52 Comments

Summary:

Amazon is testing an ebook and audiobook subscription service called “Kindle Unlimited” that would cost $9.99 a month. According to pages that were pulled down, it will offer access to over 600,000 titles.

Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Amazon is testing an ebook and audiobook subscription service called “Kindle Unlimited” that offers “unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks on any device for just $9.99 a month.” Most of the test pages were pulled down Wednesday after some users on the Kindle Boards noticed them, but they are still available through Google Cache and some are still live on Amazon’s site.

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Amazon’s service, which has been rumored for a couple of months, would compete with existing ebook subscription services Scribd and Oyster. Publishers Lunch reported last month that Amazon was speaking to U.S. publishers about participating in such a service.

One page, still active at the time of this post and titled “KU Test,” shows 638,416 available titles, and you can browse through them. Among them are many books from Amazon’s publishing imprints, and many books that were already available through Amazon’s Kindle Owners Lending Library, which allows Prime members who own a Kindle to borrow one free ebook per month. That includes the Hunger Games series and the Harry Potter series.

We also surfaced a promotional video for Kindle Unlimited, and a few more facts about it, including some information about how authors are likely to get paid for participation.

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No big-5 publisher appears to be participating yet, based on my preliminary glance through the test pages. Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have both made their ebooks available to Scribd and Oyster, but I haven’t yet seen books from those publishers on the Kindle Unlimited page, though I’m not done poking through all 600,000+ titles yet. Among the publishers that do appear to be participating based on the books available through the test page — and, it should be noted, are participating in Oyster and Scribd as well:

  • Algonquin (Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen)
  • Bloomsbury
  • Harvard University Press (Capital by Thomas Piketty)
  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (The Giver by Lois Lowry, Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin)
  • Open Road Media
  • W.W. Norton (Flash Boys by Michael Lewis)
  • Workman (Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams)

Another difference between this service, Oyster and Scribd appears to be the availability of audiobooks. The test page lists 7,351 “Whispersync for Voice” titles.

I’ve asked Amazon for comment and will update this post if I hear back.

  1. That’s a bit pricy.
    Leslie

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    1. $10 for every book in the world each month is PRICEY!?

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      1. It def. doesn’t include every book in the world…but I listed some of the publishers that appear to be participating above.

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      2. The problem is that you don’t own the books, so if you decide later on to cut bills, you won’t have access to these books anymore.

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        1. Dave Robinson Wednesday, July 16, 2014

          You do not own the books when you get them from the library

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          1. Playing devil’s advocate, but the library isn’t probably $10 a month. But again., few library can match 600,000 title. I personally think it’s worth it.

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          2. Library’s free.

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      3. I don’t want every book in the world. The ones I do want I already have and they can’t be removed from existence because I loaned them to a friend.
        Leslie

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    2. It’s actually a really good price, assuming you would usually buy a book or two every month regardless. I know people who spend $100 or more on kindle books every month month, so being able to spend $120 for an entire year would likely be well received.

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      1. I still can go to the public library for free and pick out any book I want. If they don’t have the book I want then I can request it.
        Leslie

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        1. Not everyone lives near a library / a good library. For $10 a month, access to over 600,000 books is a great value to some of us.

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          1. Most library systems offer downloadable kindle and ePub books on their websites, so you don’t even have to live near a library. You might have to put a hold on copies and wait a while for what you want, but when it shows up it’s like Christmas morning!

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        2. So why own an eReader at all? Why use an eReading service? Why not just get physical copies?

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          1. I don’t have an eReader and much prefer the physical book.
            Leslie

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        3. – The typical library rarely has updated collections.

          — Checking out a physical copy for free hardly substitutes the ability to choose from thousands of titles and carry them with you on a single device for the price of two $5 footlongs.

          — Requesting copies usually equates to waiting several days, and with a Kindle you can have immediate access to any available title.

          — I can understand the appreciation for a good hard copy, but I think any avid reader is doing themselves a disservice by not having an eReader.

          *No lugging around heavy books
          *Read without an extra light. Great in cases where you don’t want to disturb others.
          *Instant access
          *Switch between reading material quickly
          *Make annotations, highlight, save notes for future reference, etc.
          *Doubles as a multimedia device
          *Translations
          *Adjust text size

          The list goes on…

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          1. Still prefer the hard copy.
            Leslie

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    3. It’s the exact same price as Oyster charges. And while I’d love to say my library carries everything I want to read, they don’t and you can wait months for ebbok titles that you want. If this offers access to the indie authors I read, along with publishers like Dreamspinner, LooseId, and Samhain I would totally jump on board. If the big 5 publishers join in, just borrowing one book a month would more than cover the cost per month.

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      1. Perhaps.
        Leslie

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      2. To borrow one book a month, you just have to be an amazon premium member, and it is just 40 or 50 dollars a year, less pricey…

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    4. Danilo de Rosa Thursday, July 17, 2014

      This is why news articles comments make always me laugh.

