Amazon Considering Kindle Unlimited: One-Price Access to 600,000 Books

07/17/2014

I’m a book person. I have thousands of books in my home, and read at least one or two a week. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good library near home, so I buy a lot of books. I look carefully for the lowest prices, buying sometimes from Amazon, sometimes from third-party sellers on Amazon, and sometimes used.

I also buy ebooks, for books that I know I won’t want to read again, but, also, since when I recently moved from France to the UK, and realized how many books I had (and culled half of them), I vowed to not let my book collection grow so large again.

Ebooks aren’t great, but they are fine for certain types of books: fast-read novels, non-fiction that I won’t read more than once, and books where I’m unlikely to read footnotes. I buy Kindle books rather than iBooks, because the Kindle is a better reading device than the iPad or iPhone, and, if I buy Kindle books, I can read them on any platform. I like reading outdoors, and I can’t do that on my iPad, but I can read on my Kindle in the sun. If I want to read on my iPad, I can do that with the Kindle app. Win-win.

So, the (unsurprising) disclosure that Amazon is testing a Kindle Unlimited service interests me as a reader. But before getting out the credit card and signing up, it’s worth considering what kinds of books you can get from a service like this.

A few months ago, I tried out Scribd, which offers a similar service. My experience was not very positive. Services like this only get books from a limited number of publishers, plus nearly every self-published book on the planet. Nothing against self-publishing, but lots of that stuff is simply dreadful. If Amazon offers such a service, it will certainly have similar content. Out of there 600,000-odd books, it’s likely that the vast majority will just not be any good.

Amazon has a feature of its Amazon Prime service called the Kindle Lending Library. There are, here in the UK, “over 500,000 Kindle titles to borrow for free.” Alas, I’ve not come across any when searching for books I want to read. So I fear that Kindle Unlimited would be similar.

I’m not the kind of person who will only choose books to read from what’s available from a service like that. Could you imagine only watching movies on Netflix because you’ve paid for a subscription? Kindle Unlimited will only be interesting if it includes lots of books from major publishers. I can imagine that new releases wouldn’t be included, and that’s fine, but if it’s only small publishers and self-published books, it’s not worth it.

As an author, however, I’m less interested in a service like this, and given the types of books I write, I wouldn’t allow them to be on a one-price-per-month service. But that will be the subject of a future article…