The Deal with Kindle Unlimited (For Readers)

Pretty much all avid e-book readers have tried, or at least heard of, Kindle Unlimited. And, really, it sounds like the perfect service; you get to read as many books as you want on the Kindle Unlimited store for just $9.99 every month, and who wouldn’t be interested in that?

Let me tell ya, though… as a YA author myself that has experience with the “other side” of Kindle Unlimited (the author/writer side, I mean), I know a few things about Kindle Unlimited (KU, for short) that the majority of e-book readers don’t. And, honestly, they aren’t all pretty things… and, actually, they’re far from it.

So, allow me to share what the “deal” with Kindle Unlimited is with y’all and why I, personally, don’t think it’s near as great as it’s cracked up to be.

Kindle Unlimited (KU) Basics

Okay, so, if you’ve never actually used KU before, you may need a quick fill-in on what the whole hubbub is really about.

Kindle Unlimited is a service offered by Amazon.com (yep, the same place where we all order paper towels in bulk now) and lets readers access millions of e-books and magazines for “free”, although you still do have to pay a membership fee of $9.99 each month. There are also some audiobooks in the KU market for you to chose from, but there’s not nearly as many available compared to the selection of e-books.

When you have a KU membership, you get to “borrow” up to 10 titles at a time to read. This makes it feel kind of like having a library card, but, again, you still pay that ten-ish dollar fee every month.

And, even if you do not have a Kindle e-reader, you can still subscribe to and use KU. All you really need is a tablet, smartphone, or computer with the official Kindle app made and distributed by Amazon.

What You Might Not Know About KU

Now, there’s a lot of things that go on “behind the scenes” which readers who sign up for Kindle Unlimited don’t always know. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not really all that bad, but I do want to share some eye-openers on how authors are really treated in the Kindle Unlimited realm.

Because, you know, us authors are always looking out for our readers, and we honestly just want you all to have the best experiences possible. And part of that means being transparent about what us and our books go through before reaching you on the “other side”!

Kindle Unlimited Books Can Only Be Found on Kindle Unlimited

A lot of you may already know this, but any book you happen to find on KU right now will not be available on any other reading platform at the same time. And, if you do find it available somewhere else, then you should probably let Amazon know, because that’s against their KU publishing policies, and the author/publisher of that book is about to be in some major trouble.

What you may not realize, though, is that this means that authors who want to put their books up on the Kindle Unlimited store are only allowed to put their books on Kindle Unlimited store. This means that us authors who use KU to publish our work are not permitted to publish our work on, say, Google Play or Apple Books as well. And, honestly, that really sucks for authors because we often have readers who use those other platforms, and by committing to KU, we can’t share our work with them!

This all makes using Kindle Unlimited, as an author, a really big commitment. And, a lot of times, authors that choose to put all of their books on the KU market lose a ton of readers that don’t use KU.

Kindle Unlimited is Mainly U.S.-Based

Another thing you may not realize is that, although Amazon is a global company that sells and delivers products to many countries, Kindle Unlimited is a service only currently offered to customers in the United States. Which, if you already live here in the states, you may not see much of a problem with this; however, this does take away reading opportunities for millions of other readers around the world.

Remember how I mentioned above that books in the KU market are only allowed to be in the KU market? Well, the fact that the KU market itself is only catering to U.S.-based customers makes this even worse.

The more Kindle Unlimited grows in popularity and in quantity of books, the more and more it excludes global readers from participating in the membership program. And, of course this sucks for those readers that can’t read absolutely anything included in the KU market, but it also sucks for authors because, again, they can’t share their work with those avid e-book readers outside of the United States. And, you know, there’s a lot of ’em!

Kindle Unlimited Books Will Never Be on a Bestseller List

Listen up, because I’m about to tell you something that’s going to blow your mind…

Bestseller book lists (think USA Today, New York Times…) compile their lists based on book sales from multiple book retailers, online and otherwise. And, most of those lists require any best-selling book to be available for sale to readers through more than one book retailer to even be considered a best-seller. But, of course… books that are on the Kindle Unlimited retail market can only be on the Kindle Unlimited retail market, so they’re always going to be disqualified from bestseller book lists.

That being said, most of us authors don’t really pay attention to those lists at all (because they’re ridiculously difficult to get on) anyway, but it still sucks that, even if we were able to get enough readers to make a book a bestseller, we would never get the deserved recognition for it just because the book was only available on Kindle Unlimited. And that sucks, too!

