Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited a game-changer for readers AND authors

Posted: August 10, 2014 in Books in general
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Amazon’s controversial Kindle Unlimited subscription reading service was released late last month and despite all the naysayers and doomsdayers we believe the early signs indicate it’ll be a win-win for readers and authors alike.

For those who don’t yet know, paying the $9.99 per month Kindle Unlimited fee allows readers to download as many ebooks as they like – hence the word “unlimited”. It has been dubbed by the many journalists as The Netflix of reading.

Almost overnight, Kindle Unlimited is changing the entire environment of not only the way people read, but also the way the world’s major publishers continue to sell books – or try to. Perhaps justifiably, the big publishers are scared and fear they are losing control of the way they have monopolized book distribution for eons. As more and more book stores go under, the competition to dominate the ebook market is reaching fever pitch.

But as published authors, and also keen readers, we have little sympathy for the big 5 publishers. If Kindle Unlimited does prove to be a better deal for authors, and readers can read as many books as they like, then who cares what the likes of Random House or Harper Collins think? At the end of the day it’s a free market and whoever presents the best deal (in this case Amazon) for readers and writers should triumph in the end.

What follows are some excerpts (that we tend to agree with) from a recent letter Amazon sent to authors around the world regarding a heated legal dispute they are engaged in with leading publishing house Hachette. Many of these comments strongly relate to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited scheme which is predicted to lower the prices of ebooks over time and lead to unprecedented book sales for authors…

 

Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents – it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.

With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution – places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

 

A comprehensive list of books that can be read for free by Kindle Unlimited subscribers can be found here on the book reading social media site Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/genres/kindle-unlimited

Popular Kindle Unlimited Books

The Ninth Orphan (The Orphan Trilogy, #1)

Hudson (Fixed, #4)

Fiji: A Novel (The World Duology, #2)

Rhett (Rhett, #1)

Sweet Addiction (Sweet Addiction, #1)

The Orphan Conspiracies: 29 Conspiracy Theories from The Orphan Trilogy

Beautifully Forgotten (Beautifully Damaged, #2)
With This Heart
Breathe with Me (With Me in Seattle, #7)
World Odyssey (The World Duology, #1)
The Orphan Trilogy (The Ninth Orphan / The Orphan Factory / The Orphan Uprising)
The Orphan Factory (The Orphan Trilogy, #2)
Tied with Me (With Me in Seattle, #6)
Flat-Out Love (Flat-Out Love, #1)
The Orphan Uprising (The Orphan Trilogy, #3)
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