Amazon launches subser: Kindle Unlimited?

Amazon launches subser: Kindle Unlimited?

In my

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!

Marjorie said:

“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.

Exciting news!

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.

On our

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.

Update:

A reader, Kindle Fan, commented this:

“The link to Kindle Unlimited is:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/kindle/ku/

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.”

I responded:

“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:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AI3QMVN4FMTXJ

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.

New! Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* 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.

 

26 Responses to “Amazon launches subser: Kindle Unlimited?”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I first saw it on my K3 at 5:00 AM EDT. [No, I’m not up early, I’m up late.] I looked through the first few pages of books, and so far they seem to be the same books that were available for Prime members, but instead of showing the “Prime” logo, it showed “kindleunlimited.” Then my battery died and I had to recharge it.

  2. Kindle Fan Says:

    The link to Kindle Unlimited is:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/kindle/ku/

    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.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      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!

      • Kindle Fan Says:

        Thanks Bufo.

        It’s obvious the access to Kindle Unlimited was opened too early by mistake, the Terms of Service was empty and other stuff were also missing.

        I managed to join the 30 days free trial and I also were able to order two books before I got an error message. I still have those two books in my Kindle Reader.

        When Kindle Unlimited is launched many competitors will go belly up.

        Even if $9.99 sounds very cheap to get access to over 600,000 books, it will still be Amazon who profits.

        Imagine when you join Kindle Unlimited, it will not take long time before you have a couple of thousands of books. It’s very difficult for a real book lover to resist the temptation.

        With Kindle Unlimited you don’t own the books, you just pay for the right to read them. Thus, as a real book lover you will pay Amazon $119.88 every year for the rest of your life. Despite that I will happily give Amazon $119.88 for the rest of my life and I will read as many books I can.🙂

    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      Did you get any sort of e-mail confirmation that you had successfully signed up for the plan? If so, I wonder if Amazon they extend that “30 day trial” so that you will get a full 30 days after the official start date.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        I wasn’t able to see it all, so I didn’t sign up. Update: sorry, didn’t see you were asking Kindle Fan! When I look at the comments in site administration, I don’t see the threads, I just see them as individual comments.

        I’m waiting for Amazon to get back to me about releasing some information they gave me…when they do, your question (and other similar ones) will be answered.🙂

      • Kindle Fan Says:

        Lady Galaxy,

        Yes, I actually got an email confirmation.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        I’ve updated the post with this, but I wanted to make sure you saw it. I asked Amazon, and got this response (and then permission to share it):

        “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.”

        So, if someone successfully signed up, they won’t be charged at this point.

  3. dsmallc Says:

    I do not see the offering, and when I follow the link Kindle Fan posted, it says document not found. Can’t wait to see what comes of this!

  4. Cathy Koch Says:

    OHFB has a post about this today on Facebook. I tried to insert a screenshot, but was unsuccessful. The link is http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3A6jL66Zad7zIJ%3Awww.amazon.com%2Fgp%2Fkindle%2Fku%2Fsign-up%2Fui%2Frw%2Fabout+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    Notice the dialog box in the upper left corner…

  5. Felipe Adan Lerma Says:

    Kindle Fan – “With Kindle Unlimited you don’t own the books, you just pay for the right to read them” – I “think” that’s true with all the subscription & library programs, ie, Scribd, Oyster, OverDrive.

    What will interesting to me, assuming this is happening – which I’ve been expecting sooner or later, is how Amazon pays non-Select authors.

    A royalty differential would be difficult to swallow, and might raise questions among authors wary of being in only one basket.

    For me, since I’m not in Select🙂 I’d like those authors who are to get something else for being exclusive. Maybe get a discount on prime.

    On the surface, doesn’t sound like much, unless one ever wants anything shipped free, plus likes streaming movies and music🙂

    Anyway, as usual – interesting times!

    • Kindle Fan Says:

      Amazon will pay the author when the customer has read at least 10% of the book in the Kindle Unlimited service.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Kindle Fan!

        Do you have a link for your source on that? I’d like to take a look at it.

        At this point, it’s pretty much all speculative…even if someone did see something, as was reported in this article

        http://www.teleread.com/amazon/amazon-start-kindle-unlimited-service-similar-scribdoyster/

        it could change by the time it launches.

        The question, of course would also be how much they would get paid. Not like a purchase, I would assume…and as the teleread article suggests, it might be a division of a pool, like we see with the KOLL.

      • Kindle Fan Says:

        “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.”

        https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AI3QMVN4FMTXJ

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Kindle Fan!

        D’oh! I should have gone right there and checked…since they’d pulled the customer facing material, I didn’t think they’d still have the “evidence” on the indie (independent) publisher side…especially since I’d seen something that had said it had been there and then was gone.

        Thanks again!

      • Felipe Adan Lerma Says:

        Thanks Kindle Fan, good to know.

