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Amazon is testing “Kindle Unlimited,” an ebook subscription service for $9.99/month

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Amazon(s AMZN) 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.

54 Responses to “Amazon is testing “Kindle Unlimited,” an ebook subscription service for $9.99/month”

  1. How has Kindle unlimited affected the books which you can read for free with Amazon Prime? Is Amazon going to remove this benefit of Amazon Prime? I can’t find this information on the Amazon website.

  2. Have you ever fancied starting up your own ebook shop with full legal rights? If so, look no further. This site that I stumbled upon is selling 1200 plus ebooks for under $30. The best thing about, is that you can distribute them freely and generate unlimited profits.
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  3. omahonjo

    The 600,000 number is deceptive. What categories does it include? If, for example, 75% of the titles have female authors or appeal to women I would not be interested.

  4. I am doing the trial and they offer the first book of a series in the Unlimited, but if you want to read the second or third book of the same series, you have to pay for them. They are not part of the Unlimited. It’s not as good as I thought it would be. I would rather use Scribd or something else. Shockingly Amazon is just using this to get you to buy more books, even thought you have to pay for this.

  5. walkerva

    Amazon keeps offering this to me, but I haven’t made up my mind. On one hand, books, books and more books! On the other hand, I already get most of my books for free, so only really pay for new releases I don’t want to wait to read. I don’t know that I would get $10 value from it at this point. Now, if they’d give me a discount because I’m already a Prime member, I’d totally re-evaluate.

  6. As an author, I’m concerned about the implications of this move down the road. Right now, I set the price for my books and receive royalties–a percentage of the retail price less handling fees. As long as this system still pays authors their royalty fees based upon that formula, I’m all for it. Currently, we get paid per download whether the reader ever reads the book. In this new scenario, the reader must read 10% the first time or the author doesn’ get paid. Not so sure that’s a good deal for the author. Sometimes I download books and they stay in my tablet for months until I can get to them. That means I wouldn’t get paid for downloads for months. Any other authors want to weigh in?

  7. April Martinez

    Why do you have to choose? I love my kindle and books! I read whatever is more convenient. I love being able to instantly get the next book in a series. Some books I read till they fall apart. Some books are just better in original form, but if I’m traveling my kindle is better. I love highlighting and not marking up a real book. I’m the kind of reader who always has a dictionary for reference, this feature on a kindle is one of my favorite modern way of reading. The point is it doesn’t matter the format, the enjoyment of the book is what I love!

  8. Mtnester

    Why is Amazon limiting the audio book option to the United States? I live in Canada and am having a very difficult time finding a good audio book option for e-readers. This oversight on the part of Amazon is driving people like myself to other sellers….not a great marketing strategy.

  9. Laura G

    It’s unlikely to include unlimited access to new bestsellers. It’s probably all backlist titles. Or if it has new bestsellers at first, Amazon’ll change the rules or prices, probably both, to suit themselves.

  10. VeryMerrySeamstress

    In less than two years, I’ve had two Kindles die on me. I won’t be replacing it. I tried it and Kindle failed me. I’m going back to good, old-fashioned books. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

  11. fjpoblam

    Problems for us’d be (1) we like one of our books as a habit at beddy-bye: sometimes takes over a month; and (2) once I read one at beddy-bye and like it and recommend it to mi esposa (who shares the account)—poof!—it’s gone! Dang. Better to buy and hold, even though it’s useless in the long run…

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    • 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.

  15. drhenning22

    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?

  16. 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 . Some strategic motivation for this is on the HBR Blog at .

    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.

    • 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.

      • Dear Reader

        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.

    • Carlos S.

      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.

          • Sharlene

            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!

        • Tyler Hwang

          — 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
          *Adjust text size

          The list goes on…

    • 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.