Kindle Unlimited KENP payout in January falls to $0.0041 while borrows soar by 21% to 3.6 billion

The Kindle Unlimited payout per KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Page) to authors fell by 9% to $0.0041 in January from $0.0045 in December 2015 in spite of a 11% boost for the KDP Select global fund taking it to another new high of $15 million from $13.5 million in the previous month.

The lower pay rate was the result of a massive increase in total KENPs read in January to 3,658,536,585 (that’s more than 3.6 billion ebook pages) from 3 billion read in December — a huge monthly rise of 21%.

The January figure of total KENPs read means that Kindle Unlimited has seen a rise of one billion KENPs read per month over just two months as the November total was around 2.6 billion.

The KDP Select global fund for January was topped up with a higher than usual $3 million to add to the originally set level of $12 million. The fund for February has been set again at $12 million.

The latest KENP rate means that payouts to Kindle Unlimited authors have fallen by 28% from a now heady-looking figure of $0.0057 in July last year when the pay-per-page system was introduced.

It’s been a steady downhill trend since then, with $0.0051 in August (down 10%), $0.0050 in September, $0.0048 in October, $0.0049 for November, $0.0045 in December and now $0.0041 for January.

Last February saw the only monthly fall in total borrows so far in the history of Kindle Unlimited when the number of ebooks borrowed under the old flat-rate payment system dropped by nearly 8% to 5.67 million from 6.15 million in January 2015  before surging again to 7.14 million in March.

It’ll be interesting to see if February this year again proves weak on the KENP total. The fall last year could be explained by February being nearly half a week shorter than January (28 days against 31 days — over 9% less) although as 2016 is a leap year the difference will be only 2 days this year — about 6% less.

If the pressure of rapidly rising borrows does ease in February, we might see the KU rate stabilise, especially as the new version of KENPC comes into operation (see below), which is likely to have the effect of producing a more stable KENP rate while also paying authors less overall.

However, the longer-term trend is definitely one of Amazon gradually, and sometimes not so gradually, cutting back payments to authors as the company faces the problem of trying to balance the vexed economics of the ebook subscription market.

It looks like borrows in some European Kindle stores may be paying better at present than in the US store as the KENP pay rate on borrows in the French Kindle store work out at €0.0040 (euros) which translates at the current exchange rate to $0.0044.

This may well be more a result of fluctuating exchange rates although it could be a reflection of the fact that French abonnementkindle (Kindle Subscription) members pay €9.99 a month, which works out at $11.14 — 11% higher than the US membership rate of $9.99 a month.

KU borrows in the UK, generally reckoned to be the second-biggest Kindle market in the world, saw a KENP pay rate of just £0.0026, which is the dollar equivalent of $0.0037. That’s well down on the pay rate, despite UK KU subscribers paying £7.99 a month ($11.40), also 11% higher than the US subscription. The UK pound has fallen sharply in recent weeks against the US dollar.

Amazon recently changed the way it allocates Kindle Unlimited payments in its various markets around the world and cut the pay rate for borrows in countries such as India where the monthly subscription rate for KU is much lower than elsewhere.

Amazon also recently recalculated the way it counts ebook pages. It claims the new  method is within 5% up or down of the previous total although many authors are reporting bigger falls in their KENP counts. However, this so-called KENPC v2.0 only came into operation from February 1, so the January figures are calculated on the basis of KENPC v1.0.

Kindle Unlimited total ebook borrows hit over 100 million in 2015