Amazon Kindle Unlimited, also known as KU in the Amazon community, is a hub for digital readers, and authors trying to reach digital readers.
What started out in 1995 as an online bookstore in Jeff Bezos’ basement, has emerged as a global leader for not only the online shopping experience, but for authors and business owners alike.
Amazon Kindle Unlimited is just one program that caters to book lovers and authors around the world. Available across several devices (not just Kindle Readers or tablets), the Kindle Unlimited program can be used to access eBooks, audiobooks, magazines, comics and other literature.
So, is Kindle Unlimited a subscription service you should be signing up for?
Here’s what we’ll cover in our Kindle Unlimited review:
- What is Kindle Unlimited (KU)?
- How much does Kindle Unlimited cost?
- Kindle Unlimited Review for Authors
- Kindle Unlimited vs. KDP Select?
- How does Kindle Unlimited work for authors?
- Pros & Cons for Authors
- Kindle Unlimited Review for Readers
- How does Kindle Unlimited work for readers?
- Pros & Cons for Readers
- Additional eBook Reading Services
- Is Kindle Unlimited worth it for readers?
Kindle Unlimited For Readers and Authors
You probably have lots of questions about KU before deciding to: 1. Sign up as a monthly subscriber, or; 2. Use it as a funnel to build your book publishing business.
As a reader, you probably want to know everything about this subscription service before committing to a monthly fee.
As a self-published author, you might be wondering if you can benefit from Kindle Unlimited, and if it’s worth it to enroll in the program.
We will get to all get to these questions soon. To be clear on our objective here, we are approaching this from two angles:
1. As someone who loves books/audiobooks, and wants to read/listen to a lot of them (You can borrow up to ten items at a time).
2. As an author who self-publishes their own books and wants as many readers as possible to read your material.
But before you sign up and hand over more money to Amazon, let’s cover the basics of what KU is and why you should (or shouldn’t) sign up for the monthly subscription service.
Getting Started with Kindle Unlimited
First, you will need to create an Amazon account before you can enroll in Kindle Unlimited. That is easy to set up.
The next thing is, you must be a resident of the United Stated to join Amazon.com. If you’re not, you could get a message that looks like this:
But wait…Is Kindle Unlimited available only in the United States?
Actually, KU is a subscription service currently available to customers in the U.S., U.K., Italy, Spain, Brazil, France, Mexico, Canada, Germany, India, Australia, and Japan.
In the future, the subscription service will be available to residents in other countries as Amazon continues to expand.
What is Kindle Unlimited (KU)?
Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s book subscription service that allows users to “borrow” books, magazines, or audiobooks with no limitations on the borrowing time. It is a virtual library that you can pay to access.
With KU, you have access to a vast library of books, audiobooks, and/or magazines with no limits on the borrowing time.
However, you can only borrow up to ten items at a time. If you borrow ten books and then return one, you can borrow another one, but the amount can never exceed ten.
There are two specific types of customers who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited:
1. Voracious readers who love book binge reading.
2. Authors (mainly self-published) who are trying to market to a hungry audience, and there are many eager readers who subscribe to KU.
Kindle Unlimited works for readers and authors: The readers can borrow the book they love and read on the go. Authors can publish the books they worked so hard to write and present their works in front of millions of readers who have subscribed to Kindle United. It’s a win-win.
How much does Kindle Unlimited cost?
For readers, the cost for joining is 9.99 per month, billable at the end of each month. I think this is very reasonable considering how much you have available to stream and enjoy at a low investment cost.
There is a free 30-day option to test it out before committing to the monthly $9.99 fee. You can check out the Membership Plans.
Prime Members: Is Kindle Unlimited Free?
Kindle Unlimited is a separate subscription service from Amazon Prime, which also means it is not necessary to be a Prime member to get Unlimited.
There is a different borrowing service that is exclusive and FREE to Prime members called Prime Reading. This is similar to Kindle Unlimited but offers a smaller selection of content.
Kindle Unlimited Review for Authors
First, let’s take a look at Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited from an author’s perspective.
In this section, we’ll cover what KU is, how it works, what the benefits and disadvantages are, and if it’s worth it for authors to enroll.
