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Amazon’s rumored “Netflix for books” service is finally here: Kindle Unlimited. In theory, it sounds fantastic. Pay a monthly fee and read all the books your heart desires — but is it all that it is hyped up to be?

Price

On the pricing front, things are pretty simple. $9.99 a month gets you access to all the books you could want downloaded straight to your Kindle eReader (see our reviews of the Paperwhite Kindle Paperwhite Review & Giveaway Kindle Paperwhite Review & Giveaway The Kindle Paperwhite is Amazon's current flagship reader, and one that we've been wanting to review and give away for quite some time. If you already own a Kindle or a different eReader, you may... Read More and HDX Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Review and Giveaway Amazon Kindle Fire HDX Review and Giveaway Is the Kindle Fire HDX worth owning if you haven't owned a Kindle before? To find out, we purchased a 16 GB Kindle Fire HDX 7" (Wi-Fi) without special offers for $244, and we're giving... Read More ) or Kindle app (see our reviews of the Android Why Buy A Kindle When You Can Use The Kindle App For Android? Why Buy A Kindle When You Can Use The Kindle App For Android? There are many people who aren't keen to buy a Kindle or similar e-book reader simply because they already have a similar multi-purpose device like a tablet or smartphone. You might be one of these... Read More iOS Setting Up Kindle On Your iPad & Other iOS Devices Setting Up Kindle On Your iPad & Other iOS Devices The iPad makes for an awesome paperless device, for reading eBooks, webpage articles, PDF documents and the like. Likewise, the Amazon Kindle Store offers probably the widest, relatively affordable selection of eBooks for iOS devices.... Read More , and PC Kindle For PC Proves That You Don’t Need A Kindle To Enjoy Books From Amazon Kindle For PC Proves That You Don’t Need A Kindle To Enjoy Books From Amazon Being the voracious reader that I am, a library was always a small hillock to conquer. Thanks to the eBook revolution that has swept over us now, we now have peaks to scale. One of... Read More apps).

As soon as your membership ends, your books disappear from your eReader or app. However, not only do you get the written books, but many books also include the Audible audiobook version Read Or Listen: Amazon Integrates Audible In The Kindle Reader Apps Read Or Listen: Amazon Integrates Audible In The Kindle Reader Apps Amazon has cleverly brought together reading and listening in the new update to the Kindle app. With a tap you can now seamlessly go from reading to listening without losing your place in the book. Read More for free. These titles will be listed as “Kindle Unlimited with narration”, and they are a limited bunch of the already limited selection, but still an incredible deal — and they’re searchable on Amazon’s website.

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For instance, you could read and/or listen to the entire Hunger Games trilogy with this membership, which would normally cost you upwards of $80 to purchase the eBooks and audiobooks separately. Granted, you don’t own the eBooks or Audiobooks — you’re technically renting them for the length of your membership — but most people who hoard books only read them through once anyway.

Still, as eBooks typically range from $5-$10 alone, a subscription service at $10 a month really isn’t bad at all, especially if you plan to read two or more books a month. It also gives you the freedom to download books and read partially through them without trying to decide for hours if it’s worth the money to buy it.

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Competition

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Oyster and Scribd are Kindle Unlimited’s biggest competition. Currently, Amazon has none of the Big Five publishers signed up for Kindle Unlimited, which rather limits their selection. However, Oyster and Scribd both have signed on HarperCollins Scribd And HarperCollins Launch All-You-Can-Read Book Subscription Service For $8.99/m Scribd And HarperCollins Launch All-You-Can-Read Book Subscription Service For $8.99/m Scribd is getting into the digital book distribution market with the launch of a new subscription service, offering a significant amount of the HarperCollins catalogue to subscribers. Read More and Simon & Schuster, two of the Big Five publishers.

