What does Kindle Unlimited mean for authors?

If you own a Kindle, you received an e-mail over the weekend that announced Amazon’s new “Kindle Unlimited” program.

Kindle Unlimited works like a library, except it costs you $9.99 a month and you’ve got more than three weeks to read the books you’ve borrowed.

Available only in the U.S. right now, Kindle Unlimited lets subscribers:

  • “Borrow” up to 10 books for $9.99 per month with no return due date on the books. (Borrowed 10 books and want another? Return one.)
  • Get access to the audio version of an e-book you’re reading (when available), so you can move from reading to listening on headphones without losing your place in the book.
  • Receive three free months of membership at Audible.com, an Amazon company. (The least expensive Audible membership option is $14.95 per month for one book per month.)

Looking at it from the consumer standpoint, I’ll remind you that your public library is free and also lets you borrow audio books, CDs of music, and movies and TV series on DVDs. But downloading everything without going to the library sure is convenient. If you’re a big reader who doesn’t mind paying for convenience, this might work for you.

What does it mean for authors?

It’s no surprise that if you’re an indie author, you must be enrolled in the KDP Select program to be included. Amazon does own this playground, after all.

For more on what this means for you as an author, check out this short list of articles that examine Kindle Unlimited in more detail from an author’s perspective:

There’s no question that there’s a demand for this service — Amazon wouldn’t have introduced it if there wasn’t. There will always be people who will pay for convenience just as there will always be those who want to spend nothing at a public library supported by their tax dollars.

Which one are you? 

Please comment with your thoughts and opinions.

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  1. Wow. After reading the articles (all except the last one which would not load for some reason), as well as user’s comments, I am more confused then ever.

    I cannot see that KDP Unlimited would be good for authors. I think it will cut into their earnings significantly if they have to share their earnings with other authors the members are reading. Then again, if the pool of readers is large enough, the earnings could grow. Then again, most readers would use this option to read the pricy bestsellers (I know I would); so now that they can afford to read those books, would they even bother with indie authors?

    I’m just starting out as an author, and as I said I am more confused than ever.

    1. Mili, interestingly enough, many of the best sellers aren’t in the KDP Select program, so they aren’t available in the Kindle Unlimited program.

      In addition, borrowers need to read at least 10% of a downloaded e-book for the author to earn money from the process.



  2. I prefer free libraries. I wish people would stop underestimating the value of their town or city’s public library system. Amazon is a corporate giant and found a way to make money from what is and has been a free system. To each their own, but I’ll stick with my local public library which is free if I wish to check out a book.

    1. I love libraries and their services, too, Erin. My town’s library is also something of a community social hub, which is nice.


    2. The only problem with the public library is they don’t want to carry indie author books, just like Barnes and Noble doesn’t. Even my own town library doesn’t support me. I love libraries too, but I would be missing out on a whole plethora of indie published authors if I just borrowed books from them.

  3. Amazon Prime has allowed individual ebook to be borrowed, for quite some time now. Each time an ebook is borrowed the author gets a payment of about $2, which is many cases is more than the royalty they would result had the ebook been purchased. This new item is only an extension of that idea, although, of course, amazon will reap the $9-99 per month. What the author will get I don’t know. I can’t imagine that it will have a major impact on an Indie author, but we shall see. One thing though $9-99 does seem expensive to me, although Scribd, which offers a similar service is $8-99. I have three novels on Scribd. To date I haven’t earned a penny.

    1. John, authors will get a percentage of a pool of money. From what I can tell, nobody knows quite yet how much that will be per book. In addition, before an author makes any money, the borrower must read at least 10% of the borrowed book.


  4. >In addition, before an author makes any money, the borrower must read at least 10% of the borrowed book<

    Sandra, how odd that this would matter at all, so long as Amazon is getting their payment.
    I know my Library system allows for the borrowing of downloaded ebooks and like you say, yay, it's free (already you've paid for it in tax dollars so USE it:)
    Tumblebooks licenses children's ebooks to Libraries and all Authors and Illustrators share in the pool of money TB's receives for this licensing which is more advantageous to the lesser known folks (such as myself) then the known ones, in that the pie is shared. In essence, I'm getting my share of the royalties via the hard work of the most popular Children's book Authors and Illustrators of today and yesteryear!
    This Amazon/Kindle will hopefully not hurt too badly the Publishers and the trade published Authors and Illustrators, because royalties are coming from elsewhere as well but for indie publishers, will this turn of events end up being their only form of royalty and a very small one at that? It doesn't sound good from what I've read about it so far.
    What percentage of the almost $10 is Amazon going to put into the pool for the creators of the content?

  5. Christine, another thing to note here is that most big publishers aren’t in the KDP Select program, so their books aren’t included in this new lending library.

    I don’t have the answers to your questions, but it will be interesting to see how the indie KDP Select authors do now that they’re in Kindle Unlimited, whether they like it or not. (That’s another odd element — you can’t opt in or out.)


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