What’s the difference between Kindle Unlimited and KDP Select?
Kindle Unlimited is the book subscription service, while KDP Select is a program authors can enroll in for extra perks that grants Amazon exclusive rights to sell an ebook in the Kindle store only.
As an author, one of the options (and benefits) of publishing through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program is that you have access to promotional tools and the opportunity to be selected for special promotions that Amazon occasionally runs.
If you make your eBook exclusive to the Kindle Store, which is a requirement when you enroll your book in KDP Select, the book will also be included in Kindle Unlimited (KU). As an author, joining KDP and having this level of access to millions of readers, could build your platform in several ways.
Here’s how KDP Select benefits authors that enroll:
1. Brings in hundreds or thousands of new leads and scales up your subscriber list. Amazon doesn’t share email data with authors so you don’t know who is buying your books. Offer a free giveaway in your books and you can ask readers to sign up for your list. It is the start of their journey with you.
2. You can earn a share of the KDP Select Global Fund based on how many pages Kindle Unlimited customers read of your book. Imagine if you had a series of books in KDP, and your readers have access to your books through KU and, you hit a target of 250,000 pages read by readers every month. This is a huge momentum and can actually bring in a nice income when leveraged.
3. If you choose to work with Kindle Unlimited, you can self-publish and reach a large number of Amazon readers. As mentioned, the best incentive is that your book will be widely available to subscribers in Kindle Unlimited.
How does Kindle Unlimited work for authors?
When authors publish their book on Amazon’s KDP, they have the option to enroll in KDP Select. With KDP Select, your eBook is available exclusively on the Kindle store, as Amazon owns the rights to your book. However, this means that Amazon gives authors premier perks and marketing tools, one of which is enrollment to Kindle Unlimited.
The KDP Select Global fund is basically the funds Amazon sets aside every month. It calculates earnings for KDP Select authors based on factors like how many books were borrowed and how many of their pages have been read each month.
If you’re an author and self-publishing your book on Amazon, you may be wondering if enrolling your book in Amazon’s KU program is for you.
As a self-publisher, having access to this program can be a huge benefit when getting your book in front of a larger audience.
For example, fiction authors that publish loads of books and working towards building out a book series can make huge gains in Kindle Unlimited when subscribers read their books.
Through Amazon’s KDP Global Select Fund, you're eligible for royalty payment from Kindle Unlimited for pages an individual customer reads in your book for the first time.
Imagine this: If you have a series of books consisting of 12-15 titles in the Amazon marketplace at an average of 200 pages per book, this could potentially amount to a nice cash amount every month when subscribers read your stuff.
Do authors get money from Kindle Unlimited?
Yes, authors that enroll their work with Kindle Unlimited receive royalty rates based on specific criteria, including the book length, number of copies borrowed, and number of pages read for the first time.
A customer can read your book as many times as they like, but Amazon only pays royalties to the author for the number of pages read the first time the customer reads them. It doesn’t matter how long it takes for the customer to read the book, either, as you still get paid even if your KDP Select enrollment period has expired, and you choose not to re-enroll.
Here’s how Amazon calculates your monthly royalty payments like this:
- An author receives one combined royalty payment for both KU and KOLL. Amazon reviews the size of the KDP Select Global Fund every month so it is compelling enough for authors to enroll their books in KDP Select.
- The fund amount is then announced in the community forum on kdp.amazon.com. The share of funds distributed to each country varies based on a number of factors, such as exchange rates and local subscription pricing.
Here is an example of how the funds are distributed to authors based on book length x amount of borrows x number of pages read. This is based on a Global Fund Volume of $10,000,000.
- Author with a 100-page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
- Author of a 200-page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $2,000 ($10 million multiplied by 20,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
- Author of a 200-page book that was borrowed 100 times but only read halfway through on average would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
As you can see, having multiple, high-quality books with great covers and a series that builds on readership in Kindle Unlimited can be worth it.
Pros & Cons For Authors
A controversy that is happening across channels has to do with the question: Does KU really benefit authors, or Amazon? The answer—depending on who you ask—is both.
Here are main pros of Kindle Unlimited for authors:
- Less competition. The mainstream publishers do not use KU. This means that your competition is considerably reduced. You can discover an audience in Kindle Unlimited that you never had before if you are willing to put in the work.
