To Kindle Unlimited, And Beyond

You want to talk about Kindle Unlimited.

I know you do because folks have tweeted me, asking me about it.

I even got a couple e-mails. A whole couple. Almost a few.

(People, when will you learn I’m no expert on anything?)

First up, if you want to talk about it, I will point you to Mike Underwood’s post here. Also, this GigaOm article is worth the direction of your uncertain, questioning gaze. (If you don’t know the core gist of the Kindle Unlimited service, it’s this: unmoored from the Prime Kindle lending library is another service which you can pay $9.99 a month for in order to read a whole host — around 600,000 e-books — on your Kindle device or app. It consists mostly of Amazon Publisher books and KDP Select author-publisher books. You can do a free month trial right now.)

My thoughts — unfocused and rambly, because it is Friday and at this point I’m not even sure I’m sitting here typing on a keyboard and not nude in the woods somewhere banging on a yellow-jacket hive, hallucinating from anaphylaxis — are as follows:

a) Amazon is interesting because it is a big company and yet it moves like a spry, tiny company. Which is awesome and scary because when big companies move quickly, it is often tectonic.

b) I don’t know yet if this is tectonic. It is interesting to me as a reader and a little scary to me as a writer because all new things are scary to me as a writer because writers are ultimately flinchy since being whacked in the nose so many times with bad deals. I think if this becomes a truly dominant model, then it will be tectonic, shaking How Books Are Consumed and How Authors Are Paid to the molten, trembling core.

c) I think it’s a good price point.

d) I think there’s an argument to be made where this devalues books.

e) I think there’s an argument to be made that high e-book prices hurt authors more than low e-book prices, so, blah blah blah book value exposure something snore.

f) I think Spotify was bad for bands but this isn’t Spotify.

g) Most of the time, your money triggers based on people reading to a certain point in the book — 10% or so. If this becomes a dominant model, maybe easy to game? It’s like, someone reads as far into your book as they would the available free sample, that triggers payment. Which is nice. But potentially subject to some kind of abuse.

h) Contrary to the narrative about Amazon, this could be interpreted as them hoping to keep actual e-book prices high. If you look at the language that’s being reported (this bit found at Publishers Lunch) —

Filling in one of the unanswered questions for authors, Amazon Publishing authors will be compensated in a manner similar to that to for authors of publishers that agreed to participate. As Amazon Publishing executive Jeff Belle wrote to agents in an email, “every time a customer reads more than 10% of your author’s book through Kindle Unlimited (about the size of the current free samples available for Kindle books), your author will earn their full ebook royalty rate based on the average sale price of their book for the given month.”

— that suggests an incentive for keeping your e-book prices higher, not lower, particularly if Kindle Unlimited becomes truly popular, or even as noted, dominant. (I bolded the relevant bit suggesting this.) The higher the e-book price, the better that average becomes. It ostensibly even discourages sale prices. Prices too low, too often, and authors will be paid less.

i) You will find some of my books there, including Under the Empyrean Sky, Blightborn, and the short fiction set in the Heartland world, The Wind Has Teeth Tonight. You’ll also find Kick-Ass Writer there. (Full list here.) None of my self-published work is there, as this appears to be only open to those in KDP Select. KDP Select is the “I’m with Amazon exclusively” program, which I don’t dig because I do well selling my author-published work elsewhere.

j) No, I didn’t know about Kindle Unlimited before a couple days ago. I was not given a chance to opt-in or opt-out. This isn’t exactly abnormal for publishers, mind you. I do not believe KDP Select people received any warning, either — so, if they’re in, they’re in for at least 90 days or so, I believe. They can, I expect, opt out thereafter. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

k) That said, worth realizing that Amazon not giving authors any overt choice or head’s up suggests they’re more like regular old publishers than you might believe. Which isn’t good or bad — it’s just worth noting.

l) Ten bucks a month isn’t as good as I’d like, but one assumes (hopes?) that the roster will grow, and not shrink. Then again: could this be tied in at all to current publisher discussions? Did publishers know much about this? Some did, presumably.

m) But but but, it contains audio, which is big.

Overall: it’s interesting.

I am cautiously optimistic.

I like being read and I like being paid. I hope this does both.

I am, as always, wary of Amazon corralling all of the book world under one tent — e-books! Kindle! Goodreads! Audio books! Publishing companies! Print-on-Demand! And now, subscription services! — because monoculture makes my butthole clench.

Still — I’m trying the free month because free month.

Still: stay tuned, surely more to come, with further clarity.

Feel free to comment: what do you think about Kindle Unlimited?

Play nice in the comments. (None of that “Amazon Is EEEEEEVIL” rhetoric, please.)