What do I think of Kindle Unlimited these days?

A few months ago, I shared my initial thoughts on Kindle Unlimited, the at-that-time new program Amazon had introduced for ebooks. You can read the previous post for all the details, but the basic premise of Kindle Unlimited is that you pay $9.99 per month to read all the ebooks you want.

When I shared my initial thoughts, I said that I wasn’t really sure if I felt it was a good program or not. After several months, I’ve come to a few conclusions. These are, of course, only my opinions and may not be shared by other authors who’ve been in the program or by Amazon customers who use it.

Short version of my opinion: As an author, I don’t like the program.

It had a rather dramatic, negative effect on my sales. My actual sales dropped drastically. Prime borrows and KU borrows were both put under the same heading, and paid out at the same rate, which dropped like a lead weight to an amount that was (for lack of a better word) pathetic. What I got paid for a borrow was less than half of what I would get for a sale. While writing is not all about the money for me, being able to support my family is rather important and the changes that KU brought about were making that harder, if not absolutely impossible.

KU also made Kindle Countdown Deals pretty much pointless. Marking your book down to $.99 doesn’t matter anymore when they can simply borrow the book. There’s no incentive to snag a great deal before it’s too late when they know that they can borrow it anytime with their subscription – and be out nothing, because they can simply return the book and move on.

I still have not signed up to use it as a customer, and I’ll explain why now. I don’t feel it has many benefits to me as a customer.

First, there are still no big name authors included in the program. For me, I would be more likely to use the program if the big names were included – their books are generally priced much higher than an indie author’s, and therefore, I would feel it was more useful if I could use it to get those more expensive books under the umbrella of my monthly subscription price. Indie authors usually price their books low enough that I am more willing to spend that money, and I would have to read many more of them than I would the big names to make the subscription price worth it.

Somewhat related to the fact that there are no big names, libraries often have ebooks you can check out. My local library only allows me to check out two ebooks, but I recently discovered that I could get a library card for the library in the next county, which has a huge university. That library allows me to check out 20 books at a time. While I can’t imagine actually doing so, that higher limit allows me more freedom and flexibility. Additionally, while my local library rarely has new books available for Kindle, the other one has tons of new books. I often have to place a hold and wait my turn, but given that I already have plenty of other books to read, I don’t mind waiting my turn when it can save me some money.

Overall I would say, both as an author and as a customer, I don’t feel the Kindle Unlimited program is really that great. Do I think it could be? I suppose, with some tweaks, it could be made it something I would find beneficial. But as it stands right now, I’m not impressed.

What about you? Whether you’re an author or simply a reader, what are your thoughts on Kindle Unlimited?

2 thoughts on “What do I think of Kindle Unlimited these days?

  1. As a reader, I haven’t signed up because most of the books I’m interested in reading aren’t included and as you point out, the library has developed a significant digital collection. Also, to be fair, I still much prefer a book in my hands rather than on my Kindle.

    As a writer in progress, I wonder at this continual downgrading of the value of writing and I’m not sure I want to contribute to it. It might be a good deal for writers whose work would never see the light of day in a traditional publishing model. I don’t know – mixed feelings about it, I guess.

    1. I do enjoy the feel of a real book, as well. But I can’t deny the ease that a Kindle provides, too.

      I like independent publishing (aka self publishing) for a lot of reasons – the control that I have over my own work being a big one. I decide when my book is published, what my cover looks like, and the overall tone of my book – traditional publishing would put so much of that in the hands of a publisher, right down to them making me change scenes that I might be happy with because they think it won’t work. I also have control over the pricing, and though I don’t get an advance, I feel like I get more of the money than I would through a traditional publisher, based on everything I’ve read. I also think it allows the publication of more work that, as you put it, might not otherwise see the light of day.

      But I do think that a lot of the things Amazon has done has contribute to an overall appearance that what we do isn’t valuable – there are people publishing books that are obviously not edited in any way, or publishing things that have no meaning whatsoever or an incredibly insulting meaning (I recall seeing a post on Facebook the other day about a book someone had written that claimed to teach you how to write a nonfiction book in 24 hours.). While I wouldn’t want Amazon to begin acting like a publisher, I do think some controls to get rid of some of the worst offenders would help. Unfortunately, it’s also one of those situations where it’s easy to say that in theory, but the actual implementation would be far more difficult.

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