Pay by the page read: Amazon revolutionizes royalties

Pay by the page read: Amazon revolutionizes royalties

For as long as anyone in the publishing business can remember, it’s been about selling books.

It hasn’t actually mattered if anyone read the book or not…just whether they bought it.

Oh, sure, if someone read it (and enjoyed it), you were more likely to get good word of mouth out of it, which could result in more sales, but when you are looking at the initial calculations, it’s just the purchase that matters.

Amazon is changing all that…at least for independent publishers in their

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library) programs (through KDP Select).

They took a step in the new direction with KU originally, when someone had to read ten percent of a book which was borrowed before the publisher (which might be just the author) got paid for the borrow.

That was more of a threshold thing, though. You have to prevent someone from borrowing a bunch of books and not reading them, just to get the author (who might be a friend) a royalty.

In the new system (starting July 1st), you get paid based on the number of pages read.

That completely up ends the game!

A book has to be good…all the way through…for you to get the maximum payment.

The current KU system has benefited short “books”. I wrote about that before: how, for example, a winning strategy would be to break a book on ten great TV series into ten separate books.

This changes that.

Obviously, if they counted screens of text displayed, this would be easy to game. You could just put one letter per screen. 🙂

Amazon is smarter than that.

As detailed on this

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Help Page

Amazon has come up with a way to do the calculations. This is their explanation in a short excerpt from the referenced page above:

“To determine a book’s page count in a way that works across genres and devices, we’ve developed the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC). We calculate KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and we’ll use KENPC to measure the number of pages customers read in your book, starting with the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book. Amazon typically sets SRL at chapter 1 so readers can start reading the core content of your book as soon as they open it.

This standardized approach allows us to identify pages in a way that works across genres and devices. Non-text elements within books including images, charts and graphs will count toward a book’s KENPC.”

I’m sure they’ll also take into account reading speed in some way so you can’t just flip through the screens.

I suspect they’ll also be able to tell if you bounce around. If you are reading an anthology and skip a story, I assume that story won’t count. In other words, you can’t just jump 100 pages into it and give the publisher credit for 100 pages read.

While this currently only affects borrows, I think readers would like it if it was also the case with purchases.

Wouldn’t you just love this? No padding in an anthology. No clunker pieces in a non-fiction collection.

Of course, I’m portraying it in its best possible light…I tend to do that. 😉 I’m assuming Amazon will count actual pages read (by judging how long you stay on a page…our devices can already calculate our reading speed). If they don’t, we could get a lot of filler.

Another negative might be that it could be harder for new authors to get exposure. One way that happens now is that you stick an untested author’s story into an anthology with other better-known works…sometimes with public domain works.

However, there is one more very interesting thing about this to me.

You can’t do it with p-books (paperbooks).

That could really create a bifurcated system…what makes you money in an e-book might not be what makes you money in a p-book…and vice versa.

A great (and perhaps misleading) cover could work in a p-book…but if only gets people to read the first ten pages, it could fail as an e-book paid by the page.

This could lead to a much greater degree to books published in only one of the two formats. If you are only going with one, I think you are going with e-books (much lower risk). I’m not going to say that’s part of the secret agenda here, but it’s fun to speculate….

One last thing: in a way, this is a throwback to the pulp era when authors were paid by the word. Not the same, of course. In this case, it’s not that you benefit purely from tremendous output in a variety of genres (which was the case for many writers back then), but only if people actually read it.

Fascinating, and I need to think about this a lot more…

What do you think? If you are a reader, what do you think about this? If you are an author? Publisher? What flaws are you seeing in the idea? I didn’t address this, but does it mean the money will come in more slowly? For example, I read some books over the course of years…a chapter here, a chapter there. I might love a book like that, but use it as a “palate cleanser” between novels. As I think about that, is that bad for an author/publisher? It would be like getting residuals from having done a sitcom on TV…lump sums (like big advances) can help finance the next book, but this could help you have a smaller amount of money all the time…could help you live. Oh, and what does this do to advances, if it spreads over to purchases? Would they not give you a big advance if they didn’t know people would read the whole book? That could affect certain brand name authors, who shall remain nameless. 😉 I definitely want to hear from my readers on this…feel free to share your thoughts with me and my other readers 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.

9 Responses to “Pay by the page read: Amazon revolutionizes royalties”

  1. Ann Von Hagel Says:

    I think most readers don’t think much about how authors get page. And won’t have any idea about this change, either.

    REAL readers (as opposed to scammers and their minions) will read a book until it’s not interesting to them and move on to another. Even now, my guess is they mostly don’t think about whether they’ve gotten to the 10% mark or make an effort to get that far so the writer is sure to get paid. Regular run of the mill readers mostly just don’t think about that. . . . if they even know it’s a consideration.

    So I don’t think it will change reader habits at all. Though some might don tin hats if they realize that the Zon can tell how much of a book they’e read! 😮

    That said, I do think it will benefit GOOD writers who write GOOD books and are prolific — whether they write long books, or lots of shorter ones.;)

    It does seem more aimed at fiction — which is generally read cover to cover, vs non-fiction, which MAY be read that way, but may also be used as reference. Example: I might borrow a reference book onbBaseball rules for the duration of the summer; I may never actually open it — I just want it available in case a question comes up. Season’s over: I return it in October. I could do the same thing for football, or some other ‘seasonal’ type need: borrow a book to have available ‘just in case’ and return it when I don’t need it to free up a slot to borrow something else. I’ve benefited from having those books readily available to me, but the publisher, maybe, gets nothing. 😦

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Ann!

      Oh, I agree! The average reader probably can’t name the publisher of the book they are reading…and a large percentage probably can’t name the author. 🙂

      Why I think readers will like it is because of the result…more consistent quality throughout a book. It will also mean that there will likely be fewer unexpectedly short books received.

      I also agree that it seems more aimed at fiction…but it will impact non-fiction. I read quite a bit of non-fiction, and sometimes, there might be a superstar with an essay surrounded by…less interesting works.

      I think that if you never open the book, it’s reasonable that the publisher isn’t paid. Yes, you downloaded it, which differentiates it from just sitting in KU waiting for you to select it, but I’m not sure that justifies the payment. On the other hand, it did take up one of your ten simultaneous slots…hm, is that good or bad for Amazon? Good, I guess…since they get a consistent monthly payment and every time you borrow a book, they have to pay out. Should Amazon reward publishers for putting books into KU that people download but don’t read? An interesting concept…

    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      Yikes! I’ve been reluctant to allow an Echo into my house because I didn’t want Amazon spying on me through one of my devices, and now I find out that my innocent little Kindles have been spying on me and reporting back to headquarters all along.

      Thanks for the suggestion! I’m heading to to stock up on tin foil and hoping it isn’t an add on!

  2. More than a million books in Kindle Unlimited | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Pay by the page read: Amazon revolutionizes royalties […]

  3. tuxgirl Says:

    Since kindle unlimited started, I have seen a huge surge in worthless 5-10 page “pamphlets” being listed as books. All of them are members in kindle unlimited. My guess is that they were set up so that just downloading and opening them would get them to the 10% point. That felt super-sleazy to me, and I was very annoyed with it. It sounds like this change is intended to combat that, so I think it is a great change!

  4. How do you feel about pay per page read? | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Pay by the page read: Amazon revolutionizes royalties […]

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