Kindle Unlimited Launches As ‘Big Five’ Publishers Sharpen Their Claws

Online retail giant Amazon is attempting to lure more readers away from bricks and mortar libraries with its latest product, Kindle Unlimited.

Starting Monday, customers in the US are able to sign up for Kindle Unlimited. After paying a $9.99 monthly fee, book lovers can access a catalog of about 600,000 e-books and audiobooks from Amazon’s collection.

A unique feature also allows subscribers to switch from e-book to audiobook. As Amazon explains:

“Thousands of Kindle books come with the free professionally narrated Audible audiobook. With Whispersync for Voice, whenever you see ‘Kindle Unlimited with Narration,’ you can switch seamlessly between reading and listening without ever losing your place”.

Before book lovers sign up, it’s important to note Kindle Unlimited’s drawbacks. Not all of the e-books in Amazon’s catalogue are available through Kindle Unlimited. Slate estimates that only 60 per cent of Amazon’s holdings will be available in the new e-library.

Also absent from Kindle Unlimited? Books from the “big five” publishing houses: HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, MacMillan, Penguin Random House and Hachette.

Right now, Amazon is going through an acrimonious lawsuit with Hachette over authors’ royalties, adding fuel to the fire.

According to TechCrunch, the publishing houses are looking to gain a share of the e-book market, by supporting other subscription services:

“Most major publishers have been working hard to create and invest in other partners. Oyster Books, for example, is a beneficiary of this anti-Amazon sentiment while houses like Zola Books are funded by publishing insiders”.

The Washington Post is also questioning the long-term value of a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Over a year, Kindle Unlimited would cost about $120. Unless you read about 12 books a year, it would be cheaper to buy books individually. According to Pew Research the average American only reads about five books a year. So only dedicated book worms might find that a Kindle Unlimited subscription is worth the money.

Cost aside, parents are already seeing the benefits of Kindle Unlimited. TechCrunch‘s John Biggs writes that his son is already reading more; albeit lower quality books.

“My son, for his part, has already downloaded a few dozen Minecraft ebooks written, it appears, by robots or grade-schoolers. One book consists entirely of Minecraft memes taken from the Internet. Incidentally he still doesn’t want to read Harry Potter, even while it’s free.”

Some high profile books are available through Kindle Unlimited, notably the Harry Potter series and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

[Image source: Amazon]