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Saturday, May 21, 2016

Is Kindle Unlimited killing Indie publishing?

A recent item in the Digital Book World newsletter caught my attention, to the extent that I have been thinking about it ever since.

It was embedded in an interview with Smashwords' Mark Coker, who -- in effect -- accuses Amazon of killing off the goose that laid the golden egg.

This is it.

Amazon is exploiting the glut of cheap, high quality, Indie-produced digital books to drive the massive devaluation of e-books—with Kindle Unlimited as the tip of the spear, he says.

As Coker points out, thanks to Amazon’s KDP Select program (where authors agree not to list their books with any other distributor), it has exclusive access to 1.3 million e-books. And Kindle Unlimited (where customers buy a subscription with the right to read any of those books for nothing), means it can dump them on the market at below-market costs. Once someone has subscribed to Kindle Unlimited, after all, all those books are effectively “free” to read.

Coker compares Amazon’s exclusivity terms to a gun to the head of authors: “Go exclusive and we’ll give you preferential tools, discovery and sales advantage—or, go wide (distribute everywhere) and we’ll bury your books.” The ironic dilemma, Coker notes, is that KDP Select (which powers KU) is almost entirely powered by indie authors—authors who are surrendering their independence by enrolling in KDP Select.

Further, he notes that Kindle Unlimited is undermining the market for single-copy sales. “With KU, Amazon is training the world’s largest community of readers to consume books for what feels like free,” Coker says. When you can read 1.3 million e-books for free, why pay even 99 cents for a single title?

As I said before, it is worrying.

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