That means that while Amazon has snagged some big name book series, like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and the Hunger Games, Oyster and Scribd are likely to have a wider selection of popular books from leading publishers. Amazon is leaning heavily on some of these big name titles as well as its impressive self-published collection available through KDP Select. Kindle Direct Publishing Select is Amazon’s service for allowing self-published authors to offer their books Your Guide To Self-Publishing: From Print To Kindle And Beyond! Your Guide To Self-Publishing: From Print To Kindle And Beyond! They say everyone has a book in them. The moment of completion brings a mix of immense satisfaction… and a confused, horrified reality: “How on earth am I going to publish it?” Read More up for Kindle Unlimited.

library-books

Amazon says they have over 600,000 titles; Oyster says they have 500,000; and Scribd says they have 400,000. However, it’s not always the number of books that count, but the quality of them. It’s very possible you’ll find books you really love on one service, but not the other.

Oyster costs $9.95 a month and Scribd runs at $8.99 a month, making them just about the same price as Kindle Unlimited. They have a head start, but with Amazon’s incredible market power, it’s hard to guess who will come out ahead in this.

How It Affects Authors

When talking about subscription services, the discussion often comes back to how the creators are affected. For example, does Spotify pay music artists a fair share? That’s an important question, and when it comes to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service, the answer might not be so clear cut.

Full disclosure: I am a self-published author with books available on Amazon, although I am not enrolled in KDP Select currently.

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KDP Select has been around for a while and offers a double-edged sword to authors: better royalty rates in some areas, inclusion in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and now Kindle Unlimited, and the ability to offer discounts on your books — but your books must be available exclusively from Amazon. That means that self-published authors can’t publish their books elsewhere like Smashwords or Barnes & Noble.

Good or bad? It’s hard to tell. Since Amazon dominates the eBook market, they have the power to do this. Many see this as monopolizing, as Amazon forces exclusivity on its KDP Select-enrolled authors, but others love the benefits seen on KDP Select and don’t see many sales on alternative channels anyway.

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Still, for those who are okay with exclusivity, the funds allocated to KDP Select can actually turn out pretty decent payments for authors. The KDP Select Global Fund — the amount that is split between KDP Select authors at the end of each month — varies from month to month, but is at $2 million for July 2014. For Kindle Unlimited, the author receives a payout anytime someone downloads their book and reads past 10%. You receive a percentage of the funds based on how many books were read. So if 1 million books were read, there was a $2 million Global Fund, and your book was read 1,000 times, you would receive $2,000, or about $2 per book. (1,000/1,000,000 = 0.001%. 2,000,000 x 0.001% = 2,000)

$2 per book may not sound like much, but it’s actually much more than most traditionally published authors make, and about average or slightly less than average for a self-published author on Amazon selling their books for $2.99-$4.99.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library

Kindle Unlimited’s introduction may seem odd if you know about the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). The KOLL is available to Amazon Prime subscribers Is Amazon Prime A Good Deal? Is Amazon Prime A Good Deal? Amazon’s Prime membership has been around for several years now and has, over the years, gained some notable upgrades. Once no more than a free shipping offer, Prime is now a streaming media service on... Read More , and it allows them to download one book each month from the KOLL for free. Oddly enough, while the KOLL and Kindle Unlimited libraries have some overlap, you will find books available on KOLL that you won’t find on Kindle Unlimited and vice-versa. Plus, KOLL doesn’t include the audiobook deals like Kindle Unlimited.

kindle-owners-lending-library

Still, it is strange that Amazon now has two semi-overlapping subscription services for reading — one falling under the umbrella of Amazon Prime, and the other trying to branch off as a full-fledged service.

If you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber and only read one book a month, Kindle Unlimited is probably unnecessary for you, but for heavy readers and non-Prime subscribers who still love the Kindle platform, Kindle Unlimited could be a great deal.

What Do You Think?

I certainly like the idea behind Kindle Unlimited, but with Oyster and Scribd’s head start and no support from the Big Five publishers, it’s hard to see how Amazon will be able to maintain subscribers for this service.

If anything, it’s probably worth it to try out the 30-day free trial and just cancel it if you don’t find enough major books that you want to read.

What do you think of Kindle Unlimited? Will you be using the new “Netflix for books”? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: Round bookshelf in public library, Shutterstock

  1. McG
    February 29, 2016 at 4:01 am

    Terrible choice of books...most books in the genre I am interested in are short stories written by authors who appear to be high school age book report writers. Technically, Anazon Kibdle cannot save format preferences between books so that the use must configure settings for each book read. NDon't waste your money with this program!