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      1. Sometimes that is all it is worth? (a good laugh)
        Leslie

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  2. This is very interesting — it seems like a likely and very promising move, and takes a step in a direction in which Amazon could make a next-level breakthrough in the economics of publishing.

    Subscription pricing moves toward relationship-driven pricing, and that favors more value-based pricing — which offers economic value to both cunsumers and producers (including authors). How much value I get from ebooks is only loosely correlated with either how many ebooks I buy, or how many months I read.

    Some specific suggestions on how better pricing can develop are in a blog post, “E-Books Are Reading You” — How That Enables a New and Far Better Economics” at http://bit.ly/1t3DcN9 . Some strategic motivation for this is on the HBR Blog at http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/11/when-selling-digital-content-let-the-customer-set-the-price/ .

    Amazon has the skill, resources, and vision to bring us to this next level. It will be interesting to see where they go with this.

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    1. Publishers and independent authors need to take a close look at the music industry and see how potentially destructive these subscription services have been.

      From what I’ve seen, only the distributor really makes out on these deals. When you “disrupt” the entire economic cycle of creative content you need to evaluate the impact down the road and not simply a one time payout.

      Be very, very careful about future earnings potential.

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      1. At the moment, neither of the two “e-book subscription” services are actually that, at least as far the economics go. To land deals with S&S and HarperCollins both Oyster and Scribd agreed to a conventional single-copy sales scenario. Whenever a customer reads past a set preview point (between 8% and 10% of the book), it triggers a sale, and the publisher gets paid the full wholesale price for that book. And thus the author gets their typical per-unit royalty from the publisher.

        As a business model that’s not sustainable, of course. Oyster and Scribd are likely hoping to get as a big as possible as fast as possible, and hoping that they have enough none- or low-reading subscribers to offset the (costly) heavy readers. It’ll be interesting to see if Amazon plays that same game, or looks to truly do a digital subscription service on the model of Netflix and Spotify, with actual metered reading and payouts. If so, that’s when authors and publishers will need to start worrying, since they’ll be trading dollars for pennies.

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  3. do these subscriptions with kindle include all books written by the top best seller lists, and especially mysteries written by such as Michael Connelly, James Patterson, Nora Roberts, and oldies like Rex Stout etc. Fiction. Or only non fiction and lower and unrated authors, like new authors? I prefer my best selling Authors…. Comment?

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    1. No, it looks as if you are not going to get the really well-known titles because it looks as if Amazon hasn’t signed a deal with any big-five publishers (those who publish James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Nora Roberts and so on). More here: http://gigaom.com/2014/07/16/kindle-unlimited-more-details-and-a-few-questions-about-amazons-subscription-book-service-exclusive-video/

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  4. Look, as long as the authors get paid fairly, I’m in full support. If not, there will be another author-revolution uproar…

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    1. I heard they won’t know exactly what they’ll be earning off the books. Sadly I imagine a lot of authors will be pulling their Kindle books out of Amazon for other places to sell them.

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  5. Exactly. It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon’s ebook subscription service differs (if at all) from existing services like Scribd and Oyster. Ideally it will result in increased exposure and fair profits for the featured authors available through the subscription, but it all depends on how this impacts the authors after the service is publicized.

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  6. Reblogged this on jessicarydill and commented:
    I am very intrigued – and worried – by this post from Laura Hazard Owen. It seems that Amazon may be planning to offer a subscription service called ‘Kindle Unlimited’. The relevant pages have now been taken down, but it seems as if the service will offer access to over 600,000 titles. From a reader point of view, this sounds possibly exciting; but as a self-published author, I wonder how this will impact books (and writers) who are not chosen to be part of that service.
    It will be interesting to see what Amazon is planning.

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  7. Does this include text books?
    $120 a year for all my textbooks sounds like a good deal since most I won’t ever want to look at again. Also for research projects. There are def. situations where this makes sense.

    The normal person who just reads one book a a time serially, I think would have to be a pretty avid reader for that price point to make sense though. Also anyone who writes in their books should think twice. Talk about platform lock stop paying your monthly fee and all your notes go away. No thank you. Not for me but maybe if I was a student, and it covers text books which is probably doesn’t.

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    1. Thanks for the comment. It does not appear to include textbooks.

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      1. Adam J Mickiewicz Sunday, July 20, 2014

        As a student I was naturally hopeful for textbooks. That said I am not surprised that textbooks are not included in the Kindle Unlimited subscription. Over-priced textbooks sold to a captive audience is a huge industry that won’t go down without a fight.

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  8. Dear Amazon. Not $9.99. $4.95 will make it a big and profitable winner. Go for volume.

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  9. Yep. $4.95, I’m on it. $9.95, no way.

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  10. Yep. $4.95/month, I’m on it. $9.95/month, I’m gone.

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