Amazon's New Kindle Unlimited Sounds Great, But Questions Are Already Arising About Its Future
We are living in an Amazon world, people, and there's really no getting around that. So when Amazon unveils a new subscription ebooks service called Kindle Unlimited the world is bound to react — but so far, reactions are somewhat varied. Some people are incredibly excited about the prospect, while others are... not.
Plenty of people have already been drawing comparisons between Kindle Unlimited and more established ebook subscription services like Oyster and Scribd, which are priced slightly lower, though their libraries are also slightly smaller. At the same time, there are also people who think Kindle Unlimited (and presumably by extension all subscription book services) are really no better than a library card — except instead of being free, Kindle Unlimited costs $120 a year. As Dino Gradoni points out at Huffington Post, "library systems from New York to Los Angeles actually do lend e-books for free over the Internet," which means that for anyone living in a big city, Kindle Unlimited is probably a gigantic rip off.
People have also questioned whether or not Kindle Unlimited really offers much added benefit over Amazon Prime, which includes access to Amazon's Lending Library program, where people can "check out" one e-book a month from Amazon's ebook library. Sure, Kindle Unlimited lets you check out audio books when Lending Library doesn't, but Unlimited also doesn't involve free shipping on physical orders.
But plenty of people are excited about the service, too. After all, to readers of a certain generation, calling something the "Netflix of Books" sounds an awful lot like calling it sheer perfection.
But the real question right now isn't so much whether or not people are into the idea of the service. The real question is whether or not people will actually be able to access the books they want. Even though Amazon boasts a 600,000-title library, which is definitely a lot, so far none of the "Big Five" publishers have agreed to be part of the service. In other words no books published by Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins are currently available though Kindle Unlimited, meaning Kindle Unlimited is actually limited in the extreme.
Though users can find some major titles, like the Harry Potter series (which is owned by J.K. Rowling's Pottermore Limited), or The Hunger Games, most of the books that might come to mind while looking for a next read probably aren't available. From literary heavyweights like Toni Morrison and Salman Rushdie to young adult authors like John Green and Maureen Johnson to best-selling favorites like The Goldfinch and Gone Girl, there are a lot of things that Kindle Unlimited just doesn't have.
Which really isn't surprising. Amazon is currently in a feud with Big Five publisher Hachette, and the retail giant has been using some fairly underhanded tactics. Given the current climate, where publishers feel Amazon is trying to monopolize all aspects of the book publishing industry, it would be more surprising if they did sign onto a new Amazon project.
And as to the fate of Kindle Unlimited, only time will tell, but without the cooperation of the five largest publishing houses in the country, it's not likely to become too popular. After all, having 600,000 titles doesn't do you much good if you still can't deliver your customers the titles they're looking for, especially not when there are other subscription services that can (Oyster and Scribd both offer titles from Big Five publishers).
But hey, it's an Amazon world. Maybe they'll pull through after all.