Amazon launches subser: Kindle Unlimited?
The Year Ahead: 2014
post in December, I made this guess about what might happen:
“Kindle Unlimited: Amazon does an “all you can eat” plan
I think this has become a lot more likely. Amazon already has it for kids, and rumor is that they’ve been talking to publishers about it. They could open it with mostly independently published books, but they would hopefully get HarperCollins or some other tradpub (traditional publisher) to join in. You’d be able to read as many books as you wanted out of a select group. I could see this being discounted with Prime, or available without it. Let’s say… about$20 a month without Prime, $5 with it. Once people become Prime members, they spend a lot more money, so this could work economically.”
Now, two of my readers (Lady Galaxy and Marjorie) tell me that they’ve actually seen links and information about something called…Kindle Unlimited!
“Did you see that Amazon started an unlimited borrowing program for their kindle? First month free. Then $9.99/ month. I saw quite a few Simon & Schuster titles while browsing. The selection is similar to Scribd but Amazon seems to have some newer titles.”
Lady Galaxy said:
“When using a Kindle to “shop in Kindle store,” I see that two of todays “Kindle Daily Deal” books are listed as “kindleunlimited.” Underneath is a link saying “Subscribers read for free.” If you click that link, it leads to the kindleunlimited page offering a 30 day free trial .”Unlimited reading, unlimited listening, any device, $9.99″ a month.” It offers over 600,000 books. So far, I can’t find a link to it in the online Amazon store.”
This would represent what I call a “subser” (short for “subscription service”).
I will add to this post, but I wanted to get this out there right away. This could be “A/B testing”…some people see it, some people don’t.
** Updated info: if you signed up, you won’t be charged. If you downloaded books, you’ll be able to read them…so people who were quick got freebies (to read, probably not to keep) out of this.
I’m investigating a couple of ways, but if you see this link, please let me know. One thing that would help: right-click the link for more information, then choose “copy shortcut” (it might be a bit different wording…and right-clicking is more likely on a Windows PC…it could be a long press on your device, for example) and post that for me in a comment.
I really appreciate it when my readers take the time and effort to give me the heads-up on something like this. It really helps get the information out to everyone.
More to come…
Update: I’m not seeing the link shopping on my computer in the Maxthon browser. I’m not seeing it on my
Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile)
whether I go from the Shop tab on the homescreen, or from the Shop in the Books tab.
Kindle Paperwhite (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)
(newest version), it updated the store when I went to it. That could be connected to this. However, I checked all five books, and didn’t see anything.
If you are seeing something, please also let me know where on the page you see it…although, again, that could be different for different people.
I haven’t seen the link in Chrome on my computer, either.
I did a Google search: not seeing that anybody else has announced it yet.
A reader, Kindle Fan, commented this:
“The link to Kindle Unlimited is:
Kindle Unlimited is an offer for customers in USA and for only $9.99 per month you have unlimited access to over 630,000 Kindle books. You can read the books on your Kindle device or Kindle Reader.
A few hours ago the total number of books in Kindle Unlimited was around 639,000.
It’s likely that Amazon by mistake opened Kindle Unlimited to a number of customers and they have now removed the links and all info about it.
I signed up for Kindle Unlimited and managed to get two good books before Amazon closed it.
My guess is that Amazon will open up for Kindle Unlimited within a few months.”
“Thanks for writing, Kindle Fan!
I just tried that link and got a 404 message, indicating that it doesn’t exist (for me).
I tried it in Maxthon, Chrome, and Internet Explorer.
It is possible it was an error, as you suggest, or an A/B test. They may have wanted to have a very small sample with which to work first.
I really appreciate you making this comment!“
I’m checking in some other ways. It’s possible we won’t hear anything more right away. My guess, though, is that we’ll hear something (even if it’s a “coming soon” announcement) by Tuesday. We’ll see… :)
Lady Galaxy wrote back and identified one of the books as
Gone South (at AmazonSmile)
by Robert McCammon (one of the Kindle Daily Deals at $1.99), but also said the link had disappeared.
That book is published by Open Road, which tends to be feature forward and customer friendly. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they were to participate in something like this…which would bring us many great backlist books.
It’s also interesting that Marjorie mentioned Simon & Schuster. Before I saw their comments, I had flipped this article into the ILMK Flipboard Magazine (see below):
The Bookseller article by Sarah Shaffi
which talks about Les Moonves (Chief Executive Officer of CBS, parent company of S&S) talking about Amazon. The comments are a bit…hard to define, and it could be that Moonves was aware of the subser at the time of the interview. Moonves said,
“It’s going to be a very interesting thing as we go into the future.”
That might have nothing to do with it, but still…intriguing. :)
Update: I’ve now had a chance to look at the cached page above, so I can say some more about it. None of this is final, and it might not be like this when it launches: we might have seen an accidental leak of a mock-up. I have gotten some information from Amazon on it, and am waiting for permission to share their brief statement (which does not have a launch date).
