It’s official! Kindle Unlimited is here with 639,621 titles
After an apparent leak of the information yesterday, Amazon has announced in this
While I certainly wasn’t the only person predicting it (and I thought it might happen before this year), it is fun for me that I got the name right back in December. 🙂
Before I talk about what this might mean for readers and the industry, let’s take a look at the service itself.
- There are over 600,000 e-book titles available…and you can read as many of them as you want for $9.99 a month. Even if they never added any more (and they’ll be adding books daily, I think), you could read a book a day for more than the next 1,750 years 🙂
- There are also over 2,000 audiobooks…again, you can listen to as many as you want
- You can get a free trial of one month right now by going to the above link and clicking a button (for me, it was on the video link graphic, but you can’t count on things being in the same place)
- You can have up to ten books at a time, no due dates
- You can read them on hardware Kindles AND on free Kindle apps
- You can browse for them on Kindle devices, Kindle for Android, and Kindle for Samsung, or on your computer for other devices
- NOTE: to read a book under Kindle Unlimited and not purchase it, you will click “Read for Free” NOT “Buy”
- You can return a book from the device (Kindle Unlimited is in the Shop under Books…on non-Fire Kindles, you select “All Categories” to get to Kindle Unlimited) or from http://www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle
- In terms of the audiobooks, the free ones will have the words “with narration” on the Kindle Unlimited splash. Per Amazon: “Some Kindle Unlimited books have Whispersync for Voice upgrades that are not free. Only titles that include “with narration” are free.”
Those are the highlights. Next:
- USA customers only (at this point)
- Titles can be added or removed at any time
- If you stop being a member, you will no longer have access to titles you’ve selected (need to see what would happen if you’d already downloaded a title and were in the middle of it…it could be that it would become available–that might require that you connect with Amazon’s servers, but it wouldn’t need to mean that. They could require a “go” affirmation each month from the server for a book to stay usable)
- Membership fees may be taxed
- “We only accept credit cards for payment of your membership fees. Please do not sign up for the program with a debit card. Also known as a “check” or “ATM” card, a debit card typically has the word “debit” printed on the face of the card.”
- If you cancel your membership, you won’t get a pro-rated refund…in other words, if you’ve already paid $9.99 for the month and quit in the middle of the month, you don’t get any of that $9.99 back…that seems reasonable to me
- “When your membership is cancelled, the titles you have selected from the program will be removed from your account, devices and applications.”
- “You may not transfer or assign your membership or any Kindle Unlimited benefits. We may take reasonable actions necessary to prevent fraud, including placing restrictions on the number of titles that can be accessed from the program at any one time.”
- If Amazon cancels your membership (that’s going to be very rare), which they could do at any time, they will pro-rate your refund: “…However, we will not give any refund for termination related to conduct that we determine, in our discretion, violates these Terms or any applicable law, involves fraud or misuse of the membership, or is harmful to our interests or another user.”
Nothing seems out of line to me so far. Ten books at a time may limit some accounts (which can have hundreds of people on them), but I assume the “simultaneous device licenses” still hold (I’ll check that). Most books have six SDLs, meaning that six devices on an account can have the book at the same time…if it’s different from that, it will say so on the book’s Amazon product page. So, I would guess that in most cases, you could have sixty people on an account reading a free book at a time.
Update: I did just borrow a book, in part to test it…and yes, I could read it at the same time on multiple devices on the account, just like I could if I bought the book (actually a license) in the Kindle store. You know what? Kindle Unlimited is incredibly freeing! I always like to be reading a book that relates in some way to my work (in addition to other books), and to not have to worry much about which book I got was great! When I do it through the KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library), I have to make a very careful choice…with Kindle Unlimited, not so much. 😉 Yes, there is that limit of ten books at a time (not ten books a month), but that’s entirely doable. That’s a key difference: it’s not ten books a month, it’s ten books at a time. You could read 100 books in a month with KU, as long as you kept returning books you had finished reading. The ten books just puts an effective limit on the number of people using KU on the same account, which again, I think is reasonable. This is truly what serious readers have only been able to imagine in the past.
