Amazon Kindle Unlimited is a new program that for a small monthly fee allows you to read 10 eBooks at a time. No major publisher has bought into the Amazon initiative, which insures that there is a tremendous lack of mainstream or bestsellers. Instead, the Seattle company relies on its own cadre of indie authors to populate the ecosystem with their titles from Kindle Direct Publishing. What has prevented Unlimited from really taking off and being embraced by readers? The lack of quality titles produced by indie authors.
In order for an indie author to be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, they must opt into the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program. This allows their titles to be showcased in the Kindle Lending Library and made available for people to read for free. It also provides many advanced tools, such as free promotional pricing. KDP Select authors are automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and this is how it works. If someone reads their eBook past the 10% mark, the author will get paid on average about a dollar. The money is paid from a revolving pool of revenue that Amazon has on a monthly basis.
Amazon relies on exclusivity for their authors to be opted into the Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited. This prevents authors from only promoting their works on Amazon and not on Kobo Writing Life, Nook Press or Smashwords.
The bulk number of titles on Unlimited are all produced by indie authors. There are 600,000 eBooks and audiobooks that have been opted into the program. Where do the rest of the books come from? Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Open Road, Scholastic and Workman.
Some authors such as Hugh Howey were automatically opted into Unlimited, but did not have the same exclusivity as your run of the mill first time author. Howey and others had a limited amount of time they could distribute their titles throughout other retailers but at some point in time, they have to decide whether to fully embrace Unlimited on a title by title basis.
Most of the indie authors that actually make a decent living off of their works often have a head for the business. They are active on Twitter and other social media networks promoting their personal brands. They focus on multiple distribution platforms because it basically takes on average, two years to develop a core readership base. These authors do well because they do not rely on a singular source of revenue, but glean it from Apple, Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, Scribd and Oyster. Sadly, the authors that do rely on Amazon for the most part have poorly written titles and will never be purchased or loaned out for free. This makes Unlimited a barren wasteland of quality content from indie authors.
Should avid readers sign up for Unlimited? I would advise against it. The service is only available to residents of the US and there simply isn’t enough quality content to make it really viable beyond the first month.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and Verge.