Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is #KindleUnlimited Worth It? A Young Adult Book Blogger's Perspective



Since last Friday (July 18, 2014, )you may have noticed, while browsing through Amazon, this bizarre new payment option [pictured to left]. Instead of the regular "Buy with 1-Click," "Add to Wish List," and "Give as a Gift," options, a new "Read for Free with Kindle Unlimited" button was added. You may also have noticed the banner while browsing through Amazon, advertising this thing called, "Kindle Unlimited." If you clicked on it, you will be lead to this page, and you can read all about this new invention. You may even have heard about it through the twitter hashtag #KindleUnlimited (like I did). However you found out, or if this is the first time you are hearing about Kindle Unlimited, I encourage you to continue reading to learn all about Kindle Unlimited from a blogger and book lover's perspective.    

Disclaimer: This is post was written for informational purposes only and was not sponsored by Scribd, Oyster, Amazon, or any other company. I am not, nor do I claim to be an expert when it comes to all the technicalities, financial aspects, and details when it comes to this new market of lendable eBooks.  All information has been compiled from reliable resources (all links found below) such as CNET, The New York Times, etc. I have not sampled any of the subscription services mentioned, so this is not firsthand experience, but I plan to in the future and provide full reviews. Furthermore, it was written for a person in the mindset of "I want to know what Kindle Unlimited is all about, if there are better, cheaper alternatives, and what I will be paying for." It was not written in the context of "Do eReaders beat physical books?" While this post was written to be informational for everyone, its focus is Young Adult Literature mainly because Loving the Language of Literacy is primarily a YA book blog, and that is its target audience.


Throughout this post, you will be given both sides of the coin, and it will be up to you -as a independent author, trying to decide whether or not to add your book to this new program, or your average Joe (consumer) trying to decide if Kindle Unlimited is worth the $10 a month price tag - to decide whether Kindle Unlimited is an amazing new service, or a terrible monstrosity that will be cheating authors out of their already meager paychecks.


How Did I Find Out About Kindle Unlimited?

On Saturday, July 19, 2014, I was scrolling through my twitter feed, when I stumbled upon a tweet from Young Adult author Leigh Ann Kopans.

 What is Kindle Unlimited?

Kindle Unlimited, dubbed "the Netflix for books," is a monthly subscription service allowing consumers "unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks on any device for just $9.99 a month." [Amazon]


At a glance, this may seem an astounding option for non-sentimental (a person that doesn't NEED to own a copy) consumers that read primarily on any device with access to their Kindle Library. The full list of Kindle compatible devices is found on the Amazon Website, and includes Tablets, Computers, Smartphones from Apple, Android, Samsung, Windows, and Blackberry.


On top of the 600,000+ titles to choose from, Kindle Unlimited comes with Whispersync for Voice -Amazon's service that allows "seamless switching between reading and listening." For example, if you're in the middle of The Hunger Games on your Kindle, but need to go to the gym, Whispersync for Voice allows you to start listening at the exact space where you left off with the touch of a finger. If you have been eyeing Audible (Amazon's Audiobook service), now would be your chance to give it a test run with the complimentary three-month membership.

What Are the Cons?

Does "Kindle Unlimited" really mean unlimited?

Well, if the term "unlimited" means the ability to pick up and read any of the 600,000 books any time you want, then absolutely. Yet, "unlimited" can also be interpreted into "any book I want to read in the universe that has been published." And that is where the line would be drawn with the term "unlimited."

Buffets may be all-you-can-eat, but they are most certainly limited....


Soups.
Salads.
Desert.
Bakery.
Pasta.

Those five types of food are staples of the national franchise Souplantation - a popular chain of all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants. I mean, Souplantation wouldn't be Souplantation without Soup. But what if those five dishes were gone? Yes, Souplantation would still have their special Chocolate Lava Cake, Fiber-Filled Beef & Barley, Hearty Cornbread, Cilantro Lime Pesto, and fresh-out-of-the-oven Chocolate Chip Cookies, but people would still miss their popular staple items.

Now replace those types of food with publishing houses.

"The Big Five!"






.

Replace the special dishes with popular book series.

The Hunger Games Trilogy.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
Harry Potter.
The Giver Quartet.

What the heck do all of these crazy comparisons mean?