  2. Em
    December 31, 2015 at 6:07 am

    I think it's dumb, unimpressive and disappointing. $10 for no books from the big five and this is the biggest and baddest bookie online and period. So only self published books and some other you check and if your lucky you may find? Sounds like Netflix.
    They don't duplicate each kindle unlimited and prime with the same content...why? That's just annoying. When they get a big five they raise a couple raise more than all what end up at $20 or more...does that sound reasonable to the average person? When did this become ok? If it isn't they we shouldn't do it and take a stand.

  3. lisa
    November 21, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    No I don't see a point. I type in free books and I get all that I want even the ones that say kindle unlimited. I buy any of the sequels I want or if patient enough the sequels are eventually free. I could care less about audio. I have know where to listen to it. I have show box so all movies and tv show are free.

  4. Anonymous
    October 26, 2014 at 8:02 pm

    I belong to a library and read both digital and virtual books and can't always find older titles. I read at least eight books a month so I im hoping to find Kindle Unlimited useful. Thanks for the information

  5. J.m. H
    August 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    As a self-published author who allows Smashwords distribute his ebooks (they're mentioned in the guide to self-publishing linked to in the article) I also directly upload my ebooks to Kindle Direct Publishing since they've opted not to allow folks like Smashwords upload books in bulk like the other big boys (Apple's iBooks, Scribd, Osyter, etc.) do. I also upload to KDP so my ebooks are available on the Kindle as well.

    That said, I'm not in KDP Select or KU. Why not? Amazon wants an exclusive on my books for a while and I'm not interested in giving them that exclusivity. (I'll give Smashwords and their partners exclusivity before I give it to Amazon.) The upside to my decision against KU? My ebooks are already on both Scribd and Oyster and while I haven't seen stats from them I know my ebooks are being seen by a lot more readers than KU will give me, and I'm perfectly fine with that.

    • Justin D
      August 14, 2014 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks for your feedback! Great to hear from other self-published authors about this. :)

  6. Murali
    August 5, 2014 at 6:19 am

    Very attractive offer for "chain - readers". for people like me who finish most books in pieces, will be a problem if the book disappears.....

    • Justin D
      August 14, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      true, every system has its flaws!

  7. Desertrat9
    August 5, 2014 at 12:19 am

    Thank you so much for this article and for mentioning Kindle First.

    I read and buy Kindle books but do not own a Kindle. I read on my laptop and on my Android tablet and have seen no reason to pay out more money for yet another piece of tech. I have had a Prime membership for two years and have been annoyed with the Kindle Owners Lending Library because it is only for Kindle owners, not for Kindle book readers without a Kindle. I just checked out Kindle First and 'bought' my first free book.

    I have been debating both Kindle Unlimited and Scribd. I went in and checked them against the e-books I already own and out of over 100 books I checked, (I read a lot and 'own' more than 400 e-books) only three of them were listed in the Kindle Unlimited. However, over this last month, twice when I went in to read a book synopsis, the book has been listed as Kindle Unlimited. If I had bought both books, I would have paid for this month's subscription.

    I am still debating, but your review has given me several things to think on. Thank you.

    • Justin D
      August 14, 2014 at 11:16 pm

      You're welcome, glad we could help! Hope you're able to settle on a good subscription service soon. :)

  8. John Williams
    August 4, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Can we please have a "USA only" tag on articles like this? KU is not available in the UK - nor is it likely to be for some time according to Wired UK.

    MUO seems to be randomly aimed at UK and USA. Please mark articles if new services are only available in the US.

  9. Tyler P
    August 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm

    Here are more details on Kindle First. It mentions Kindle Unlimited having access as well.

    --Kindle First Details--
    Kindle First is a program that offers customers early access to new Kindle books across popular genres from Amazon Publishing.
    - Prime members are automatically eligible for Kindle First.
    - Every month Prime members can enjoy one of the four books selected by Amazon Publishing editors for free.
    - Kindle First books can be read on any Kindle device or free Kindle reading app and become part of customers’ permanent libraries.
    - Prime members can sign up to receive a monthly e-mail announcing new Kindle First picks.

