When Kindle Unlimited was unveiled, it initially looked like a great idea. But now, several months later, it’s clearly not the boon many self-published writers initially thought it would be. Nor is it a reader’s paradise. It didn’t take long for scammers to figure out how to game the system with extremely short books, where just reading a few pages would trigger a “buy” and a payment. The numbers also don’t add up for people with books priced over $2.99, because you make less per KU borrow than you would an outright sale.
I’m also hearing more reports from readers who complain about the poor quality of many of the books (even the ones that aren’t “scraped” content gaming the ‘Zon’s system).
Writers are paid out of a monthly “pot” set up by Amazon. This pot can fluctuate, meaning the per borrow amount can fluctuate, and you don’t even know for sure what your earnings will be until the next month. (Unlike outright buys, where you can see how many you sold.)
Personally, I saw a dip in third-party Amazon sales for my publisher-published titles upon the inception of KU. (My publisher is, fortunately, NOT participating in the KU program.) Many other authors also saw similar dips in sales, even authors without books in KU.
For readers, you don’t get to keep the books you borrow. In some cases this isn’t a bad thing (if you get a real turkey). I’ve heard some readers report that they don’t read enough of the “free” content to make it worth the $9.99 a month in addition to books they already buy.
For authors, being in the program means you’re locked into exclusivity with Amazon. While the KDP select program wasn’t bad in terms of being able to use the free promo days, unfortunately it looks like you can’t opt-out of the KU part of the program. (Someone please correct me if that’s incorrect.)
Also, Amazon controls the amount of the “pot” the KU earnings come from. This means they could conceivably say, “Hey, the new amount is $.50 a borrow.” And…well, you’re screwed at that point. And the amount of scammers now trying to game the KU system means that much less per “borrow” for the legitimate KU authors out there.
Where would KU be a good thing? If you have a brand new pen name you’re trying to get out there, using the service for initial launch and then pulling out after the initial 90-day period. But I certainly wouldn’t use it for a whole backlist.
So that’s my $.02 opinion. I’d love to hear in the comments other authors’ stories about KU, if it’s working, if it’s not. If you’ve seen a drop in third-party sales (especially Amazon) since July when KU got cranking, if you use Oyster or Scribd and have seen good results there, etc. Please feel free to sound off in the comments about it, or with any other links you’ve found about the issue.