- Amazon favors books in Kindle Unlimited. This is really a “myth” of sorts but, if you check the top 100 books on Amazon, you’ll see several titles enrolled in KU.
- Potentially larger audience and earning potential. This of course will vary on several factors, including your book’s topic, genre, and how often you publish. Authors can have their book available to millions of readers. This means the potential to gather more reviews and build a bigger fanbase through email subscriptions.
Here are the main cons to Kindle Unlimited:
- Authors don’t get paid for books that readers borrow and never read. Amazon only pays for pages read and nothing more than that. This can result in very little for readers that stop reading your book. Authors don’t get paid for books that readers stop reading.
- You have to write and publish frequently for Kindle Unlimited to be a financial advantage. When it comes to succeeding on KU as an author, it is about the volume of material you can market to readers in the hopes they become engaged with your work. Then, once you have them hooked, you continue to write to that market.
- You cannot sell your book on other platforms once you are exclusive with Kindle Unlimited
- The free aspect may get stereotyped as “lesser value.” As an author, your book may be regarded by readers as lower quality if it is for free. But hey, Harry Potter is available in KU!
There are many authors and publishers who are strictly against the system Amazon has set up with KU, claiming the publishing Goliath is training customers to read for free. If readers start using the subscription service instead of buying books directly, it means less money for authors. Although some authors favor KU and are making a good living from the subscription platform, this isn’t so with everyone.
You can weigh the pros and cons and decide for yourself—as an author and self-publisher—if KU is for you. This decision really comes down to your business model for your book business.
If you have only 1-2 titles, and you can earn more selling books directly, it might be better to stay out of KU and leverage your platform based on book sales.
Kindle Unlimited Review for Readers
Now, let’s take a look at Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited from an avid reader’s perspective.
In this section, we’ll cover what Kindle Unlimited is, how it works, what the benefits and disadvantages are, and if it’s worth it for readers to subscribe.
How does Kindle Unlimited work for readers?
Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service for readers that allows you to access a huge selection of titles from the Kindle Store, by borrowing up to ten titles per month for as long as you need.
After taking the plunge and signing up, you can access the titles in your “Kindle Unlimited Library” at any time by selecting “Your Kindle Unlimited” from the account & lists pull down menu on the homepage.
Kindle Unlimited is a separate subscription service from Amazon Prime. It is not necessary to be a Prime member to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.
You can also access your eBooks on any device. An Amazon device or Kindle tablet is not needed.
When you subscribe to KU, you'll see a badge next to your KDP Select-enrolled book indicating the book you want is available in KU. This works regardless of the country you reside in, as long as KU is available.
How to cancel Kindle Unlimited
You can cancel your membership by visiting Your Account at https://www.amazon.com/youraccount and adjusting your membership settings.
It is easy to do. You can cancel at any time. This is a unique feature that, unlike other subscription services, you can suspend your membership at any time.
Here is how to cancel your Kindle Unlimited membership:
- On the “Your Kindle Unlimited” page, there is a “Manage Membership” box with the option to “Cancel Kindle Unlimited Membership.”
- The following page will tell you how much longer your benefits will stay active, and you can either “Continue Membership” or “End Membership.” It’s your choice.
- In order to continue your Kindle Unlimited membership again in the future, go back to the “Your Kindle Unlimited” page. There will be an option to “Continue Kindle Unlimited Membership” in the “Manage Membership” box.
- When you end your membership, you will receive email confirmation of your subscription cancellation.
- Remember: If you’ve paid for a long-term subscription and cancel several months into your year-long subscription, you’ll be refunded for the remaining months. However, keep in mind that you cannot restart your subscription later. So if you decide to cancel, be sure it’s what you want to do.
Pros & Cons For Readers
There are pros and cons to joining Kindle Unlimited for bibliophiles around the world.
Let’s take a look at what these are, and then you can decide if it’s something you want to invest in.
Remember that there is a 30-day free trial period so it makes trying this service out a no-brainer if that is an issue.
Here are the main pros of Kindle Unlimited for readers:
- Access to over 1,000,000 titles each month, in addition to current magazines and audiobooks.
