** See below for link to Mark Coker's Smashwords' blog entry on this subject - interesting reading **
In a flurry of activity over the last few days it appears that Amazon has been trialling a new format that will support eBooks in the way that Netflix does for TV shows. The idea is that the consumer pays a monthly fee and has unlimited access to the Amazon library - well, maybe, more of which later.
It's interesting that commentators are using the phrase 'Netflix for books', because Amazon already owns a major competitor to Netflix, LoveFilm. They've also spent a certain amount of effort in separating up the services from LoveFilm, which is now indelibly marked with Amazon Prime in some form or another, with subscribers now being billed twice each month, once for Prime, and again for LoveFilm, but the total cost is the same as it always used to be.
For fully fledged Prime subscribers the benefits include free next day delivery (not actually free, it's what the monthly fee is for) and access to the Amazon library where you can download an ebook a month for free (not really free either, it's also in your monthly subscription). Regular readers will know that although I like the idea of Amazon providing its subscribers enhanced benefits such as the free ebook library, they'll know I'm not a big fan of how it's populated.
You see, to get in the library you have to commit fully to Amazon. If your books are listed in Apple or B&N, for example, then any you want included in the library have to be delisted from these other locations, with a minimum commitment of three months. Personally I'm a bit of a free markets, market forces kind of guy who doesn't like monopolies. If Amazon offered better royalties for my books I might be a little more interested, but apart from a slush fund used to bribe authors to engage with KDP Select, the process by which authors succumb to Amazon only, they are actually quite poor payers to authors like myself who chooses to price books nice and competitively. Plus I don't like to feel I'm being told what to do, so I choose to stay listed in all bookstores.
Now it seems that Amazon took their experimental website down pretty soon after it was spotted and talk started across the net, so we don't have all the details, but the main rumour is that it will cost about $9.99 per month to subscribe, which will allow unlimited access to a vast library, so if you routinely spend more than this amount a month on eBooks it may look attractive. What isn't clear is whether all the books available on Amazon are going to be available and if so, how are royalties going to be paid. If it is just an extension of the KDP Select process than my books, for eight, won't be up there, although you can own, not borrow, all eight for less than one month's mooted subscription and have enough change to buy yourself a coffee (from a real coffee shop, not one of the overpriced, tax-dodging varieties selling milky froth for an exorbitant amount) to drink while you work your way through the first couple of chapters.
Whatever Amazon decides, I guess we'll know soon enough, because when they commit, they do it big time and they don't hang around. I'll keep you posted.
*18 July 2014 - Amazon have emailed all Amazon registered authors about the new service titled 'Kindle Unlimited'. Their email confirmed that the books that subscribers (this is limited to the US at the moment) will be limited to those forming part of the KDP Select group - that is, those books that the authors have given Amazon exclusive rights to. Any such book accessed through the kindle Unlimited service and read 10% or more through will qualify for a payment to the author. As discussed above and in earlier posts I won't be participating in KDP Select while it insists on exclusivity, but good luck to those who elect to do so.
** http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/07/is-kindle-unlimited-bad-for-authors.html **
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