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Books written by Ray Sullivan

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Has Amazon taken the eBook market?

A few months ago Amazon launched an aggressive campaign to get the eyes of eBook readers on books offered through them.  They launched Kindle Unlimited, which provided access to all the books in the Kindle library - but not necessarily in the Kindle store - to subscribers.

About a month ago they launched the same scheme in the UK and I have no doubt it is being progressively rolled out across all the main eBook regions. It has its merits; all the eBook subscription services have their merits.  The main one is that the reader pays a monthly subscription and gets as many books to read as they want, much like Netflix and Lovefilm do for films and TV shows.

The downside of all subscription services is that, unlike films and TV shows, books tend to be read by individuals.  They generally take longer to consume, or read, than films and TV shows do to watch.  A year or so ago we could have argued that at least you can consume books when streaming internet services were unavailable, but that is less valid today.  Many of us have access to 3 and 4 G services with ever increasing monthly allowances (mine is currently 2 Gb over 4G).  My top tip for anyone wanting to use an eBook subscription service is to create a family email account and use that for multiple devices.

I can't speak for all authors, but since the US launch my sales have quite literally flatlined.  Hardly surprising, mind, given that whenever Amazon launched the service it included the first month free as a trial, so many would have used that month to fill up on eBooks and are probably now all read out for the time being.  Many of them would have cancelled their membership once the month was up but Amazon have gambled on a significant amount liking the service so much that they stay, others will just keep forgetting to cancel - it's not like Amazon care.

Some might have been frustrated that the books they wanted weren't available - many big sellers aren't in the library, possibly never will unless Amazon hammer out a loss leading deal with them.  Others, such as myself, are also absent - I refuse to give in to Amazon and sign over exclusive rights to them.  I'm not going to bang on about my views - again - just search my blog for KDP Select if you've missed my rants.  However, despite zero sales since Kindle Unlimited started my books have been perused more than ever on Smashwords.  I don't see Smashwords as a major outlet for books - I never think to look there to buy - but they provide metrics that let me know if there's any interest in my books.  Probably I've seen more activity on there than ever before.  I've been cautious about over-interpreting the metrics, it could be one person continually visiting my book page and downloading the 20% samples time and again. However this last 30 days sales have kicked in again - not large amounts, but first Apple, then Barnes & Noble, now Smashwords reporting sales.

While I hope those who subscribe to the Amazon Unlimited scheme get what they want out of the service, while Amazon insist on exclusive rights to any books listed there you won't find me there.  If they lift that requirement I'll be on in a flash.  But I really hope they don't dominate the eBook market any more than they do right now, we need competition, you need choice. 

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