    Please also note:
    - Kindle First is available to US customers only.
    - Prime invitees are not eligible for free downloads.
    - Kindle First books downloaded for free cannot be returned.
    - Kindle Unlimited subscribers can borrow Kindle First books for free when they are released. Learn more about Kindle Unlimited
    - Customers who have previously opted out of all Amazon e-mails will not receive the monthly e-mail announcing new Kindle First picks. If you would like to update your E-mail Preferences, you can do so by visiting Your Account.

    • Justin D
      August 14, 2014 at 11:14 pm

      Thanks for the details on Kindle First!

  10. reader1144
    August 4, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    I am signed up for the service, and it's great, except that the audiobooks are listed wrong. There are a whole bunch of them that say they're free audiobooks with narration, then when you download, there's no audio. I wanted it primarily for the audiobooks, so I'm pretty disappointed. And it's really annoying that they're incorrectly labeled. About half of the ones I download don't have audio when they say they do.

  11. David
    August 3, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    FYI, on a related note, Amazon also has "Kindle First" program with Prime membership where every month you can choose (to own I believe, but not sure) one of four pre-release books. It's a pretty nice new program.

    • Justin D
      August 4, 2014 at 6:16 am

      Oh, very cool! I just looked it up. Sounds like a good deal -- early access to some books and you can buy them for only $1.99!

  12. Justin D
    August 3, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    As much as I love the philosophy behind libraries -- free books for everyone -- they rarely work out that way.

    Libraries in poorer areas usually receive very minimal funding, sticking them with old books that are falling apart and not enough staffers. These poorer areas also tend to be much more population dense, meaning that you have less books for more people as compared to wealthier areas. This means that even if you manage to find a book you do like, it will likely be checked out months in advance.

    But this isn't only a problem in poorer areas. Libraries everywhere are struggling and simply aren't up to the quality level they should be. Many libraries have begun renting out eBooks, but even those are checked out months and months in advance. If you want a free, easy, simple way of accessing any book that you want, libraries are certainly not the answer. If you want to temporarily rent old books months in advance, then libraries are you thing.

    And libraries aren't even free. They're paid for by your tax dollars. They don't generate revenue. Plus, add in the cost of transportation to the library (gas if you're lucky enough to have a car, bus fare if you're not) and you're putting up at least a few bucks.

    Kindle Unlimited isn't the guardian angel of all of this, neither are Oyster or Scribd, but arguing against the obvious change in how people are reading books because you want to cling onto an outdated institution doesn't make any sense. eBooks are the future, and at least these subscription services allow people instant access to high-quality and modern books for a low price, while still paying the authors (authors don't make anything when their library books are rented).

    There's no such thing as a free service that lets you read anything you want (new or old) instantly and pays the hard-working authors well. You've got to pay somewhere.

    • Alex D
      August 4, 2014 at 12:02 am

      While Unlimited is a not "Library" per say I certainly see the benefits of it too. Though you seem to have a very critical opinion of libraries Justin. This may be just me, but the library serves around me are wonderful. Mind you Ohio does have the most libraries per capita (I can think of over a dozen in the Cincinnati Tri-state area alone.)

      Regardless, Both are good options, but neither are perfect. Written literature seems to be in a very awkward state, especially now. Conversion to digital, printed media losing steam, and just less people, especially children, reading.

      I definitely want to give Unlimited a try and I'm glad to see an article weighing the benefits and draw backs.

    • Khai
      August 4, 2014 at 5:40 am

      Come back to me when you can get *every* book on a kindle.

      I won't hold my breath, since it'll never happen.. Some obscure texts? Won't happen. No money in it.

      It's not a holding onto an "outdated" system.. It's realisation that we have one immense repository already that needs to be maintained since its not in a company like Amazon or Google interest to replicate.

