Kindle Unlimited: How Do You Use Subscription Ebook Services?

Kindle Unlimited may not have been the first subscription eBook service to come along, but it has certainly harnessed the power of Amazon to become the biggest.

Amazon’s influence in the publishing industry has grown over the last five years as the Kindle made reading on electronic devices sexy and cool instead of clunky and lame.

As a result, the publishing industry has seen seismic changes in a short space of time, and depending on which side of the industry you’re on, that’s either the worst news ever or the greatest thing in the world.

On the one hand, publishers have started to lose their grasp on bestseller charts. Previously untenable contract terms in which authors had little bargaining power have started to topple or evolve.

In recent years, many independent and mid-list authors have been able to benefit from the rise of Amazon, while publishers like Penguin and Hachette, and bestselling authors like Stephen King and James Patterson, have been outspoken critics.

But with recent changes to the Kindle Unlimited subscription system, some independent authors are starting to wonder whether their biggest advocate is starting to look like the enemy.

Much of the uncertainty started prior to July 1 when it was announced that Amazon would start paying its Kindle Unlimited authors based on pages read instead of the number of downloads.

Amazon enacted the changes in what it says was an attempt to make its author compensation system fairer and more equitable.

The previous way of doing things rewarded authors, whose books were downloaded and read to the 10 percent mark. As a result many indie authors were breaking up their books into “shorts” and getting the same pay per download as authors with 300- and 400-page novels.

With the pay-per-page read system, authors of these shorter works make less per unit while authors of standard novel-length works are paid more.

The indie community remains pretty split on whether this is a good or bad thing, and at less than half a month in, it’s easy to see why.

As an author myself, I’m not sure what to think just yet.

The only experience I can really go on is that of a reader. And so that’s what I will attempt to do in determining whether eBook subscription services — or Netflix for books, if you will — are to be loved or feared.

My take: love it! But I do notice that I consume materials in Kindle Unlimited differently.

KU will allow readers to download up to 10 books at a time. Currently, I’m maxing that out, but I’m also not reading every single book I download.

I am, however, reading some of those books. And some, I’m not even downloading to read the entire thing, just parts of it.

From a fiction standpoint, I like Kindle Unlimited because it allows me to discover new authors in my genres of preference. I can start by downloading whatever the author offers through Kindle Unlimited — many go all-in while some offer one or two titles only. If the author blows the doors off me with that first effort, and they haven’t gone all-in with KU, I’ll stop what I’m doing and buy some of their other titles.

If they have gone all-in, then I’ll queue up some more titles for my next read.

From a non-fiction standpoint, I’ll either read the book in its entirety if the subject is appealing and the presentation is interesting, or in cases of business and reference books, I’ll download, sample the tables of contents, and read only what jumps out at me as useful.

In both cases, I am putting money into authors’ pockets — some more than others — while continuing to buy books for those exceptional talents, who haven’t gone all in. Beyond that, I’m reading a LOT more than I used to.

I’ve only been a Kindle Unlimited member for two months now, but I like the fact that it has accelerated the amount of content I consume.

But what about you, readers? Are you part of a subscription eBook service? If so, which one are you currently subscribed to, and how has it influenced your reading habits? Sound off in the comments section.

[Image of Kindle Unlimited via Publishing Perspectives]