Kindle Unlimited Does Not Pay Authors Well

Okay, last thing here, and I’m just gonna be upfront about it: Kindle Unlimited does not compensate authors for their work very well.

Authors who publish their books on the KU market are paid when readers complete a page of one of their books. And the amount paid per page read varies month by month (depending on how many total subscribers are currently enrolled in the KU program), but it usually averages out to around $0.004. Of course, this could add up as more pages are read, but most books actually only earn authors a total whopping $1.00 when a reader completes every single page. Now, compare that to most regularly priced e-books not on the Kindle Unlimited store (whether it be a non-Kindle Unlimited book on the Kindle Store or one on another online store, like Google Play) that are usually priced at $2.99 for a reader to buy/read the entire book/pages. That means books in Kindle Unlimited earn authors (on average, of course) 1/3 less money than those not in Kindle Unlimited.

So, even though the price of KU membership seems wonderfully reasonable for you as a reader at only $9.99 a month, this low fee also translates to low income for authors. And, yep, you know I’m gonna say it… that sucks.

Well, there you have it–the “deal” with Kindle Unlimited from an author’s perspective.

Now, I’m not going to draw any conclusions for you dear readers, because I want you to really decide for yourself if KU is worth paying for monthly… and, besides that, I definitely don’t want to persuade anybody to jump away from their current KU membership because there are still plenty of authors with Kindle Unlimited books that do deserve amazing readers like you!

But, in the end, I just wanted to make this blog post to be transparent with my own readers. Because I have had people ask me before about why I don’t currently have any of my books in the KU market, and these are just a few of my reasons. Honesty is the best policy, y’all, and I don’t ever want to be afraid to share my concerns when it comes to my books and how they get to my readers’ hands.

Let me know in the comments what you really think about KU!

–Kari

6 thoughts on “The Deal with Kindle Unlimited (For Readers)

  1. Pingback: Scribd: The New Best Reading Platform??? – Kari Lynn M.

  2. Are you sure Kindle Unlimited is only available in the United States? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard my Canadian friends talk about using it and the Canadian authors I know definitely use KU for their books.
    Amazon’s kindle vella is exclusive to the U.S, but I can’t imagine that’s the case for KU

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Here, so this link says that kindle Unlimited is only available to U.S residents on amazon.com, but that people in a ton of other countries can get Kindle Unlimited through their local amazon marketplace. https://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1002872331#:~:text=A%3A%20Kindle%20Unlimited%20is%20currently,this%20service%20to%20other%20countries.

    So Idk what the different between getting KU through amazon.com or through a local amazon marketplace is, but I knew I’d heard my Canadian friends talk about using KU.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Authors of any country can publish through KU, but up until pretty recently , only U.S. readers were able access KU. I think Amazon is still working on expanding KU to other countries, so I’m sure places like Canada, U.K., and Australia are getting access to it first, but there are a lot of countries that are still getting on the KU train. Up until just the past few months, though, KU was only available to U.S. readers.

      Like

  4. One more thing, self-published books can’t end up on the New York Times Bestseller list anyway. Possibly the USA list, but definitely not the NYT. They don’t consider self-published books, regardless of whether or not they are in KU.

    This is a well-written and interesting blog post, but it needs some factual corrections and further research.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey again,
      I think that’s actually a pretty common misconception. While it’s true that the majority of books on bestseller lists are traditionally published books (such as those published through a publishing house), the market has changed significantly over the past decade or so, and self-publishing has become a viable option for tons of authors, myself included! Self publishing can take a lot of different forms, too, not just with eBooks that are or aren’t on KU, and a lot of self-published authors are able to get their paperbacks and even hardbacks into retails right beside traditionally published ones. And bestseller lists do vary in how they rank their bestsellers, but, usually, they count sales of titles from multiple different retailers (like Walmart, Barnes and Noble, and many others that are both online and brick and mortar), and the publisher of the titles are not a factor in that counting. The reason, though, that most bestseller list titles are still traditionally published books is that traditional publishers still have more access to different retailers, giving them an advantage to get that wide range of book sales from different channels that bestseller lists look for. This will, I hope, change in near future in the favor of self publishers!

      Also, there is no set rule that self published titles cannot be accepted on the NYT bestseller list. The USA Today list does not have such a rule, either, and I’ve known a lot of self-published authors that have made it onto that one!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

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