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Kindle Unlimited: Why I Don’t Like It When I Should

Kindle unlimited in essence is a wonderful idea, just like netflix and sites like spotify it allows people to pay a monthly set fee and listen to as much music or watch as much tv as they’d like. It’s affordable and it makes it easier to find the things you want to enjoy. As a reader I think it’s the way the industries ought to be going.

None of the models are perfect. Spotify pays 70% of subscriptions to musicians but it does it based on listens over all not listens per subscriber so the money is pushed towards the sorts of musicians who have people repeatedly listening to their songs. Netflix pays outright for streaming deals and this often means it can pay way too much for some shows and not enough for others.

The one thing both do, though it pay a reasonable amount of what they get from subscriptions to the makers. Spotify especially have at least pegged the figure at a percentage that pretty standard for entertainment. Kindle pass on 70% of ebook royalties to the publisher/author when one is bought.

But that’s where Kindle Unlimited loses its appeal for me personally. Kindle Unlimited costs $10/£8 which is only a little more than netflix and it provides access to the books in the Unlimited library for free. It’s a great deal for someone who reads a lot. But the author has the raw end of the deal. The author only gets a share of an arbitrary pot Amazon decides upon 15 days after the end of the month (worked out by pages read of all books by all readers). There’s no percentage or total gross subscription revenue to give an idea of if this is even a fair amount and has the same flaw that the spotify model has in that it’s not a single persons subscription broken up by what they read, but pages out of the total of everyone.

On top of that Kindle Unlimited demands exclusivity of the ebook. It literally can’t be offered for sale anywhere else. Now in some cases Netflix also does this, but they pay more to get a show exclusively.

In the past Amazon has been heralded as the saviour of the author. Giving the author way more money per sale than a traditional publisher does and giving far more literary freedom. There’s whole new waves of fiction that exist thanks to what they’re doing and a whole load more authors making enough money to live of their writing. In comparison to ten years ago it’s a great time to write books (although still way harder than your average career), but Kindle Unlimited needs work, and I have to admit, I’m kinda hoping someone else comes along with a more transparant pay scale and competes with Amazon, because as it is, it’s a return to keeping authors out of the driving seat of their own career.