The “I want to own my content” argument about Kindle Unlimited

The “I want to own my content” argument about Kindle Unlimited

I recently saw someone saying that they didn’t want to join

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

because they wanted to own their content.

With KU, you don’t own the books.  You pay $9.99 a month (but you can get a first month free) to get access to well over a million books.

Certainly, there are arguments in favor of owning books…I think I own over 10,000 paper books (and several thousand e-books).

For books, owning them has pretty much been the option in the past…outside of the public library or borrowing from friends and family.

That may be why many people don’t like the idea that if you leave KU, you no longer have access to books you’ve borrowed from there (you can keep a book as along as you like…until you stop being a member).

However, I think that just about everybody pays for access to content without owning it.

One obvious example: going to the movies.

When I go see a movie in a movie theatre, I don’t own that movie. I still enjoy it, and I understand that I paid for the experience of the movie…not for ownership.

Of course, when it comes out later on home video (a DVD,  a digital download, and so on), I can buy it if I want.

The same is true with KU.

If you want to buy a book you’ve read through KU, you can do that.

I think people also have the sense that when they are KU members, that $9.99 should cover all of their reading…that’s not my case, and there is no reason it should be.

I own DVDs…and I go to the movies.

We pay for cable (and Netflix and Hulu)…and as above, we have DVDs. 🙂

I think many people nowadays are more comfortable with paying for access than with ownership. That’s supposedly more true with Millenials (born roughly from 1981 to 1997)  than with Baby Boomers (born roughly between 1946 and 1964, but these dates are pretty fluid). I don’t know if that’s the case. I suspect that many older people are becoming very comfortable with paying for access. That can come with smaller living spaces, or with a sense or less stability.

I also wonder if people are less concerned with inheritance. When our now adult kid gets my p-books (paperbooks), I know that some of that will be a burden (although our kid prefers p-books to e-books, they aren’t going to want all of these!).

 Obviously, you don’t have the same logistical issue dealing with e-books that are owned that you do with p-books, but I think there may be a mental shift going on about building up an estate.

Do I think everybody should be KU members?

No…if you only read a couple of books a year, it’s not worth it.

If you read at least a few books a month, though, I’d consider it.

I maintain a KU Wish List at Amazon, so I can easily find things to read from there. Just to give you an idea, here are five books on it:

  1. The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis (inspiration for the David Bowie movie)
  2. Live and Let Die (James Bond) by Ian Fleming (this is the second book…I’ve already read the first one through KU)
  3. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord (famous account of the Titanic)
  4. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
  5. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks

Those are all books I would certainly have considered buying at some point…perhaps if I had seen them used.

My list also has books on it like

Tarzan Meets Kong by Owen Leonard

I don’t expect that to be of the same quality as the above books (although I’m open to the possibility)…but it might be a fun enough read to get it as part of the ten books we can have at once.

What do you think? Is owning your content important to you? What’s the difference between going to a movie, or reading a KU book? If KU means you are reading books you wouldn’t have bought, what’s the difference? What makes a book borrowable, but not ownable? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands 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.

27 Responses to “The “I want to own my content” argument about Kindle Unlimited”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    Technically, do we really own the Kindle books that we buy, or do we simply own the right to access them and read them so long as there is a Kindle on which to access them and an Amazon cloud from which to access them?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      What you own is a license to read them (within certain specified limitations, as you note, such as a device on which to read them).

      However, it’s not wholly dissimilar to owning a copy of a p-book (paperbook).

      You buy a copy of a p-book, and you own that copy…and with the ownership comes the responsibility for it.

      You can download a copy of the Kindle e-book, if you want. You don’t have to just leave it in the Cloud.

      So, there’s a difference. You mess up with the p-book (drop it in the campfire, leave it on an airplane), and the store which sold it to you doesn’t replace it for you. With the e-book, you can just download it again…as long as Amazon exists and you still have an account and something to which to download up. Up until that point, though, the copy of the e-book is pretty much the same as the p-book for you.

      However, it can be argued that the p-book is considerably more hardy than the e-book…if you take into account the delivery system.