Here are books shown on the page, their publishers, and if they are currently available in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. I’m including the last one because the figure of “over 600,000″ KU (Kindle Unlimited) titles is close to the same (I get 614,972 right now). Could KU work with the same titles as the KOLL (from which you can currently borrow up to a book a month)? Maybe…but flashier titles might get more people into it.
- Water for Elephants (Algonquin, a Workman imprint), yes
- Life of Pi (Mariner, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint), no
- Flash Boys (W.W. Norton), no
- The Hunger Games books (Scholastic), yes
- Lord of the Rings books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), no
- Harry Potter books (Pottermore), yes
- The Fracking King (Little A, an Amazon imprint), yes
- When I Found You (Lake Union, an Amazon imprint), yes
- Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press), no
- War Brides (Lake Union, an Amazon imprint), yes
- Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), no
- The Namesake (Mariner, a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint), no
- The Bone Season (Bloomsbury), no
- The Summer I Found You (Albert Whitman), no
- “Kindle Exclusives” (I think all Amazon, all KOLL): The Long Way Home, Trinity Game, Firefly Beach, The Detachment
- Old Girls in Low Cotton (Kindle Singles), yes
- Revolution by Murder (Kindle Singles), yes
- Operation Cowboy (Kindle Singles), yes
- Books by Michael Lewis: Moneyball, Liar’s Poker, Home Game (W.W. Norton: no, no, and yes)
They are also indicating audiobooks, which would give them a decided advantage (for those who like them) over Oyster and Scribd.
So, looking at this, although one of my readers reported Simon & Schuster (and my readers were able to go from a live link into a much more complete listing), I’m not seeing any of the Big Five publishers displayed on the cached landing page.
However, there are quite a number of them which are not available through the KOLL.
Scribd and Oyster should be scrambling today as they hear this information…that’s the direct challenge.
This is not at all simple, though.
I think one big appeal for it is going to be gift subscriptions. It would be like buying Netflix for your kid…but people feel really good about giving the gift of reading. I’m not sure how many people think they spend $120 a year on books (most of the readers of this blog, quite possibly, but we aren’t enough to make this work).
I see three particular challenges in this:
- Getting more big publishers on board…you need a turnover of promoted mainstream titles, I think, to keep people engaged
- What do you do with the KOLL? How does this interact with Prime (if it does)? Is the KOLL going to be positioned as the Prime version of Kindle Unlimited now (and still limited to up to a book a month)?
- Compensation…and in particular, how that might vary for tradpubs (traditional publishers) versus indies (independents). That’s already different in the KOLL, though, so it isn’t insurmountable
I’m very confident we’ll hear the Authors Guild and others express concerns about this…
Update: thanks again to Kindle Fan! My very informative reader on this linked to some terms on Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) site, which proves that Kindle Unlimited is official!
It’s interesting stuff…I’ll need to verify that it is in the public-facing material, and if it is, I’ll let you know more.
Update: okay, I’ve verified that you can see this without having a KDP account: I don’t want to breach any confidences:
Here’s the key point:
“You’re eligible for royalty payment from Kindle Unlimited each time a new customer reads more than 10% of your book for the first time. A customer can read your book again as many times as they like, but you will only receive payment for the first 10% read.
It may take months for a customer to read more than 10% your book, but no matter how long it takes, you’ll still be paid once it happens. This is true even if your KDP Select enrollment period has lapsed, and you chose not to re-enroll. “
This suggests that perhaps you have to be in KDP Select (as an indie) to be part of KU. That requires Kindle store exclusivity, which may make some authors hesitate.
I’m also curious about limits on how many books you can have out at a time.
Let’s say you have five people on your account (there is no limit). Can each of them have out a different book at the same time? If so, what if you had 600,000 people on your account? You aren’t allowed to share your books for commercial purposes, but maybe you are just friendly with everybody in your city. ;) Can two devices have the same book at the same time? If so, multiple device licenses create the same problem. We’ll have to wait to see details.
**UPDATE: okay, I just got permission from Amazon to share this information, and it’s important!
“From time to time, we test both new and existing features on our website to determine which services would drive customer purchases and satisfaction. We’re testing Kindle Unlimited but the service is currently unavailable. If you tried to subscribe, you will not be charged. If you downloaded books, you are able to continue reading them.
During these test periods, certain aspects of our website will function or appear differently to randomly selected customers, or to the same customer using another computer or browser. We don’t have any specific information about this service. We’re continually fine-tuning our presentation to provide our customers with the greatest value, selection, and information for their online purchasing decisions.”
Thanks to all of the readers who have commented so far! What do you think? Would you buy into this? If not, what would get you to do it? Do you think it will work in the marketplace? When do you think Amazon will introduce it? Will it cannibalize book sales (these are borrows), and will it mean more of the backlist appearing? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help!
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.