The New Kindle Unlimited Program and What It Means To Authors

jointHave you heard of Kindle Unlimited? It’s become a major hot topic since Amazon first announced it, and the Internet is ablaze with opinions left and right about whether this program is good for authors, just made for consumers or if it’s a death knell for bookstores and libraries.

If you haven’t heard, Kindle Unlimited is like a paid monthly library subscription where consumers can borrow books. So, how are authors compensated, is it worth it and should you enter your book into the pool? It matters on where your sales are coming from due to the enrollment requirements.


What is Kindle Unlimited?

Kindle Unlimited is a program where people pay $9.99 a month to borrow from a pool of 600,000 books (which represents about a quarter of the overall books available on Kindle).  Many of the titles eligible are exclusive to Amazon, as they are in the KDP Select program. This program is available for all devices that support the Kindle app, not just the Kindle device itself. Consumers can borrow up to 10 books without any due dates. If they want to borrow another book, then they just have to return one to free up a slot in their limit. There is also a 30 day free trial.

They can also borrow audiobooks. There are about 2,000 audiobooks that are available for borrowing. Unlimited members get a three-month membership to Audible, but they will then have to pay after those three months. This is a great way to get people interested in Audible, but it’s hard to say if it’ll have any lasting effect after those three months.


Author Compensation

The real question is whether or not this is good for authors. There are two things to consider there: compensation and enrollment. How much money do you make? Amazon sets up a pool every month for borrowed books, which it has done for years with Amazon Prime members who borrow book enrolled in KDP Select. These members have been able to borrow one book a month, and authors would be compensated for these borrows. The pool is split between the authors based on the total number of borrows.

Historically this has worked out to about $2 a borrow. But, it can go up or down, and since this is a new program with more potential borrows, no one’s completely sure what the price-per-borrow will work out to just yet. So we can only go on the Prime example for now.

Now, what constitutes a borrow? Someone has to do more than download your book. They have to read at least 10% of it for you to get compensation. Truth is that many authors will be able to get readers to digest this much of their book, but it’s a small hurdle that may annoy others.

If your book is great at pulling in readers, then this can be an effective way to make money.


Book Enrollment

How can you enroll your book? This is a major point of contention among indie authors. Your book must be enrolled in KDP Select, which means that your book is only available on Kindle and none of the other ebook retailers. The rules bend a bit for top sellers because they don’t need to sign an exclusivity contract, but that only accounts for a small number of books and authors.

If your book is in Select, then it can be borrowed. In fact, it might enrolled in Unlimited and you don’t even know it yet. However, the major problem here is that this forces you to stay locked into Kindle. If the majority of your sales are coming from Kindle (like 80-90%), then joining KDP Select is a no-brainer cause you’ll make more money.

But, if your book is doing well at other retailers, then it can become an issue. This is completely up to you depending on your sales, but some authors are saying that pulling your books from other retailers just for Unlimited is like shooting yourself in the foot. At the same time, books that get borrowed frequently can lead to a massive increase in income.



Kindle Unlimited is a great program for consumers because it lets them borrow as many books as they want (provided that they have an open slot), which can lead to great rewards for authors. At the same time, is it a good idea keeping your book locked into Kindle with their Select program? This can be a major decision, and it largely depends on how well your book has done at other retailers.

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