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        I’m almost finished with “These are the Voyages, Season Two.” I’ve had it for months! I could have sworn the list price when I first borrowed it was $9.99, but it’s up to almost $15 now. Even worse, Season Three isn’t available through KU and it’s also close to $15. I’ve got it on the wish list.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        I really enjoyed the first two books…but like you, I’m waiting for the third. 🙂

        I checked eReaderIQ…the price has been $14.95 since they started tracking it (I think that happens when someone puts it on their price watch) about a year ago.

      • Phink Says:

        I have had a kindle so long I am one of the ones that owned the first one. The one in the best presentation box I’ve ever seen. Back then, and even now actually, a friend of mine and I had a conversation about what Bufo just said. Bufo said if you leave a p-book on a plane or drop it in a campfire you have lost it. My friend told me that digital books and movies are not as secure as DTB’s or Disc. See, I love all things digital and only buy digital movies as well as eBooks. I told him he was wrong and pointed to the fact that if my house burned down I would not lose my collection of movies, TV shows, and books. I’d simply buy another kindle and re download the books. I told him that if his home burned down he’d loose his hundreds of DVD’s and books. They’d be gone forever. Now he did make a good point that if some disaster hit world wide so long as his book survived the meteor, dirty bomb, whatever, then he could still read it. The words will never just disappear as my eBooks would do if we lost the power grid. That is true but that’s not a likely thing to happen in my opinion. Overall, considering all risk I think Bufo has a much better chance of losing those thousands of books he has than I do of forever losing my Kindle books. I can certainly see both sides of the argument however.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Phink!

        I agree: that first box was really cool!

        I’ve said I much more confident that my e-books will be available to my descendants than my p-books. As you say, which is more likely: that a house burns down or that we have a worldwide EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse)? I’ve said on the blog before that a neighbor’s house burned down when I was a kid…and some magazines survived (with smoke damage, yes, but readable)…but many were lost.

  2. Karin Says:

    I like the KU option, because there are many books I would only read once (mystery series, in particular). Do I read only KU? No. I am saving money with KU, to me it is a good deal.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karin!

      I actually don’t think I’m saving money with KU, but I’m reading different books (which I want to read)…and that makes it worth it. 🙂

  3. Phink Says:

    Have you noticed that the icons for choosing 3G paper whites or 3G Voyage is gone? It’s gone on my page anyhow. I wonder if they quit selling them.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      They are doing with the EBRs (E-Book Readers) what they’ve been doing with the Fire tablets. You click a “configure and add to cart” button, and then you’ll see those options. You can do that without committing to buy the item.

  4. Phink Says:

    Considering I read my first book at 27 years old at one time I owned every book I had ever read. But, we had a yard sale one day long ago and we needed money so I sold them. I have regretted that immensely. Probably after a year of me getting my first kindle I sold or gave away all my other books except one. It was easy because I no longer owned every book I ever read. The one I kept was the first one and it’s displayed proudly in my office. That is the only Dead Tree Book I own.

    I can understand wanting to own the book. It’s a psychological thing I guess. For me that is part of it but mostly because it’s not big enough yet. I have a couple dozen books in my wish list and not a single one is available through KU. Another reason is it would take 10% of my allowance so it’s not cheap for me. See, my wife and I, like 5 year olds, get a monthly allowance and KU would have to be paid out of that. I’d still do it if I thought I’d use it more. So, the books are too limited, I prefer to own the book (but not a deal breaker), and I need a raise in my allowance LOL.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      I’m with you on the books! I like to say that I’ve never regretted keeping anything…but I’ve regretted getting rid of them.

      At one point, like you, we needed some money…and I sold LPs. I should have sold them one at a time…I probably would have gotten pretty good prices for them. We were in a hurry, though, and I took the to Half Price Books. We got far less than I would have thought for them…and I’m not at all sure they went to homes that appreciated them. However, when ya gotta, ya gotta. 😉

      Well, if you and your wife both used KU, that’s only 5% of your allowance. 😉 I, do, though, totally understand.

      The only thing I’ll say is that the books on your wish list aren’t on there, but you might want to check to see if there are other books you would equally like to read in KU.

  5. Karen Holsten Coleman Says:

    Libraries, anyone?

