Long reads to pay off in Kindle Unlimited pay-per-page system as Amazon reveals count details and nearly 2 billion a month page reads

Amazon has revealed the prospect of what looks like a low page payout rate to authors under the new pay-per-page Kindle Unlimited system that could see the royalty rate at $1 for every 173 ebook pages read.

But due to how Amazon has worked out ebook page count, an author with an ebook that would be around 260-300 pages in print form could be paid around $4 for a fully read borrow under the new Kindle Unlimited terms.

Under the likely payout of $0.0057 (see below), a 100,000-word novel would represent a Kindle ebook page count of 534 pages at the calculation of 187 words per ebook page and the author would be paid $3.04 on a fully read borrow.

Shorter books would be paid correspondingly less, so a 60,000-word novel would produce a Kindle ebook page count of 320 pages and the author would get $1.82 on a fully read borrow (60,000 words/187 words page count = 320 KENPs. 320 x $0.0057 = $1.82).

Both of the examples above would bring higher payouts than the recent flat-rate payouts under KU, which have been around $1.38 per borrow. However, the flat rate was paid on just 10% of a book being read while the new system pays by the page. A writer would now get $1.38 after 45,441 words of a book were read.

The company has set out a largely reasonable page-count system for determining the length of an ebook, although authors with illustrated ebooks don’t seem to benefit.

The marvellously titled Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC) appears to have been set so a novel can work out at nearly twice the length of the estimated ‘Print length’ included in Kindle book details.

KENPC page count set at around 187 words

For example, Charlotte’s Wedding by Mary Rizza has an estimated ‘Print length’ of 221 pages in its Kindle details, but has a KENPC of 409 pages — an 85% increase from the print to ebook version.

That book has a total of 76,600 words, which means Amazon is calculating a Kindle page as comprising 187 words (76,600 words/409 pages).

Under the new scheme, a fully read borrow of that book could pay out $2.33 (409 pages x $0.0057), a significant improvement on the recent average flat rate of around $1.38.

In non-fiction, How To Listen by Mary Hartley has an estimated ‘Print length’ of 179 pages and a KENPC of 226 pages — a 26% rise from print to ebook. The book totals 36,790 words which means 162 words count as a KENP there (36,790 words/226 pages). The new terms would see a fully read borrow pay $1.28 (226 pages x $0.0057), down from the flat-rate level of $1.38.

Space police on patrol

The difference in page count calculation between those two books is probably explained by extra spacing between paragraphs in the non-fiction book and setting out examples as bullet-point lists, while the novel is standard text and spacing throughout.

Amazon is making its KENPC calculations on the basis of 12pt text and seems to be on its guard for any tricksy spacing designed to try to lengthen a book.

However, although Amazon says, ‘Non-text elements within books including images, charts and graphs will count toward a book’s KENPC,’ it doesn’t look like they count for an enormous amount.

How images are calculated in Kindle ebook page count

For example, my own ebook, Make The Most Of Your Blog, has a KENPC of 143 pages, which is actually less than the ‘Print length’ of 158 pages. This book runs to 13,480 words but also includes over 150 images, largely screen shots. This would pay out only $0.81 per fully read borrow.

If Amazon had used the fiction example shown above of 187 words per page, then my KENPC would be just 72 pages (13,480/187), so it seems the 150 images have counted for around half a page each, or the equivalent of around 80-90 words.

That’s not necessarily a terrible outcome, although it is a lot of work to research, devise, take, resize, compile, annotate and insert screen shots and I’d now be inclined to opt for writing an extra 90 words explaining a step rather than going through the rigmarole of adding illustrations if I were solely considering the KU criteria.

1.9 billion KU pages read in June, so Kindle Unlimited payout rate could be $0.0057 per page

The rate paid per KENPC page looks likely to be low. The initial July KDP Select fund has been set at $11 million at least, which is a record high, but Amazon has revealed that the total number of pages read by Kindle Unlimited members in June was 1.9 billion KENPs (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages). This is the first time that Amazon has given details on how many pages are read through the KU service.

