A Day with the new Kindle Unlimited service

So Amazon ushered out their new monthly Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription service, or in street terms, a Netflix for eBooks type of a service. I managed to resist for most of the day on Friday, but since they are giving a 30 day free trial, I jumped right in on Saturday morning.

First Impressions
My first impression was akin to an all you can eat buffet of ebooks experience. Especially for non-fiction reference and how-to type of books. Because there’s only so much fiction one can read, and only so much books you can keep in your head in parallel. However, with non-fiction, be they learning or DIY type of books, you only need to read or cross-reference them as needed. So you can pick up ebooks on hobbies, on work related matters, on health related matters, and so on. It’s a good thing this is a zero calorie buffet 🙂

While the service is called Unlimited, technically there is a speed bump. You can only have ten (10) ebooks checked out at any time. When you are done with an ebook, or if you pick it up and discover that that 50-page 5-star ebook is actually a total disaster (and the 5-stars were given to the book from the author’s pool of friends and family), you can Return it and it opens up a slot in your “ten out”. The service is unlimited in that you can check-out as many ebooks as you want per month. The only limit is that you can have only ten out at a time.

Each one of the ten ebooks you can borrow can be read on up to six different devices, which is fairly flexible. This is mentioned in the fairly spartan FAQ page for the program.

Works with Kindle Apps and Kindle Devices
The new Kindle Unlimited service is integrated in the Kindle Apps, so the millions of iOS and Google Play users have access to this feature by simply getting the latest version of the Kindle app. So do the Kindle Fire users. I don’t know if the change rolled out for the Samsung version of the Kindle app. I removed the Samsung account from my Galaxy device, and I don’t want to deal with even more Samsung TouchWiz bloatware just to satisfy my curiosity 🙂

You can check out books from anywhere. Checking books back in, you can do that with a web browser by going to the Amazon website (amazon.com/myk = manage your kindle or my kindle) and filtering the list by “Rentals” instead of “all”. Or you can access the Kindle Store and navigating to Kindle Unlimited from a Kindle ereader. I haven’t checked this yet on a Kindle Fire. On two Google Play tablets, I didn’t find a way to return ebooks with the Kindle app. I haven’t tried this with a smartphone.

Finding eBooks to try out
At the Amazon website, there are a few ways to discover KU books to pick up. For example, the Kindle Unlimited page where you can search the 640,000+ current choices or filter by categories and sub-categories or by star rating or by participating in Whispersync for Voice (over 7000).

Another way to get ideas on what to try out is to pay attention to the Recommendation boxes Amazon puts all over their web pages. For example, on the splashy splashy Kindle Unlimited page, the third row of ebook thumbnails is “Recommended for You”.

Prices
Everyone can start a 30 day free trial if they like. You need to have 1-Click turned on and a valid credit card linked to your account and your 1-Click. Amazon will place a temporary authorization of $1 on your credit card when you start your free 30-day trial. After 30 days, if you don’t cancel, your credit card will be billed $10 every month, until you cancel. No refunds if you cancel halfway in the month, so if you are going to cancel, cancel towards the end – but don’t wait until the last minute.

You also get a free 3-month Audible trial. I don’t know whether this offer is also good for people who already have Audible accounts with or without active memberships. I haven’t checked mine yet. I will post another post if I do. Regardless of the Audible three month free trial (which translates to three free audiobooks), this Unlimited service includes over 2000 audiobooks. You need to have an Audible account for this, but you don’t need an active Audible membership. If all else fails, use your free ebooks from the 3-month free trial to get the Game of Thrones audiobooks 🙂

Predictions for eBooks Participating in Kindle Unlimited
I think from the pool of ebooks participating in this program, it will have this effect:

1) sales of quality ebooks will go up
2) sales of crappy ebooks will go down – you’ve seen them, you may have purchased a few, and you are not getting back those $1.99 or $2.99

The reason is that you no longer have to defer or gamble on an ebook. You simply check it out and flip through it. If it is good, you will keep it. You may end up buying and you may end up recommending it to friends and family. So a chain reaction will begin building more buzz for quality books.

Predictions for eBooks NOT Participating in Kindle Unlimited
One thing I noticed in my all-you-can-eat-ebook-buffet session is that while looking for non-fiction books in my topics of interest, I started overlooking the non-Unlimited ebooks. I was looking for that KU logo first.

So, I suspect, if there are good or good enough ebooks in Kindle Unlimited for a particular subject, some readers may be satisfied with those choices, and not even consider purchasing the ebooks outside the program.

Opportunity for Authors to Break Out?
So depending on how successful this gets over time, there might be pressure on authors outside KU to join in, in order to increase the potentially shrinking pool of buyers/readers. Because, especially now in the early stages, there’s an opportunity for some authors to break out, more specifically, in subjects where the qualify of currently available KU ebooks is not good, while the outsider author has a quality ebook that will “win” readers over.