Writing About Reading: Kindle Unlimited

A few months ago Amazon announced they were also entering the ebook subscription service, which I wrote about previously, by starting Kindle Unlimited.  The new service is a direct competitor to Oyster and Scribd, and while I love the promo video, that’s about the only thing I love about it.

Here’s the thing; Amazon is quickly turning into a Company Town.  They boast 600,000 titles (more than the 400,000 and 500,000 on Scribd and Oyster, respectively), but the thing they don’t say is that most of those are from their own Amazon publishing division, and they don’t have any of the Big 5 (Scribd and Oyster each have 2 of the Big 5, including HarperCollins who publishes my current Uhtred of Bebbenberg Saxon Stories  obsession from Bernard Cornwell).  And it doesn’t look promising that any of them will come on board, with the Hachette contract negotiations having dominated the news all summer.  The one thing they have that the others don’t is some audiobooks (the professional narration that comes with some ebooks) and audiobooks seem to be taking off a lot recently (Amazon owns Audible.com, too).  Scribd has added some audio, as well, but not nearly as many as Amazon has.

It’s not surprising that they’ve taken this step – they’ve long had the Kindle Owners Lending Library where Kindle Owners can “borrow” one book a month.  How that will be affected by Kindle Unlimited remains to be seen.

Maybe Amazon is betting that people will publish their books on Amazon, make them available through the Kindle Unlimited Service, and maybe they can either force the Big 5 to work with them, or just circumvent them all together.  I’m all in favor of competition, and I think publishing companies are going to have to prove their worth much more than they ever have before, but that’s where my agreement with Amazon ends.  Replacing one giant behemoth of a company with another doesn’t seem to be that great for Authors or Readers either.

I’m curious as to whether this will affect normal kindle ebook sales (I’m betting not, at least not right away, since they don’t have the Big 5) and how the kindle bestseller lists will be affected (apparently they are already being affected since “checkouts” are counted towards bestsellers).

I always tend to root for the scrappy little guy.  In the Amazon/Hachette dispute, I was on Amazon’s side.  Amazon vs Oyster and/or Scribd, though, is a different story, and though I’ve signed up for my 30 day free trial of Kindle Unlimited, I’m not giving up my Oyster account yet.

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  1. I frequent the indie author forums, and as an Indie myself, I can say that KU has really hurt a lot of us, just as it has helped others. Personally I hope that ship sinks, and fast. Most of the big indies have already pulled out of KU, and like you said, the big 5 aren’t really in it, so hopefully it will just dwindle off and Scribd will keep tugging along.

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