July 25, 2014

Kindle Unlimited more limited than unlimited for indie authors


Would you like a tablet with that library book?

Some indie authors are apprehensive about Kindle Unlimited. And somebody left their Kindle on this bookshelf.

Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited plan, an ebook subscription service (like Scribd and Oyster), launched last week with over 600,000 books, and no deal with any big five publishers. As we reported earlier this week week, the bulk of the available titles are those currently enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing Select program.

This is where Amazon hits a speed bump—or falls off a cliff—with indie authors, many of whom have championed the retailer in the past.

See, one of the conditions of being enrolled in the KDP Select program is exclusivity. Mark Coker, who runs Smashwords, an indie distribution website, explains (emphasis his):

“KDP Select is a good example where the business interests of Amazon and authors diverge”

Exclusivity is great for Amazon, but it’s not necessarily great for authors and readers.  Exclusivity starves competing retailers of books readers want to read, which motivates readers to move their reading to the Kindle platform. This is why Amazon has made exclusivity central to their ebook strategy. They’re playing a long term game of attrition.

Most indie authors recognize the value in fostering a diverse ecosystem of multiple competing retailing options.  Yet every book enrolled in KDP Select is a vote to put Amazon’s competitors out of business. You know this to be true if you believe, as I believe, that indies are the future of publishing.”

Traditionally published authors do not have to grant exclusivity.

Kindle Unlimited isn’t just upsetting indie writers with the need for exclusivity, either. According to The Bookseller, Amazon is paying traditional publisher that offer books on their service the wholesale price of the book as compensation for every read. For indie authors, it will be giving a fixed price, which comes out of a pool that Amazon recently raised to $2 million.

Presently, indie authors believe they will be paid $2 for every read. A read is 10% of the book, but that is also liable to change at Amazon’s discretion.

A third problem their encountering is that, to them, some indies are less indie than others. To a handful of well-selling writers, Amazon has allowed them to test their Kindle Unlimited service without tying themselves to it. According to Hugh Howey, this is an exemption that lasts only for a short time, but one that the author’s who opted-in to it were not even aware they were receiving.

All of this amounts to a rather rocky start for Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited project. At a time when they’re feuding with big publishers, self-published authors have been their champions, and are the only reason Kindle Unlimited can claim 600,00 titles. They seem like the wrong people to piss off.