  6. Edward Boyhan Says:

    One of the articles reporting on this opined that this is going to be a hard sell with the tradpubs because they will make more on outright sales of ebooks as opposed to offering them as part of a subscription service.

    If that is true, then I wonder if subscriptions aren’t just as big a hang up with Hachette et al as with all the other pricing/discounting discussions that have been the focus of most mainstream reporting.

    Remember Amazon has never specifically said what the items at issue with Hachette actually are. We’ve just been assuming that it’s a continuation of the agency/consignment business model discussions. The tradpub war could be much broader, and more fundamental.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      The problem with that argument is that the same could apply to Netflix or Prime video. A company cna hypothetically make more money on individual sales…but it’s a lot more work! That’s why the backlist is a good possibility for this. Let’s say you are Simon & Schuster, and you licensed a book for ten years. It was a big hit for two years…now, you are three years into it, and not much is happening with it any more.

      Get money be including it in KU might be a very good way to go.

      In terms of frontlist titles…well, it would depend on the deal.🙂

      Certainly, I think the Big 5 are in discussions with Amazon about this, although they may not be fruitful…and may not need to be.

      Amazon’s Russ Grandinetti did say the Hachazon War was over e-book pricing…which could include this, I would think.

      http://online.wsj.com/articles/amazon-defends-its-stance-against-hachette-1404252554

      However, I don’t think Amazon would be using these customer turning tactics just to pressure Hachette to join KU. I think Amazon thinks, correctly, that they don’t need them for that. This doesn’t need to replace all Amazon sales, and I think many people may join KU and spend just as much on books (outside of KU) as they did before.

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        I wasn’t planning on a response — it’s too early to tell how KU (and the larger tradpub evolution) will play out. But this article from The Verge makes some good points:
        http://www.theverge.com/2014/7/17/5911065/why-amazons-netflix-for-books-might-be-dead-before-it-starts
        particularly about how the video/books comparison might be flawed. Readers are a pretty static market — not likely to grow much.

        I do agree with you about backlists. On both Prime Instant Video and Netflix, I find their selection of older stuff pretty good — more current stuff — not so good.

        I definitely qualify as a “binge” reader — in fact if faced with the possibility of learning about a news item with a choice between a 2 minute video or an article — I will always choose the article. It seems I can get more more efficiently from text than from video — I can skim text; with video you’re mostly locked in to a sequential experience which actually delivers orders of magnitude more info into the jelly between my ears, but in many ways doesn’t seem as well-focused as a textual article.

        I wonder if that’s just me, or is there something deeper going on implying a superiority of text over video?

  7. Tom Semple Says:

    Looks interesting. Though at this point, I would want to see what is actually available, particularly for audiobooks. I love Audible but I have trouble using my credits, and could divert the money to this instead. Wonder what restrictions they might have on enrolling and canceling, too.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      Oh, I would bet on month to month (that’s what the leaked promotion looked like), with no penalties (except lack of access) to canceling.

  8. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Your comment about how many people spend $120 a year on books had me checking my spreadsheet I use to keep track of sales tax, which is more complicated now that Amazon is taking out tax on some items but not all, and now that my state has decided to tax electronic downloads. Anyway, so far this year, I’ve already spent just over $200 on books from Amazon. I also made a few purchases of paper and ink books at the local Barnes and Noble, so it’s probably closer to $300 and we’re just over halfway through the year. Still, I think I’ll pass on the kindleunlimited. And I do hope they don’t keep the name run together and with capital letters like that. It’s not an attractive name.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Do you mind if I ask which state?

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the formatting of the name…companies don’t seem to stay consistent with that (the Nook has been the NOOK, nook, and Nook, for example).

      I haven’t done calculations myself on how much we spend a year on books at Amazon nowadays…I may need to do that.

  9. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I wonder how/if this might fit in with Prime subscriptions. Could a “Prime Instant Books” (something beyond KOLL) be in the future?

    I’m clearly way over the $120 hurdle, but it would depend on selection as to whether I’d bite — anyhow it’s early days…

  10. Zebras Says:

    I’m swimming in Kindle First, KOLL and Library books, so right now $9.99 seems excessive, especially since we are a one income family right now. However, I could see myself dipping into the service one month at a time if there was a book I wanted to pay for available in it, because I could read it and several others during that month. Also, we have a 6-member Kindle “Framily,” so dividing up $9.99 6 ways wouldn’t be much of a hardship, getting all 6 to agree on it, might be though.

  11. scottishbookworm Says:

    Interesting! I logged into my Manage Your Content and Devices today and noticed that there is a new section for Kindle Unlimited with subsections for Books and Audiobooks. I haven’t signed up and I’m in Canada rather than the States (although my account is on .com rather than .ca)

    I’m interested to see if this will be available to me as the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library isn’t available to Canadians.

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