The publishers listed above (considered "the big five") are considered the largest, most popular publishers in the United States. Those five publishers are NOT included in your Kindle Unlimited subscription service. In other words, you can read New York Times #1 Bestselling books The Hunger Games and Harry Potter until you go blind, and that's awesome if you want to do that.

Are you dying for Heir of Fire (Sarah J. Maas) or The Blood of Olympus (Rick Riordan) to come out?

Have you been procrastinating reading The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) or Divergent (Veronica Roth?)

Do you want to read If I Stay (Gayle Forman) or The Maze Runner (James Dashner) before the movies come out?

Have you been dying to see how The Mortal Instruments (Cassandra Clare) or The Selection Trilogy (Kiera Cass) ends?

If you answered "Yes" to any of those questions, thinking how handy it would be to read one of those books, and not have to buy it because you have Kindle Unlimited, you would be sorely mistaken. All eight of those New York Times Bestselling series/books are published under one of the "big five" or another publisher that has [as of Monday, July 21, 2014] not partnered with Kindle Unlimited.

Are you still supporting your favorite author?

If you are looking from a financial angle, I would tell you that you are still supporting them, but less than you would be if you had simply bought their book on Amazon or from any other retailer. The best way to describe this for an independent/self-published author is that instead of getting their cut from the sale of their book, it won't matter how much they charge for their novel. Instead, they are paid the ratio of how well their book has done (saleswise) compared to all the other self-published/independent authors from a large sum of money allotted for this very purpose from Amazon. If absolutely none of that made sense to you (I wouldn't blame you, I can barely fathom it myself, let alone try and explain), you should read the article from CNET where I obtained all this information in the first place, because I guarantee they can explain it a lot better than me. 

An important point to make is that nearly ALL independent/self-published authors have to make their books exclusive to Amazon in order to have them in Kindle Unlimited. What this means is that they are unable to get the much needed sales from websites like Barnes & Nobles, The Book Depository, Smashwords, Kobo, etc. Of course, there are exceptions with extremely popular indie authors, as well as the big publishing houses who do not have to make their work exclusive, and frankly, it would be outrageous if they had to. Could you imagine if The Hunger Games wasn't sold ANYWHERE except for Amazon? One would believe that this would harm independent/self-published author's sales because not EVERYONE is able to read on a Kindle/Kindle App, but only time will tell.

Are There Other Options?

In case you weren't aware, there are two other leading competitors to the eBook lending market -Scribd and Oyster- with pros and cons of their own.


Scribd launched in 2007, costs $8.99 a month, and has over 400,000 titles to choose from. It is partnered with the Big 5 Publisher, HarperCollins, and seems like a viable option. This is truly where quality versus quantity come in because Scribd only offers 22,000 YA titles, YET some are highly coveted, NYT Bestselling ones from HarperTeen and all of its imprints. While they have not disclosed how much an author/publisher gets from each book that has been borrowed, they have assured us that they are fully compensated.


Oyster is a lot newer, launched only in September 2013, costs $9.99 a month, and recently passed the 500,000 book mark. There is no clear number of YA novels included in the subscription, but it is partnered with both HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster which opens up doors not included in both Scribd and Kindle Unlimited. While Oyster allows authors to make their books accessible on other sites (mostly because Oyster is only a lending service and not buying), just like with Kindle Unlimited, a consumer must read more than a sample of the book (10%) in order for the author to receive their royalty fee.







Or





???????????

Both subscription services are available on all platforms and devices able to instal the app, including Android, Apple, and (unlike Kindle Unlimited) Nook HD. They also have select titles available, so they have Free Four, but not Divergent itself by Veronica Roth. Nevertheless, with either subscription, you are able to read popular book titles such as the Unwind Dystology (Neal Shusterman), The Shatter Me Trilogy (Tahereh Mafi), The Uglies Quartet (Scott Westerfeld), Under the Never Sky Trilogy (Veronica Rossi),  The Delirium Trilogy (Lauren Oliver), The Partials Trilogy (Dan Wells), The I Am Number Four Series, and a lot more.

Opinions:

Mine: At a glance, Kindle Unlimited seemed like a subscription service I would want to put my money into - even though I am a teenager on a limited budget. As a book blogger and lover, I veraciously devour books like I devour meals, and if there were actually a subscription service that included ALL published books in the universe, I would even pay $50 a month for it. 

