By Nicole Martineau, Publicist
Last week, Amazon announced the launch of Kindle Unlimited, a new e-book service that allows customers to read as many books as they want from a digital library of over 600,000 titles and thousands of audio books. The service is available for $9.99 a month and works on all Kindle devices and any device with a Kindle Reading app.
While this may sound like a great deal to consumers, many industry professionals have been very critical of the service in recent days, especially with two successful start-ups already on the market: Scribd and Oyster Books.
According to Associated Press technology reporter Anick Jesdanun, Kindle Unlimited beats competitors in several ways, however, Scribd and Oyster both offer better value for avid readers of popular books:
“It turns out that the library of 600,000 is a bit like a small bookstore with a few current titles such as The Hunger Games, attached to a block-sized bargain bin of obscure stuff mixed with Robinson Crusoe and other classics that are in the public domain and available for free online anyway… Though Oyster has only 500,000 books and Scribd has 400,000, both offer extensive libraries from two of the largest publishers, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Kindle Unlimited doesn’t.”
That brings us to another weakness of Kindle Unlimited: the absence of several top publishers. This topic was hard to ignore as media outlets began to report the absence of the ‘Big Five’: Penguin Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster.
While this absence is most likely due to the on-going feud with Hachette, Darrell Etherington of Tech Crunch explained that it could also be due to several on-going negotiations between Amazon and top publishers:
“The biggest publishers ask for a large (read: at least seven figures) up-front fee, and services have to pay each time a user reads a book, plus new releases are kept for traditional sales methods. Amazon is likely looking for a better deal from publishers, or for greater access to current titles, which could be why they aren’t included in these test pages.”
Other critics of the service were quick to point out that Kindle Unlimited is yet another way Amazon is taking advantage of self-published authors. In his recent post on Digital Book World, publishing veteran Michael Sullivan compares Kindle Unlimited’s roster of self-published authors to ‘second class citizens’:
“What Amazon is offering traditional publishers (full wholesale price without exclusivity) is a pretty good deal… But the self-published authors can be had for much less. They have been conditioned through several years of Select and those in Select are more than willing to give up other venues for higher visibility on Amazon. I can’t help but think I’m Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, trying to tell people at the Bedford Savings and Loan that Potter isn’t offering them a deal; he’s buying them cheap.”
Dino Grandoni of Huffington Post points out that you can already rent e-books from your local library, just like from Amazon. He argues that Kindle Unlimited is just “a $120 glorified library card.” Chances are you can probably find several e-books at your local library that Kindle Unlimited is unable to offer, but if you are still curious to check it out without signing up for a subscription, Amazon is offering a free 30-day trial.
Related: Meet our MC Team: Nicole Martineau