Netflix for Books


You’ve heard of subscription television; now prepare yourselves for subscription books – the ‘netflix for books’ is here to stay. 

What does this really mean though? 

How much brighter does this make the world for the reader and the writer ?

Is it effectively a modern day virtual library? Hardly.

Although Amazon were not the first to introduce subscription books, their release of Kindle Unlimited (KU) five months ago brought subscription books to a world wide market. At first glance the deal is enticing for readers. To be able to borrow ten books per month for £ 7.99/month sounds tempting.newcorn partII

However unless you are a exuberant bibliophile you will never read the ten books allowed and if one or two books per month is the norm, then you could find yourself paying more than you would if buying books themselves. With so many books available for exceptionally low prices the monthly direct debit could easily become more expensive.

It is not only readers who should beware and approach with caution; writers too are beginning to struggle under the Kindle Unlimited contract. 

Writers are paid a percentage amount according to the number of reads of their book. This comes from a monthly pool of money set aside by Amazon.  Already some writers have noticed a 40%-75% drop in their revenue.

Income has fallen further for writers as customers have started reading KU books instead of buying new ones. There is a real risk that buyers will read the more established authors, which might have cost more previously, instead of taking the chance on an unknown new author whose books were previously much cheaper but still cost on normal kindle or paperback.

imagesThis catastrophic decline in income has resulted in some writers withdrawing from the Kindle Unlimited programme and instead selling their books under the much more generous ebook terms. 

The extremely restrictive demand by Amazon for exclusivity on books on KU has further cut sales for authors as they have been unable to release their books on other platforms.

The top five big publishers are so far withholding most of their titles from Kindle Unlimited and therefore the choice on KU is rather limited for the reader as the top selling authors (which many people want to read) are not represented. 

Subscription books are still a force to be reckoned with as other platforms, such as scribd* or oyster, do exist and their terms are far more generous towards the writer and do not demand exclusivity. 

Finally let us not forget that faithful ‘old’ paperback and hardback books. Will their new found stability following the introduction of ebooks flounder under the onslaught of subscription ebooks? Will this become the next substantial obstacle for the publishers of hardcopy books?

Will KU see a fall in their subscription as writers flee from their terms and conditions? 

Will readers demand a better and bigger selection of books for their monthly fee? 

Will Amazon cave in to writers’ demands for similar contract terms as other subscription services and thereby tempt in the bigger-hitting authors to join them?

Do you have any experience of Kindle Unlimited? Either as a writer or as a reader? I would love to hear your comments and share your experiences. Only by doing so can we empower ourselves to make the best decisions as writers and readers.

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” 

Groucho Marx