    • Justin D
      August 4, 2014 at 6:31 am

      @Alex, I'd be careful to say that less people are reading. There's no data to support that. Every generation thinks the next generation is getting stupider and reading less and is more obsessed with next-gen tech (whatever it is at the time), but the general trend is generally more positive. In fact, with the advent of eReaders, smartphones, and tablets and easy access to tons of books and other forms of online content (poetry, short stories, articles, etc.), I would argue that people, children included, are reading more than ever.

      @Khai, sure, not every book is on Kindle. But there are certainly more books available on a Kindle than at your local library. Right now, there are over 2.7 million eBooks available on the Kindle store, not to mention the over 45,000 free books available from Project Gutenburg and countless others from other sources around the web that can be read on computers, smartphones, tablets, and eReaders.

      As we move forward, buildings full of paper books aren't an efficient way to house all of our literature and written knowledge. Putting a copy of every book in every library with enough copies for every citizen isn't possible, but putting a file online that can be downloaded from anywhere is awesome.

      Books aren't disappearing as we move into the digital age... they're just changing.

    • Chana
      August 4, 2014 at 1:29 pm

      I am not so sure that libraries are outdated. In fact, I'm pretty sure they're not. I do like Kindle Unlimited (I'm in the free month now), but a-I also know there are plenty of people who can't afford either the service or the hardware to go with it (or the internet), and I think those p eople still need access to books. And I think that it's in all our best interests to make sure everyone has that access. When there's a little more equality in this country in terms of access to internet and computers, I'll feel better about ebook subscriptions. (Ebooks in my library are actually not taken out months in advance unless they've just come out and are super popular-like harry potter, for example).

      But the other thing that libraries do that's really indispensible is the way they function as community centers and spaces. With all the upheaval around schools and closings recently, schools can't do that job anymore. But at least in my area, libraries are the one place where people of all classes and colors meet. Kindle Unlimited doesn't provide computing classes for the elderly, or storytime in three different languages, or tech time for teens, or space for knitters, mah jong players, and line dancers (Monday nights). Or music time for toddlers. Or book clubs for kids, teens, and adults. Or a place for kids to hang out after school. Or resume workshops. Etc. Etc. My library does all those things. I agree that they're not always well-funded, especially in poorer areas, but maybe the answer to that is to fund them more? Of all the things my tax dollars go to, I gotta say that the library is one of the few I feel good about. Bottom line, there's a lot of value you get from a library that you just don't get from an ebook service.

    • Leah
      August 4, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      You can check out ebooks at your library. My library participates in the state lending program. If they don't have the book they can get it from a library that does.

  13. Khai
    August 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    I belong to a service that has millions of books... easy to access.. and free.

    it's called a Library.

    • Tom S
      August 4, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      Feel good now? #luddite

    • Tom S
      August 4, 2014 at 3:54 pm

      I guess you don't go to the movies, or use Netflix, or download MP3s, because the library has DVDs and CDs also

    • Tom S
      August 4, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      My wife and I both, are voracious readers, she more than I at more than 5 books week, me about 2 or 3, and I would love to be able to subscribe to this.
      However, we live in Mexico, and though you can buy a Kindle in Mexico, you can only subscribe if you reside in the USA, and have a US address bank.

    • Khai
      August 4, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      to Tom S
      lets see. Luddite? hardly. I do have Netflix. and Google Play unlimited music, Amazon Prime streaming. I also have a Library card that costs me nothing but the local taxes I pay the UK gov. that was my point. what was your again apart from a cheap shot that missed the mark?

    • Dave C.
      February 8, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      Yeah but the library doesn't offer instant downloads and you need to find parking or even pay for parking in some places and deal with lines and homeless people. Not too mention it is not open 24 hours 7/days a week 365 days a year. Also you have to deal with returning the books or items or be fine should they get destroyed or lost which you will never have to do with online sites and membership programs like Audible and Kindle Unlimited. Also with digital formats you can watch videos and interact with books and media which you can't with the outdated library. Thats almost like saying I would rather swim across the world because it is free rather than pay the ferry or cruise ship. You soon realize free isn't really free. You need to do the math and see what your time is worth. There is no such thing as free. Library hours are shorter and shorter. Also many items are outdated since they rely on donations. You will never get a preorder or early edition. To each his own. I would rather pay to save time, money, and headache and overall convenience.

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