Monday, July 21, 2014

Kindle Unlimited: What's in it for readers?

Summer is typically a slow time in the news business, but this summer's news has been anything but slow: undocumented kids showing up by the thousands at the US border, renewed fighting in Gaza, and somebody in Ukraine blowing a civilian jetliner out of the sky.

But the news that sent the indie author blogosphere into a tizzy this week hit a bit closer to home: Amazon's announcement about Kindle Unlimited.

This new program (offered only in the U.S. so far) is an ebook subscription service. As a reader, you pay Amazon $9.99 a month to join KU; in return, you can download an unlimited number of books from the KU store, although you can only have ten books out at a time. This is in addition to the Kindle Owner Lending Library program Amazon already offers to its Prime members; that feature allows you to borrow one book a month.

Before you ask, I don't know whether Prime members who also join KU will be able to borrow eleven books at a time. Maybe I'll check that out -- in the interest of research, you understand -- and let you know next week.

Anyway, readers who are mulling over the idea of joining KU have a few things to consider. First, of course, is the cost, especially if you're already a Prime member. Prime costs $99 a year, but it's totally worth it if you buy a lot of stuff from Amazon; it gets you free two-day shipping on a lot of items, as well as a boatload of streaming movies and TV shows for free, as well as entry into the KOLL program. By contrast, the $9.99 a month for KU adds up to nearly $120 a year. That can be worth it if you read a lot (we do love voracious readers here at hearth/myth), and if you buy a lot of the books you read from Amazon. If you shell out $10 a month or more for books, then KU might be a great deal for you.

But not every book at Amazon is available through KU -- not by a long shot. For one thing, you won't find a ton of bestsellers in the KU store; some traditional publishers are participating, but not (at least right now) the Big 5. So if your reading tastes run to newly-published books reviewed by the New York Times, you'll probably be disappointed.

Still, in a storefront that features 600,000-plus titles, you ought to be able to find something to read. And if you like books by indies (we do love readers of indie books here at hearth/myth), you're in luck -- Amazon thoughtfully included every book enrolled in KDP Select in the KU store.

Which is the long way around to mention that a few of my books are available at the KU store: the Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus and The Maidens' War; two great anthologies that I'm honored to have stories in, Summer Dreams and 13 Bites Vol. 1; and a short story, "Lulie", which has a spiffy new cover in honor of the event.

You can try KU for free this month. Even if you don't end up joining for good, it's a way to pick up some free summer reads without having to make a trip to the library. What's not to like about that?

These moments of unlimited blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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