In this post I’m going to look at Kindle Unlimited and whether it’s worth subscribing. This is from the viewpoint of both a reader and an author. It’s also from a UK perspective but may have similarities to other countries.
Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service on Amazon which allows you to borrow up to 20 (previously 10) Kindle books at a time. An ebook library service but without due dates. Despite the name, KU does not mean you can read unlimited books, nor does it mean you can read any Kindle book. Books have to be part of KU to be eligible. You can tell if a book is part of KU by the logo that appears on the product page and also the price will say ‘Read for £0.00’ (see screenshot below). Technically a KU book is not a free read, it just means you don’t pay anything extra to read that book, because it’s included in your KU membership. It should also be noted that KU is not the same as Prime Reading and is not included with Amazon Prime membership.
My first experience of KU was a 1 month free trial, during which I read 12 books. I cancelled the subscription after this, because I had so many books from other sources.
The second time, Amazon were promoting a 3 months for 99p deal. It was for new customers only but I found a half price for 6 months deal. The average Kindle ebook is £0.99 – £4.99. I then noted all of the KU books I read and their prices. I read 24 Kindle books in 6 months, which would have cost a total of £96 if I’d bought them individually.
The third time, I was attempting to cancel my subscription once the 6 months were up, but I was then offered 3 extra months for 99p. I accepted it, of course! Most recently I decided to renew my subscription regardless of whether it was the full amount of £7.99. I was offered 2 months for free and that’s where I am at the moment!
Here are some pros and cons of Kindle Unlimited for readers:
There is a very wide range of books – over 1 million – including self-published and indie publishers. In fact, these are more likely to have their books available on KU than the big publishers are. There are also some magazines included.
It’s easy to borrow and return your allowance of books. When you download them, they appear instantly in your Kindle library.
The more books you read, the better value the subscription price is – and it’s great value to begin with.
You don’t own the copies of the books you download, you simply return them so they’re not taking up space in your Kindle library.
When searching for books, you can filter the search results to KU only, which is a great way of discovering books you wouldn’t otherwise have known about.
You don’t need to have a Kindle device to download and read Kindle books! This of course applies to all Kindle books, not just KU, but it’s worth emphasising. Simply download the Kindle app to your phone or tablet.
Authors get paid royalties for pages read in KU. Consider helping out an indie author by reading their books on KU and knowing they are getting a little money from that.
Many popular authors are not included in KU. Some who are, only have some of their books included, which can be confusing.
Again, you don’t own the copies of the books you download in KU. You’ll need to buy them if you want to own them.
Sometimes just the 1st book in a series is in KU and the rest aren’t. Authors may do this to entice readers into buying the rest of the series but personally it puts me off when I know not all of the series is included.
Books can be taken out of KU, which means that a book you’re eyeing up as your next download could potentially become unavailable.
As with many subscriptions these days, it’s easy to forget that once your trial or offer period expires, it becomes a full price rolling subscription – and the cancel button is not easy to find!
In your quest to get a lot of value from your KU subscription, you may end up neglecting the books already on your shelf or it may compete with your other sources of reading.
In summary, Kindle Unlimited is great value for readers. But what about for authors? I’m specifically referring to indie authors, as I don’t know how traditional publishers decide which authors to put on KU and how the royalties work out. Here are some pros and cons of Kindle Unlimited for authors:
You get royalties for pages read in KU. Although the royalty rate is very small, if a lot of people read your books on KU then the royalties can stack up considerably.
Readers with KU subscriptions are more likely to give your book a try because they are not obligated to buy it. Maybe they can’t afford to buy as many books as they’d like to, so it’s preferable that they read your book through KU than not at all.
You can start off by having your books available on KU but you can decide not to renew the enrolment period if it’s not working for you.
If you are more concerned with increasing your number of reviews rather than sales, having your books available on KU is a good way to get more reviews and ratings, which in turn should lead to more sales.
The royalties you get from reading in KU are small compared to the royalties you get from sales. Some authors don’t put their books in KU because they don’t want to miss out on sales when readers have borrowed the books instead of purchased.
Authors who have their ebooks on retailers other than Amazon are not eligible to have their books in KU. This means that authors have to decide whether they can earn more through having their books exclusively on Amazon or through multiple retailers.
The effort you put into marketing your books, particularly if you spend money on sponsored ads, means that having your books on KU may not be worth it. Even if someone clicks on your sponsored ad and then goes on to download on KU instead of buying a copy, this may still be a poor return, depending on how much you were charged for that ad.
In summary, Kindle Unlimited is of mixed value for authors. It works very well for some, but not for others. There is no harm in trying it if your ebooks are exclusive to Amazon. However, you may be surprised how little income it generates unless you have many readers.
So, is Kindle Unlimited worth it? Yes, if you love reading, want to discover a wide range of books and you want to support indie authors too! No, if you only want to read specific authors whose works may not be on KU, or you don’t read many books. No, if you’re an author who is worried about losing sales. Yes, if you’re an author who prioritises reviews and ratings over sales.
What do you think? Is Kindle Unlimited worth it for you as a reader or author? Have you never tried it before but now want to after reading this post?