Balls Deep in Kindle Unlimited: The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

KUpost-pic
Original artwork by Jack Sparling, from House of Mystery #173 Copyright 1968, 2014 DC Comics, Inc.

Or at least that’s the way it seems in some quarters. Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s new subscription-based e-book service, has been the hot topic for about five days now, which is of course more than enough time to know EVERYTHING about the service and EVERY SINGLE THING it could effect. Not.

Here’s the facts, as far as I can determine, for each end of the equation.

Readers:

Readers pay $9.99 a month for Kindle Unlimited. At the moment, all participants are enjoying a free trial month.

For that sawbuck, they get access to several hundred thousand books, of which they can borrow ten (10) at a time. If you have ten on your Kindle and you return a book, you can borrow another.

Unlike similar subscription services like Scribd or Oyster, KU does not require a separate app to use; e-books are delivered directly to your Kindle as they normally would be with any e-book purchase or library borrow (or can be downloaded to your computer to be sideloaded onto the devices if you don’t have a wireless connection).

The title selection currently includes a number of traditionally-published and independently-published titles, such as the Harry Potter books, the Hunger Games trilogy, and the Life of Pi, along with a good collection of titles from indie writers. Most genres appear to be fairly well represented, with the exception of erotica (click the picture on the sidebar below to see the numbers in each category).

You can return your Kindle Unlimited titles from your Kindle if you go to the Kindle Store, select “All Categories”, choose Kindle Unlimited, and then pick My Kindle Unlimited books, which will bring up the proper interface to return them.

If you return your books via the internet on your Manage Your Content page, the book will be deleted from your Kindle the next time you sync it. So, if you’re reading one and haven’t finished, don’t return it that way. It WILL be deleted and no, it isn’t a conspiratorial scam like many might tout that sort of invasiveness after the 1984 debacle of a few years back.

Readers also have access to a select number of audiobooks (noted by the Audible Whispersync logo in the book listing), which can be downloaded much like you would from Audible.com (this requires a software download to your PC or laptop, or the Audible app on your Kindle Fire). I personally haven’t tried this yet, since I’m not a big audiobook consumer at the moment.

Categorys and numbers of titles in Kindle Unlimited as of July 22, 2014
Categorys and numbers of titles in Kindle Unlimited as of July 22, 2014

 

Authors: 

In order to participate in Kindle Unlimited, you MUST be a member of Kindle Select. If you are already a member, your books were automatically added to the KU library (if you do not wish to be in the program, you can withdraw them without penalty to your Select account for a limited time on the KDP website).

Naturally, the exclusivity rule applies as it would to any Kindle Select title: You cannot have your book for sale on any other venue but Amazon during your 90-day enrollment in order to use the program. Just like the commercial says, “membership has privileges”.

Authors will get a paid a royalty share, much like the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) for each book that is read at least to the 10% mark. That exact amount is unknown at the moment, but KOLL has averaged about $2.00 USD per borrow over the past year or so.

And that’s pretty much all we know. The two notable items that no one is quite sure of at the moment that, in my opinion, will make or break Kindle Unlimited are:

1. How many readers are going to re-up for a second month (and longer), actually paying the $9.99 monthly charge?

2. Exactly how much are authors going to get for each borrow from KU? Is it going to be the same amount as KOLL? Less? More than a regular royalty? Less than that?

We’ve got about a month to wait on the former, and about a fortnight on the other.

Another minor quibble that needs to be explained is that, if a reader doesn’t use Whispernet/3G/wifi and sideloads all their borrowed e-books on their Kindles, how does Amazon know if the 10% read qualification for payments has been met or not? Surprisingly, there still are some people out there without access or who choose not to invest in a wireless connection, so this is a salient discussion point.

For me, as an indie author, I’m looking at Kindle Unlimited as a great way to get my books in front of people that wouldn’t normally read them; I have one in Select right now, but the KOLL is really a crap shoot, since a Prime user only gets one e-book a month they can borrow. And considering I review every book I read (and have done so for going on two and a quarter years now), that means that other “power readers” may also be doing the same thing. Reviews are one of those sticky points that indie authors can never seem to get enough of … or often any at all. Hopefully this could be a much more inexpensive in-road for that that problem.

I do have to say that authors in the program had better make sure their books are up to snuff in terms of formatting, editing, and proofreading. I’ve read about fifteen books since the start of the Kindle Unlimited program, all of which were books that I had interest in, but not nearly enough to chance buying them. At least four of them so far would’ve been returned for a refund because of poor presentation (two were nearly unreadable because of formatting issues).  This program could be a boon to indie writers, but we cannot live up to the stereotype that’s been forced upon us by the less scrupulous segments of our own community through a lazy attitude toward the basics of publishing!

So the sky is not falling. Rome is still standing, and in fact, Nero hasn’t even gotten his fiddle out. The Silver Surfer has not located us yet. Darkseid’s still a few factors away from the Anti-Life Equation. It’s still the main aria and there are no Viking helmets in sight. Let’s all just sit back and let things progress naturally, so we can all make some properly informed decisions on Kindle Unlimited.

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