- Up to ten titles can be borrowed at any one time. For some people, this might appear to be a limitation, but how many books and/or audiobooks do you need at any one time?
- Download the app to any device: Your PC, phone, or iPad. And you have full access to your library as long as you have an established Internet connection. You don’t need any special devices “exclusive to Amazon only.”
- Audiobook versions for most titles are offered to subscribers. This means thousands of hours of listening to your favorite books.
- Cancel your subscription at any time. It doesn’t lock you into any long-term membership fees. You do have the option to sign up for an annual membership.
- More title availability for readers than offered by industry competition. There is also a large collection of genre-type fiction available from thrillers to sci-fi to romance fiction, and even children’s books.
- Direct access to thousands of quality self-published books on the Amazon platform. If you borrow 3-5 books per month, the service is paying for itself.
- Excellent customer support team, as seems to be the case with all of Amazon’s platforms.
Now let’s look at the disadvantages because, yes, even with this program and everything it boasts that makes it worth it, there are a few negatives that might change your mind about KU.
The main cons to Kindle Unlimited for readers:
- New releases are generally not available right away (if at all) on KU. If you are into the most recent books that top charts, you’ll be waiting a long time before it appears on KU.
- Mainly indie books, or those written by independent or self-published authors. While there are many high-quality self-published books out there, if you’re into the big-name trade books, KU isn’t for you.
- Ongoing monthly fee to stay as an active member. But for the price, it’s still better than buying more stuff.
- Complex browsing feature that’s not always easy to navigate.
- The KU service is NOT free for Prime Members.
Additional eBook Reading Services
It’s good to know that, although Amazon owns a large piece of the book market when it comes to digital books, it’s not the only player in town. There are other reading subscription services available that provide similar services with some slight differences.
Here, in addition to Kindle Unlimited, we can recommend three more unlimited reading services you may be interested in. If Kindle Unlimited hasn’t peaked your interest, one of these other options might.
1. 24 Symbols
24symbols is a digital reading service without limits. You pay a small monthly fee—$7.99 per month—and you can download and read all of the books offered in their catalogue on any device.
24 Symbols has over one million books available in several languages and the service can be cancelled at any time. You can read online, or download your favorite books to your best device using the 24symbols app
Slightly cheaper than Kindle Unlimited—at $8.99 per month—Scribd claims to provide access to over one million titles with about 70 million subscribers onboard. It has a global presence, with the subscription service available in several foreign countries.
However, Scribd’s support team is said to be weak and the reputation of this online book company isn’t the best. They boast “limitless” reading but actually, there are caps on what you can access and be able to download.
Bookmate is a subscription based e-book service that makes reading accessible to anyone in the world with a mobile phone.
Bookmate has one special trait that makes it stand out: It’s unique in how it presents its social element. Subscribers can create custom profiles and follow friends to see what books they're into, as well as what’s on their TBR “bookshelves.”
As a market leader in Russia, Bookmate is now available in English, Spanish, Turkish, Swedish and several other languages.
Bookmate is free for 7 days and if you are enjoying the experience, you can continue for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99/month.
Is Kindle Unlimited worth it for readers?
The price is right, and canceling the subscription is easy. It comes down to a simple question: What do you enjoy reading?
The Kindle Unlimited titles are heavily focused on self-published books. If your tastes gravitate towards the bigger top 100 sellers on Amazon, you could be disappointed.
While there are some books featured on KU published through the Big 5, such as the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, many of the books that you want may not be included in the subscription service.
Kindle Unlimited is the type of service that is perfect for people who love to read…and read a lot! If you are into reading 1-2 titles per week, there isn’t any reason you should hesitate to sign up for Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. You’ll get your money's worth in the first few months.
Also mentioned, for magazine lovers and audiobook fans, you can access this material, too.
If you’re one of these busy people on the run, managing a busy schedule, taking care of family, and you need instant access to a wide platform that you can tap into instantly when you find the time, KU is for you. If you’re a commuter or someone who spends a lot of time on the road, you can listen to the audiobooks on the move.
If you’re looking for a way to tap into a vast amount of books, or are interested in reaching more readers and don’t mind being exclusive on Amazon, Kindle Unlimited is your best option.