Amazon announced last week the introduction of a new service, Kindle Unlimited, which gives you access to a library of 600,000 books for $9.99 a month, or a $120 a year. There’s been a lot of buzz about how this might affect libraries , even though most libraries are a free public service. But we do live in a both/and society and frankly my consumption of eBooks is at a level that $10 might actually be a steal, until you dig a little deeper.
In case you haven’t read this, seen the movies, got the t-shirt, or dressed up as a character at a con.
What are the 600,000 books Amazon is offering you? Their advertising features the Harry Potter Series, The Hunger Games, The Lord of the Rings, and Life of Pi. All excellent and popular books. And if you haven’t read them by now, what’s been keeping you? All of these are books you could find in the Half Price Books clearance section for $1.00 a piece, or check them out from your library, or borrow them from one of countless friends. (Full confession: While I’ve seen a lot of the Potter movies I haven’t actually read the books myself, but I’m a bit of a contrarian when it comes to popular culture).
I’m sorry we don’t have any Grisham, though we do have Grasham.
I did a quick run down of books my wife and I like to read. Like many people, my wife likes John Grisham. Amazon offers dozens of titles by this prolific and excellent legal thriller author, but virtually none are offered in Kindle Unlimited (and the ones that are are short stories or unofficial collaborations). Same goes for Kathy Reichs (author of the Bones series), Elizabeth Peters (Amelia Peabody mysteries), Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse), Marc Maron, Isaac Asimov, Jeffrey Deaver, the list goes on.
All of these authors are available in my local library’s digital lending program. For no cost I can borrow an eBook for 7-21 days, read it on my Kindle, Nook, tablet or computer, and return it with no overdue fees.
So again, what are these 600,000 books exactly? Well a lot of them are KDP select authors, like John Grasham.
Now I love Indie Authors, but…
If you’re the average consumer, who wants to read the latest popular titles for free or for a nominal fee, you might be a little dismayed to find that what you actually can borrow is by an author who’s only sold a couple of hundred copies.
By the way, I’m not picking on John Grasham or any other indie author who publishes on Amazon (considering I am one and Surreality will also be released on that platform). In truth I succumbed to the resemblance of Grasham to Grisham and the fact I peripherally know the author’s relatives (and his book is quite good).
So some consumers will be disappointed they can largely only read self-published work, and the ones that aren’t may be cutting into an indie author’s livelihood.
We all want exposure, to get our name and our books out there. That’s why some authors give books away for free or deeply discounted. But exposure isn’t everything. If you’re enrolled in Kindle Select, you may be kinda hoping for that higher royalty of 70%. Sure Indie Authors get a cut of the lending fund, but that’s nothing compared to what they’d get if they actually sold a book.
And from the looks of it, this wasn’t on their own terms. A number of KDP Select books from authors I know seem to have been automatically enrolled, including work by M. S. Fowle and several author guides in my Kindle wish list.
Okay what about audiobooks?
Audiobooks are probably one of the most price inflated ways to read. A recent indie audiobook bundle advertised containing over $1000 worth of audiobooks, or 11 audiobooks. Audible is an expensive, DRM mired service that is difficult to listen to in the manner you see fit.
My library, on the other hand, offers many books as easily lended audiobooks, many in MP3 DRM free format which makes them easily burned or transferred to devices.
So in my case, my library actually offers a better service for free than Amazon’s paid service. And by actually buying indie author’s books, I’m supporting their work as I hope they’ll support mine. Kindle Unlimited may have something for you, but your tastes will have to be pretty specific.