A few more thoughts on Kindle Unlimited

Oh the hand-wringing that has been going on the last week or so since the announcement of Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited program. If you do a search of the term you will find reactions ranging from the direst of conspiracy theories that this is Amazon’s first move to screw of indies to praises that this is the next step in the digital book world. Me, I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m not making a final judgment until I see more information — mainly until I see how it pays and how it impacts my bottom line.

As of this morning, I have seen three things with regard to my own sales. Whether they can all be attributed to the new Unlimited program or not, I don’t know. It would be easy to say that they can be, but that would simply be guess work right now — with one exception.

So let’s start with the exception. This past week has seen the number of books “borrowed” go up astronomically. Prior to the program, I’d had one or two borrows this month. That number is now in the mid-double digits. I have no doubt that has to do with the Unlimited program. Why? Because, unlike the KOLL program where you could only borrow one book a month and had to return that before you could borrow another title, Unlimited lets you borrow up to 10 books at a time.

But there is also the newness of the program AND the fact that it is free for 30 days. That means there are a lot of folks out there giving the program a try. How many of those will convert to the paid service at the end of the 30 days has yet to be seen. I have a feeling a lot of them will, at least initially. But there will be a drop off, not only when the 30 days runs out but over time as people realize that they may not be able to get the books they want or that they aren’t reading enough to justify the $9.99/month price or that they don’t get to keep the e-books they download.

Depending on how payouts look, it very well may see a decrease in the number of authors and small presses involved in the KDP Select program. This is my biggest issue with the Unlimited program. If you are in KDP Select, you were automatically enrolled in the Unlimited program and there is no way to opt out. It is the first time I’ve really had an issue with Amazon when it comes to their KDP/Select platforms. But I’ll wait and see.

The next thing I’ve noticed over the past week is that my overall “sales” have decreased. However, if you add in the “borrows”, they are holding fairly steady with what they’d been the last few weeks. Others I’ve talked to have said that, after sales declines, their overall numbers are starting to rise again. A few have reported a decrease, but nothing major. Impact from the new program? It is too early to tell — not that that’s stopped the naysayers.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that even though my sales numbers are slightly lower, my rankings are pretty much holding steady. To me, that seems to say that the Unlimited downloads are being figured in when rankings are determined and also that, while there may be more books being downloaded right now because of the new program, those downloads are being spread out and not dramatically altering the algorithm.

So I guess what I’m saying is that we need not knee-jerk pro or con here but wait and see what happens over the next month or two.

Just my two cents’ worth.


  1. Speaking as a reader, I’m not sure yet about paying $10 a month to borrow ebooks. Still it could be worth it to be able to check out an author before purchasing it.

    1. I’m going to wait-and-see about buying it for my mom for Christmas.

      It’s in competition with Amazon Prime, honestly. She couldn’t use the streaming stuff on that….

    2. Paul, I’m in sort of the same boat. Still, I do use the preview function before downloading and usually know if I want to read something by the time the preview is over.

  2. My ranking dropped under 200 in science fiction for three days. But my sales have not fallen off outside the normal range for the last 30 days. Yesterday the ranking is back above 200. I don’t belong to KDP select so I get no borrows nor the attached ranking boost. I suspect after the thirty day free period it won’t make much difference or be a slight positive for authors.

    1. You’re probably right. At most, it will be like when they started the KDP select program and there will be a couple of months where there is an impact and then the market will correct itself.

  3. As a new author with a very small following, Kindle Unlimited is looking pretty bad for me. I’m at the bottom of the pile with all the books full of typos, so visibility is limited for consumers. My book has only been out for three months, so that is a factor for me that will not affect authors who have been around longer. Still, my book has a straight 5-star rating on Goodreads, and the lowest review I’ve ever received on Amazon is a 4-star with not a single negative comment. It’s a pretty good track record so far.

    The second Unlimited hit, my sales stopped dead. I’m in the program mind you, (against my will albeit), but no one is downloading. My theory is that my book is reasonably priced already at $2.99. All those people who are trying out Unlimited are going to grab up the $10 books by big authors– the ones they’ve been wanting to read, but didn’t want to shell out the bucks for. Or at the least, they’re getting the books by authors they already know, because they don’t want to waste their trial taking a chance on something new.

    So I have to say Unlimited is frustrating at best. I’m not very happy about the way it has been done, and I’m not liking the results I’ve seen. I think this is another program that favors the people who are already at the top. I wish Amazon would come up with something that would help authors who produce quality work. I know that’s what reviews are supposed to be about, but let’s face it– it’s not. A lot of those typo-filled books have 5-star reviews. How does *that* happen? Not sure, but it’s pretty common. And it means that no one really bothers to notice the books that have *actual* 5-star reviews.

    I really hope that these effects are going to change as the free trial period wears off. Right now, like I said… not happy. 🙁

    1. First off, welcome to the blog! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      I share some of your concerns about the program. I think Amazon would have done itself a favor to give given more advance warning about what was going to happen and I would have liked to be able to opt in/out of it ahead of time.

      I’ll be honest, my sales have dropped since the program started, although my ranking has held fairly stable. But my lends have gone through the roof, relatively speaking. My books are offered at prices ranging from $2.99 – $3.99. However, one thing I’ve noticed is that the effect of the program is impacted by what genre your title happens to be in.

      Like you, I hope this slump of sorts is a temporary thing that disappears when the free month is over. So I am watching and tracking my numbers. We’ll see if I stay in the KDP Select program or not.

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