Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited ebook borrowing service has opened up in the UK, earlier than many commentators had anticipated after its July launch in the US.
The UK service will cost £7.99 a month, which is around $13 at the current exchange rate, nearly a third higher than the US rate of $9.99 for Kindle Unlimited.
The only other major ebook subscription service available in the UK is Scribd which costs $8.99 a month in the US. It doesn’t feature a separate sterling price for the UK as it charges the same $8.99 price and the member pays at the current rate of exchange, so at present this would be around £5.50, almost half the price of Kindle Unlimited. However, there are territorial restrictions on some of the books on offer from Scribd, which includes books from some of the major publishers.
The other big player in ebook subscriptions is Oyster Books, which charges $9.95 a month for its US-only service. The firm says it does not have a timetable for international expansion.
The limit on Unlimited
Kindle Unlimited is a borrowing service similar to a public library, with a limit of a total of 10 ebooks per member at any one time. You can borrow and ‘return’ books within the 10-book limit. Amazon has also been running the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) scheme for some time for Prime members, but this has a limit of just one book borrowed at a time.
There is no limit on the Scribd and Oyster services, but if you cancel your subscription you will lose access to your books.
Kindle Unlimited and Scribd both offer a free month’s trial subscription while Oyster Books has a 14-day free period and all the services offer around the same number of books at somewhere between 500,000 and 600,000.
Both Scribd and Oyster have a wide range of ebooks from big publishers, plus self-published books, while the big publishers, by and large, have kept most of their books out of Kindle Unlimited at present.
KDP Select Fund will be stretched further
Despite this, Kindle Unlimited has got off to a strong start in the US. Self-published authors get paid for Kindle Unlimited borrows when at least 10% of their book has been read. The payment comes out of the KDP Select Global Fund, which is set by Amazon each month, and divided up according to number of borrows.
For July and August, Amazon added very substantial bonuses for the fund, but the rate paid to authors has gone down as the number of borrows has leapt. The payout rate to authors has sank from around $2 per borrow in the pre-Kindle Unlimited days to $1.54 in August. However, this has been offset by vastly increased numbers of borrows which have increased authors’ income.
The addition of the UK will put further strain on the KDP Select Fund and it will be interesting to see whether Amazon will be raising the September fund, which is presently set at $3m, or whether it is prepared to see the level of author payouts drop further.
Jorrit Van der Meulen, Amazon’s vice president, Kindle EU, says, “Our US customers have shown us how much they love the opportunity to discover new authors and genres, and we’re delighted to offer the same freedom to our customers in the UK.”