Kindle Unlimited (KU) - Good or Bad for Authors?

Kindle Unlimited (KU) elicits strong viewpoints from authors, both for and against. I don’t have a strong opinion either way. I can see both positives and negatives associated with the program. 

WHAT IT IS

KU is the equivalent to Netflix for books. It is a monthly subscription service by Amazon where readers can pay $9.99/month to have unlimited access to any book titles that have been enrolled in the KU program (there are currently 660,000+ titles, and each one of those titles is only available through Amazon/Kindle – a requirement of the program). Although readers can’t get every book, and maybe not even the majority of books they are interested in, like Netflix, they can get enough of what they want to make this a very popular service. This is evident by the rapid growth of the program.  

WHY THEY'RE MAD 

Some authors are bent out of shape about KU because, at least on a superficial level, it cannibalizes the outright sale of books. Why would a reader buy books if he or she can simply rent them? Also, why step outside of the KU offering to try a new author, if you are already paying $9.99 a month for whatever titles are enrolled in KU? Also, some authors don’t like the idea of forsaking iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, or any of the other ebook platforms  (platforms that authors may be more successful on) in order to participate in KU. I can understand their frustration and fears.

WHY THEY'RE HAPPY

On the flip side, it's an attractive deal for readers and many authors are of the opinion that what is best for their readers is best for the business. Value increases participation. Also, it’s not as if authors don’t get paid for their work (even if it they don’t get paid as much. I’m not sure what the amount is, but a couple months ago, it was about $1.65 per ebooks priced at $3.99, whereas I would receive $2.65 for a regular e-book at that price point).

MY TAKE

Amazon is generous with authors, in my opinion, and has made so many opportunities for independent authors. There is litte to complain here. Part of participating in a disrupted industry is the understanding that it may continue to be disrupted until the industry levels out. Things can and will continue to change. Regardless, I doubt the Big 5 publishing houses would pay authors as much (if anything) for rentals. Also, Amazon has bent over backwards to show authors that it considers them a big part of growing the pie and values them as teammates. Here’s an exerpt from an email received from the Kindel Direct Publishing Team recently: 

We have continued to see strong response from customers to Kindle Unlimited (KU) and are adding a bonus of $3.5 million to the previously announced base fund amount of $3 million, bringing the total fund to $6.5 million for the month of November.

To further highlight the KDP Select books that are most popular with customers, we will again award “KDP Select All-Stars” for November to the most-read authors and titles in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. We’ll spotlight each All-Star author and title on applicable detail pages. These awards will come with financial bonuses and recipients will be contacted in the next few days. Anyone with a title in KDP Select—even a debut author with a single title—can qualify if their work becomes a customer favorite. For more information on All-Stars, visit https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2X66QXB12WV2.

I’ve had a number of borrowings, but make more money on sales.  Part of being an authorpreneur is that you have to adapt with the changing market. If you made most of your money selling books and now your sales are way down because people don’t want to buy and would rather rent, then instead of crying and bemoaning the good ol’ days, it makes more sense to figure out how to succeed in a new environment. It might mean changing up marketing strategies and pulling books from other platforms, but I’ve found that it’s healthy to constantly reinvent yourself. If you don’t keep learning, your skill set gets stale, and it’s really hard to sell “stale.”