Last thing before I look at the selection: just a reminder that you don’t own these books, you are borrowing them. Buying access rather than ownership has been a wave in consumer culture for some time…this matches up with those values, as I’ve discussed before.
There are many books here that I have purchased in the past, and I think that’s going to be true for a lot of my readers.
Here are just a few of the titles (and just for fun, if I’ve read them, and if there has been at least one movie and/or TV show):
- Water for Elephants: read it, movie
- Life of Pi: read it, movie
- Flash Boys: movie in development
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid: movie
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: read it
- Wonder Boys
- The Great Santini: movie
- Kitchen Confidential: TV series
- Animal Farm: yes (soon to be a major motion picture…with Andy Serkis involved on motion capture)
- Wool Omnibus Edition: reading it, in development
- Oh Myyy! There Goes the Internet: read it
- The Princess Bride: read it, movie
- All the King’s Men: movie
- Cat’s Cradle: read it
- The Giver: soon to be a movie
- The Good Earth: read it, movie
- Hunger Games series: read them, movies
- Lord of the Rings series: read them, movies
- Harry Potter series: read them, movies
- Pines: read it, soon to be a TV series
- 1984: read it, movie
- Sophie’s Choice: movie
- Marathon Man: movie
- Flowers for Algernon: read it, movie
- North and South: TV series
- Delta of Venus: movie (some people may not realize adult titles like this are in Kindle Unlimited…Kindles do have parental controls, but some people may dive into KU who haven’t been Kindle content consumers before. Even though checking the content would seem reasonable to me, I suspect we’ll hear some complaints about this)
- Under the Volcano: movie
- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: movie
- The Name of the Rose: read it, movie
- Everything is Illuminated: movie
- The Blind Side: movie
I could do this all day. 🙂
Okay, now let’s talk about what this means.
Do I think it will succeed?
Do I think it spells trouble for other subsers (that’s what I call subscription services) like Oyster and Scribd?
Yes. Since people can get a free trial of KU, they can try it alongside Oyster and Scribd. If they have Kindle devices, or have Kindle apps (or get one for this), they’ll probably find the interface so much easier that if they choose one or the other, they’ll stay with KU.
Will people pay less money for books in a year?
Yes…and no. 🙂 My guess is that many serious readers will use this as an add-on. They’ll continue to buy individual books, and they’ll tack on the $9.99 a month for KU. Some people, who haven’t been buying many books, may start doing this. For example, let’s take a family with limited means, and a child who is an avid reader. They haven’t been able to afford to buy enough books to keep the kid in letters…and the library may have been a challenge to reach (especially since many of them are not open outside of work hours, or not open for long during those times). They might start paying $9.99 a month, and skip going to the library as much.
Will this cut into other book sales?
The tradpubs (traditional publishers) who don’t get into this are in trouble…unless they can find some viable alternative. While I think serious readers may simply up the amount they pay for books in a year, casual readers probably won’t. If you can give somebody a $9.99 gift card to get a month of books as a gift, and you don’t know all that much about books, wouldn’t you do that instead of buying an individual book and maybe getting something the recipient already has or doesn’t like? No, it doesn’t end book gift sales altogether…but iTunes gift cards have had an impact on CD sales and MP3 album gifts, I’m sure.
Does this give an advantage to non-tradpubs?
Absolutely! Amazon can promote things on the KU pages. They can wave a wand and make an indie author a professional author. They can promote their own tradpubbed books, again making household names out of authors. Reading a book for free could lead to buying other books.
In short: this is a major game changer for readers and the industry.
In a later post: the impact on authors.
What do you think? Am I overstating this? Is the drive to own (as opposed to consume) a book different from the one to own or consume music? Am I counting too much on the backlist driving people? I haven’t addressed yet how this might affect the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which could also affect Prime…what do you think will happen? Should Prime members have gotten a break on this? I’m not a big audiobook user: how is that affecting your perception of this? Have you already signed up? Will you? 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.