (c) Become a reviewer for NetGalley. If you review books regularly on Goodreads, they will consider you a “professional” and even offer you new traditionally published books. (d) Public libraries exist for trad published books and have a wider selection than Kindle Unlimited — including ebooks — although there might be wait times. (e) If you read paper as well as digitally, Amazon has many used books for only the postage costs,  and if you are lucky enough to live near a used book store, you’ll find tons of bargains there. (f) A lot of ebooks — including both indies and traditionally published ones have limited time sales for really low prices and even ebook giveaways. You can subscribe FREE to services like BookBub that email you alerting you to sales or services like E-Reader IQ that will track the prices of books you want to read!

So unless you exclusively read indie ebooks (including really short ones and ones that nobody has “discovered” yet)  and ebooks by trad publishers that are no longer selling that well, and unless you read more than $9.99 (US price) worth of these types of book per month, and can’t think of or don’t want to bother with other ways to get them that would be less costly than paying full price, I don’t think this is a bargain.

(Don’t agree? Got something to add? Comments are always welcome. Also while you are here, why not click on one of the books above in “my picks”? Or better yet, go here and check out my new novel, and its glowing reviews. Feel free to link the sh*t out of this post!)

2 thoughts on “Kindle Unlimited Not a Great Deal for Readers or Authors

  1. Don’t KU payments work similarly to KOLL? The latter pays a bit over $2 per borrowing, which is more than royalty for many indies. But I agree that exclusivity prerequisite for Select membership might indeed be a dealbreaker for all but very novice authors. Also, I agree that KU is a good deal only for a subset of readers – perhaps compulsive readers of simple genre fiction, who will quickly devour all romance, or postapocalyptic, or “urban fantasy” (whatever that might mean) fiction indies can throw at them.

    FWIW, other “netflix for books” services (one is scribd; I don’t remember the other) seem to be doing well with tradpubs: both have lined up three out of “big fives” so far – not bad for such young services. Perhaps it is just an attempt of big five to provide some competition to Amazon.

    1. I have to admit to some confusion regarding KU and KOLL. And how they are different exactly, given that KU acts as a library. In any case, per this NY Times article in January —, writers were getting $1.39 for borrows on KU — once readers passed the 10% mark. But it wasn’t clear to me if this is the same royalty for ALL books or if it has anything to do with the books price point. If $1.39 were the standard, that would be awesome for people who write quick read, short novels and novellas that might sell for that or less. It would not be great for people trying to sell reasonably priced full length novels who are currently getting more than that for ebooks retailing at $2.99. Amazon is also doing a lot to cajole indie authors into exclusivity. As it stands now the 70% royalty rate for ebook costing $2.99 or over does not exist in some countries — like India UNLESS the writer is enrolled in Kindle Select. So even though Amazon already controls the ebook market, they are playing hardball in trying to destroy their few remaining competitors.

      In any case, per your comments, I agree that KU might not be a bad deal for ALL authors and ALL readers. It’s just not a good one for most.

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