Amazon has moved into the ebook subscription business with Kindle Unlimited and has boosted its KDP Select Fund to pay authors to $2million for July.
Books have to be enrolled in KDP Select to qualify for Kindle Unlimited and all books in KDP Select will be automatically added to Unlimited unless the author/publisher opts out.
The Kindle Unlimited service costs $9.99 a month for readers and there is a free 30-day trial available. The service is initially available only in the US, featuring 600,000 ebooks and around 2,000 audiobooks from Audible.
It isn’t, in fact, quite as unlimited as it sounds, as KU members can only access a total of 10 books at a time. It’s very much like having a library ticket with a limit of 10 book, but there are no due dates and no late-return fines. You can return books whenever you want, which will free you up to borrow more books up to the limit of 10.
Kindle Unlimited royalties are paid to authors when a customer reads 10% of a title. Amazon says authors will be paid no matter how long it takes for a customer to read 10% of a book, even if the book has been removed from KDP Select.
This differs from the present Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) system where authors are paid as soon as a reader downloads a book. The KOLL system will continue and is a benefit for members of Amazon Prime, which costs $99 a year, and offers free ebook and music downloads as well as free delivery on many items.
KOLL is cheaper than Kindle Unlimited (which works out at nearly $120 a year) and seems to cover the same range of books as KU while also offering the extra services. The big drawback with KOLL is you can only borrow one book a month and books can only be read on Kindle devices, while the KU service can be used on Kindles and other devices, such as iPads, which can run the Kindle app.
KOLL payouts have been based on the KDP Select fund, which is set each month by Amazon. Authors will earn a share of the KDP Select Global Fund based on how frequently Kindle Unlimited customers choose your book and read more than 10% of it, or KOLL customers download it.
For instance, in January this year, the KDP Select fund was set at $1.2 million, and the figure was again $1.2 million for June, but this has been increased substantially to $2 million for July with the introduction of Kindle Unlimited.
In the past, authors have seen that royalties for a KOLL borrow can exceed the payment for a sale, but it’s impossible to predict what level of payouts we will see on Kindle Unlimited, particularly as it’s based on such a low percentage (10%) of total read. The first figures on KU borrowing will make very interesting reading.
The major drawback, of course, with enrolling a book in KDP Select is that the book has to be exclusive to Amazon. You can’t sell your book on Apple’s iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or anywhere else in ebook form while you’re on KDP Select.
Other subscription service payouts
Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s response to the initial success of ebook subscription services such as Scribd and Oyster Books.
For a full sale on a Scribd book distributed through Smashwords, an author earns 60% of the list price up to a maximum of $12.50 per read, when a customer reads 30% of a book.
Scribd also offers Smashwords writers a credit for partial reads where the subscriber reads just 15%, but less than the 30% needed for a full sale, However, 10 partial credits of this type are needed to count as a full sale.
Authors who distribute to the Oyster Books subscription service through Smashwords get 60% of list price for only a 10% read
Scribd offers a cheaper subscription at $8.99 a month than Kindle Unlimited’s $9.99 while Oyster Books charges $9.95 a month.
I’ll be looking into the ebook subscription services in more depth to assess authors’ prospects once the Kindle Unlimited figures start to come through.