Yet, after investigating what I would really be getting for my money if I subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, there is no way I would benefit from its seemingly low price tag and "six hundred thousand titles to choose from." Ninety-five percent of the books I read are in the Young Adult Genre, and the majority of those books are published by one of "the big five," and if you look at the Kindle Unlimited section of Amazon, and the breakdown by genre, you will see that out of the "600,000 titles," ONE THIRTIETH of those are YA. 

On top of that, a portion of the books I read are from either smaller publishing houses, or independently published. I try to support authors as much as my adolescent wallet will allow, and I am also shocked to  see how little the fraction of money from my reading the book would actually go to the author.

Conclusion: I love the idea of Kindle Unlimited, and in theory, it would be the perfect subscription for booklovers all around the world. Yet, until I was offered more options in terms of which books I could read, and had the knowledge that the creators of what I'm buying (authors) are getting what they deserve, I wouldn't purchase a subscription, nor would I recommend it to people.

Others Opinions: "Even though I'm fairly uneducated, I do feel that Amazon has been shady with authors. I personally would much rather buy a book and support them, as I am a frequent re-reader and it would be the economical choice for me to buy books. I do buy from Amazon, but I've been making more of an effort recently to buy independently."--- Mal @ Lila June's Booksaloon 

"I think they forget that authors -unlike actors who get paid by the producers and musicians who hold concerts and make money that way- rely solely on the book sale for their living. If this keeps going, soon we will have fewer authors and fewer good books." --- Anonymous

"I think Amazon Unlimited will be a good choice if you have a kindle only (since you can download directly). Although it seems Amazon Unlimited offers a huge array of books to choose from, I' kind of iffy about the quality of available books. Sure, there will probably be a gem here and there, but would those books be in the genre you like to read? It's kind of a hit or miss." --- Tina @ The Book Landers

Scribd, Oyster, and Why I'm Hesitant as a Reader and Writer --- Shannon @ Shannon A Thompson: An insightful blog post written at the end of 2013 before Kindle Unlimited even existed.

Information From the Experts About Kindle Unlimited:


Amazon Unveils E-Book Subscription Service, With Some Notable Absences ~ New York Times: This is the very first article I read when I wanted to find out about Kindle Unlimited and is a truly concise explanation of all Kindle Unlimited has to offer.... as well as what it doesn't.
Kindle Unlimited: Good for customers, not so good for authors? ~ CNET: This is the article that breaks down an author's earning from Kindle Unlimited, and gives another professional opinion about Amazon, and the whole service. 

More About Scribd: 

We Are Young: Summer YA Reading ~ Scribd's Blog: A list of popular YA novels included with your  Scribd subscription.
Books > Young Adult & Children's ~ Scribd: The list of YA/Children's titles being offered on Scribd.
How do authors benefit from Scrib'd subscription? ~ Scribd
Scribd moves beyond document sharing with $8.99/month ebook subscription service ~ Gigaom: While this article may be a little outdated, it does share valuable information on Scribd compared to Oyster, as well as the oh-so-important fact when facing the decision of which subscription service to use that HarperCollins is included.

More About Oyster:

Browse the Oyster Library ~ Oyster: The featured selection of Oyster's Young Adult titles.
Smashwords Signs Distribution Agreement with Oyster ~ Official Smashwords Blog: All information pertaining to an author's benefit for having their Smashwords book included in Oyster.

Conclusion: I will be actively following consumer's feedback surrounding all three subscription services, and be updating this post as soon as the information is made public such as my fellow blogger's opinions, more publishers are added (maybe), and all of that type of information. I might even  make an entirely separate second post dedicated to the matter if any large news is released, drama ensues, or outrage increases. Feel free to ask me questions in the comments below and I will answer them to the best of my ability, and I highly encourage you to do some research so you can discover which service (if any) is right for you. Afterwards, I would greatly appreciate it if you linked some of your research because I truly want to add more links so I can help as many bloggers/vloggers/ consumers alike in the quest to find out if Kindle Unlimited is right for them.

What do you think about Kindle Unlimited? Do you now want to rush out and subscribe, or scoff at Amazon and never want to buy another book from them again? Do you think it will impact your reading and/or book buying? Have you tried any of these subscription services, let me know, did you hate it, love it? 



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