Pros & Cons of Kindle Unlimited For Readers & Writers

There are a lot of strong opinions about Kindle Unlimited and I've tried it, and I've researched it, so I'm going to tell you what I know. I have a business degree. I tend to look at the business aspect and the big picture, long-term. Let me state, up front, that I love Amazon. It's a great platform with a lot to offer authors and readers... it has revolutionalized publishing.

That said, let's talk about Kindle Unlimited; Amazon's borrowing platform where readers pay a monthly subscription price of $9.99 to allow unlimited borrows of books. It's not really "unlimited": KU allows readers to borrow 10 books at any one time. This is a significant increase over Kindle Select, which only alllows readers borrow one book at a time.

This sounds great in theory; however, not all books available on Amazon are available on Kindle Unlimited. Some of the bestsellers you want to read most may not be available because publishers and authors have to OPT in. For the most part, there have been books (such as Hunger Games, etc,) that have been added by Amazon without the publisher's permission. This isn't hurting them because Amazon doesn't pose the same limitations on some of the big publishers and bigger indie authors that it does on the masses. This discrimination is my main issue with Kindle Unlimited. It doesn't treat all authors the same, mainly in how they are paid and the restrictions it imposes.

Let me explain.


Subscription fee of $ 9.99 a month for "ulimited access" to borrow books on Kindle Unlimited.

1. You may still have to buy a book you want to read, in addition to your KU subscription.

2. Not all books are available through Kindle Unlimited

In reality, it's a good thing that not all books are available on KU. If all authors participated in KU, you wouldn't be able to purchase books anywhere but Amazon and/or borrow through subscription on KU. In that case you could expect the subscription price for KU to increase; as would prices on books you wanted to buy.


How it differs for Traditional and Indie published authors

1. Indie published authors must be exclusive to Amazon. (You can't sell your book on any other platform.)

A few very successful indie authors and traditionally published authors are not required to be exclusive.

2. The top 100 bestselling authors enrolled in KU are paid a stipend ranging from $1000 - $25,000 a month, before a book is borrowed, which adds up to a huge payout of $550,000 a month. This skews the results and analogies of author earning reports. When Amazon sweetens the "total earnings pot" by throwing $550K extra into the total, makes it look like authors are cleaning up if they enroll in KU. But... the bulk of the money is paid to only a few. So, make sure you take that under consideration. These "stipend" authors, earn the borrow rate when their books are borrowed by subscribers, in addition.

3. Traditionally pub'd authors are paid the same price for a borrow that they are paid for a buy... if 10% of the book is read, they earn the same $ as if a reader bought it.

BUT indie authors are only paid the borrow rate, which is arbitrarily determined around the 15th of the current month. How the fund is determined is a mystery. It's stated somewhere on Amazon that it is determined by the "borrows" of the previous month, but bottom line, no one really knows how Amazon comes up with the KU slush fund total. The borrow rate, per book, is then determined by the fund total divided by the total number of borrows. For example, if 100,000 books are enrolled in KU and the fund is 200,000, if there are 100,000 books borrowed, the "borrow rate" will be $2.00.

4. Borrow rate is $2 or less... when I was enrolled in it, it was around $1.12. But, because the number of borrows/fund ratio is in flux, we dont' find out the borrow rate until around the 15th. (This is arbitrary. Amazon determines how much a "borrow" is worth and there isn't a way to know how they come up with the number. It changes at their discression from month to month).