The KDP Select fund is divided up to pay authors’ royalties under Kindle Unlimited every month and if that same KU reading figure is maintained for July, then authors can expect the grand sum of $0.0057 per KENP ($11 million KDP Select fund/1.9 billion KENPs). That’s just over half a cent per page in real money — or just over a cent per print page.

At that rate, if a reader got through 200 pages of an ebook, then the author would get $1.15, or $2.31 for a completed 400-page ebook. An author would earn $1 for every 173 pages read.

That doesn’t sound good but bear in mind it is 173 pages in KENPC terms, which means we’re talking about 85 or 86 print pages or even less than that.

Using the fiction example of 187 words per KENP, an author would get $1 for every 32,351 words read on Kindle Unlimited (173 pages x 187 words).

Many print books, particularly novels, contain up to 500 words on a page, so this example could easily represent just 65 pages or so in a print book, which doesn’t seem so bad if you consider you’re getting a dollar for every 65 print pages read.

A novelist with a 260-page print book that gets fully read on a borrow would get $4 — admittedly, this would be a book of nearly 130,000 words.

Amazon has confirmed that it will continue to pay per page read if a book is read over a series of months, so payment on a borrow could be split over a couple of months or more.

In its corporate literature, Amazon is sticking to its strangely ridiculous examples of a $10 million fund and just 100 million pages read a month, meaning the author of a 100-page book with 100 fully-read borrows would earn $1,000 — $0.10 a page. It’s baffling why Amazon would insist on setting out such a scenario when it admits the true total of pages read per month is nearly 20 times the example number.

The reality is that with an $11 million fund, an author of a 100-page ebook with 100 fully read borrows would get $57 — $11 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 1.9 billion pages (KENPs).

That would be well under half of the $138 that the author of a 100-page book could have expected for 100 borrows under the recent $1.38 borrow rate paid per KU borrow once 10% of a book had been read.

To reach that $1.38 level, an author (assuming the $0.0057 per-page rate) would need to have a book borrowed which had seen 243 KENPs read (see also below).

To take part in KU requires exclusivity to Amazon through enrolling an ebook in KDP Select. The pay-per-page system started operation on July 1, so the first payment details will be made available by Amazon or or around August 15. The final flat-rate payout details for June will be published around July 15.

KU average borrow could be 243 pages read

I worked out in May that there could have been around 7.8 million borrows through Kindle Unlimited. Dividing the 1.9 billion total by 7.8 million borrows results in an average of 243 pages read per borrow.

My estimate of 7.8 million borrows in May could well be spot-on when you consider that the average read of 243 pages would result in Amazon paying out the princely sum of, yes, $1.38 (243 x $0.0057), which, as mentioned above, is roughly the going rate under the present KU flat-rate payout system.

We don’t, of course, know how many members have signed up for Kindle Unlimited. If the average number of borrows per month is four, then KU could have nearly two million members, bringing in total revenue for Amazon of around $20 million a month on the $9.99 monthly subscription, meaning Amazon would be making a thumping profit as it’s paying out only around $11 million.

But if the average number of borrows is around eight, then the total number of members could be just a million or less, which could see Amazon making a loss with monthly revenue in the region of $10 million.

My feeling is that the revenue/payout equation is fairly evenly balanced at present, with Amazon taking a margin into account, so I reckon there are around 1.2 million KU members paying a total of nearly $12 million a month.

That would mean the average KU member is borrowing 6.5 books a month and reading a grand total of 1, 579 pages every month (6.5 x 243 pages), which would cost Amazon around $9 in royalty payments to authors (1,579 x $0.0057 per page).

Standardised approach to calculating KENPC ebook page count

Amazon says the KENPC is based on standard settings, including font, line height, line spacing, etc, to measure the number of pages customers read in a book, starting with the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book. The SRL is typically set at chapter 1, so readers can start reading the core content of a book as soon as they open it.

It says this standardized approach allows it to identify pages in a way that works across genres and devices.

You can see your book’s KENPC listed on the ‘Promote and Advertise’ page in your KDP Bookshelf and you can see total pages read on your Sales Dashboard report.