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 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 10 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?
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14 thoughts on “Is Kindle Unlimited worth it?”
Thank you, this is a really informative post. I don’t read on electronic devices as spend too much time while working looking at a screen, so prefer paper books. The day will come though when I can explore KU and other subscription services.
Thanks for reading! I get fed up of using a screen too, however ebooks are very convenient so they’re about 80% of my reading now! You will probably be able to get a free trial of KU so definitely worth exploring when you have the time 🙂
I have been tempted by the KU offers, but like you I have so many other books on my kindle that need reading I put off joining. If I didn’t have as many books I do think it would be a great way of reading, but as you again mentioned not all the books in a series are available. It is good if you want to try a series, but again there are often good deals on the first book. Many pros and cons, great post as well xx
Thanks! Yes there are so many other sources of books especially for us book bloggers 🙂
I think KU is worth it. I’ve had it forever and though I don’t get to read a lot of books through it anymore, it’s still nice to have it for when I do. Excellent post!
Thanks very much! Yes on balance I think it’s worth it, in the UK at least a month’s subscription (if it’s not a free trial or a deal) is the price of 1 paperback so it’s definitely good value.
I’ve never really got into reading on a Kindle (or any other device) but I can see that there are some pretty good benefits, especially when it comes to travelling with a number of different titles all in one place. I’m not sure if I’d want to subscribe to this but the breakdown of the pros and cons is really useful to help decide.
Thanks for reading, glad the post was some help! I think one of the great things is that there are so many books available – over 1 million – that you never have to worry about running out of books to read 🙂
I use KU every so often and find that it’s really good value. I wouldn’t want it all the time as not enough of the authors I want to read are on there. However, I often get it over Christmas and again in the Summer and then catch up with some favourite series and find some new authors. I’ve currently got an offer of two months at a hugely reduced rate which is brilliant
That’s great to hear you find KU such good value! They do seem to have discounts on the subscription quite often, which is very enticing. I have found some excellent books on KU which I would not otherwise have discovered. Thanks for your comment!
Very interesting post! I looked into Kindle Unlimited, when it was launched, but concluded it wasn’t for me. I probably belong in the category of readers, who don’t read that many books and are quite selective. However, I can easily see, it would offer great value for others. A shame it isn’t th`at beneficial for authors.
Thanks! Yes it wouldn’t really be good value if you read few books and have specific ones in mind. The royalties for authors are very low but I do know some authors who make a significant amount of royalties from KU.
For authors, I think the exclusive vs wide decision has a lot to do with scale.
If you don’t have many books or many sales, going wide to cast the largest net might make sense. I don’t think that scales up as the number of readers increases – at least in the US. In the UK it may be very different.
Here, Amazon sells 7 out of 10 books in adult fiction. That only leaves 3 for every other storefront.
If you’re only selling 10-20 units a month, then picking up a sale from one of those other sites will be a good deal. It’s another reader and if you have more titles, you might get a repeat customer.
If you’re selling 1000 books a month and not exclusive, 700 of them are on Amazon and 300 across all the others. Going all in means replacing those 300 sales with the equivalent number of KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Page) reads. Given the number of subscribers (large) and the number of books (restricted when compared to the open catalog), the odds shift to being all-in.
It really depends on 1) writer’s location, 2) genre niche, and 3) base level of sale.
I was never able to get any kind of uptake outside of Amazon. I started wide in 2010 but shifted to exclusive in 2015 when the non-Amazon contribution to sales dropped from 10% to 5% while my overall sales bloomed.
Thanks for your perspective. I think in the UK, the vast majority of book sales are on Amazon and it’s the first place many readers would think of looking for new reads. I have considered going wide but I’m sticking with exclusive for now. Very interesting to hear from you, I’m fairly new to publishing and it’s good to hear from those who have been in the game for longer.