    • Allie Says:

      Yes, libraries. There is even a precedent for paid access, particularly in academia.
      BUT the point stands: You don’t own the books.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Allie!

        Libraries are another example of not owning the content.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      Certainly, public libraries are part of the mix for some people…but they aren’t a “free” equivalent to KU. They are different sets…and someone could use both.

      I have a pretty large public library near me.

      My library has 4,575 fiction e-books; KU has 355,541 in the literature and fiction category.

      My public library has very popular tradpubbed (traditionally published) books, including Go Set a Watchman and The Girl on the Train.

      On the other hand, there is never any waiting for a book I want in KU. The waiting list for popular books from the public library can be huge. The most popular fiction e-book at the public library is The Girl on the Train. My library has 24 copies…and there are thirteen people on the waiting list already. That’s not too bad.

      For Go Set a Watchman, though, they only have four copies…and 29 people waiting. If we figure that the four copies turn over every two weeks, it might be reasonable to be waiting three and a half months to read it.

      Tradpubbed books I have read through KU recently appear not to be on my public library.

      Finally, I don’t like to take public library books away from people who need them. I can afford to pay for books to read (and I’m happy with a lot of free books as well). If I were to borrow GSaM instead of reading a copy I own, that means someone with lesser means may have to wait longer to read it. I’d just rather not do that, generally.

  6. Allie Says:

    I would like to read your post more thoroughly, but right away I must tell you – I hit on this topic not an hour ago in conversation with my father! I said, and I quote, “You don’t *own* tv”.
    I thought it was a brilliant analogy, if I do say so myself 😉
    Great minds and all…………

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Allie!

      Quite right. You can buy videos and watch those, but that’s not how the majority of movies/TV shows are consumed, I would wager.

      In my family, we always jokingly responded to “Great minds think a like” with “…and little fish swim in the same streams.” 😉 That was self deprecating, though.

      • Allie Says:

        Oh in my family everything is self-deprecating. Sometimes it is hidden really really well.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Allie!

        Understood…you know, at least in my limited understanding. 😉

  7. Vikarti Anatra Says:

    Many books I want are not on Kindle Unlimited

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Vikarti!

      Sure, that’s possible, depending on what you want to read.

      Many books I like are not available for the Kindle at all…but that doesn’t mean I don’t read Kindle books. 🙂

      The question isn’t whether or not Kindle Unlimited can serve all of your needs. The question is whether or not it can serve $9.99 a month of your needs.

      What I would suggest is that you (and anybody else on your account) take a look at the books in KU, and see if there are books there that would make it worthwhile. If there aren’t, don’t do it…and if there are, that is an argument to do it.

      What you aren’t going to find is “frontlist” books from the five biggest USA trade publishers. If that’s all you read, then it won’t be worth it.

      If, on the other hand, you would read books like:

      * The original James Bond books
      * The Harry Potter series
      * Lord of the Rings
      * The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
      * The 87th Precinct books

      and many others (I have about 50 books on my Wish List for Kindle Unlimited, and that’s a small fraction).

      Oh, and if you are an audiobook listener that’s another plus for KU.

      Up to you, of course…

  8. Karen Says:

    Hi Bufo

    If ai borrow a book under the KU program and that book is removed from the program list before I finish it, does Amazon remove it from my Kindle even if I still continue my membership?



    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      I’ll have to verify that, but I would think if you have it downloaded, you’ll be okay…I think if it’s removed from the program, you just can’t download it again.

      That’s different from the way it works if you leave the program…I know that’s not the question you asked, but people might be surprised. This is what Amazon says:

      “Membership Cancellation

      You may cancel your membership by visiting Your Account and adjusting your membership settings. If you cancel your membership, you will not receive a refund of any membership fees already paid. When your membership is cancelled, the titles you have selected from the program will be removed from your account, devices and applications”

      Kindle Unlimited Terms of Use (at AmazonSmile)

  9. Susan Cassidy Says:

    I often reread, so I want unlimited access to my books. KU is not for me. Also, many of the books I want to read aren’t in the program.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Susan!

      I’m not a big re-reader, although I have been re-reading the original Oz series. Certainly, KU is not for everybody.

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