Don’t know what Amazon Kindle Unlimited is? Or, do you know but just aren’t sure it’s right for you? Hopefully I can help. I’m in a unique position to because I’ve used Kindle Unlimited from both sides: as a subscribed reader and as a writer with books in the program.
I have full visibility into what it is - and isn’t - and hopefully sharing this with you can help you decide if you want to try it out (a trial costs nothing, FYI).
Kindle Unlimited in ten words…
You pay a monthly fee, you get unlimited Kindle downloads.
Simple enough. But what exactly is this fee? And what exactly does “unlimited Kindle downloads” mean?
As mentioned, the service is free to try. After the first 30 days, the Kindle Unlimited cost is $9.99 per month.
You of course also need a Kindle or Kindle-supported device. If you don't have one, I recommend an Amazon's Fire HD. It's what I read on. You can also watch movies, shows, browse the internet, and listen to music. FYI, if you have an older tablet and want to upgrade to a newer one like this, Amazon offers a money-saving trade-in program.
No matter what device you use, Amazon will automatically bill a Kindle subscription fee to a credit card of your choice (if you already have a card saved in Amazon, you can use that one), and as long as you keep paying, you get access to the whole service. The model is identical to Netflix’s.
Now, by whole service, I don’t mean every single Kindle book on Amazon. This is a common misconception. A Kindle Unlimited subscription includes access to over 1 million Kindle titles, however, more than 1 million are for sale on Amazon. You get a lot. But not all. At any given time, you can have 10 titles on your device. When you finish one, you make room for another.
Speaking of misconceptions…
What’s the difference between Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime Reading?
Many people believe Kindle Unlimited is included with Amazon Prime. It’s not. Prime members are instantly enrolled in something called Prime Reading, which gives them over 1,000 books and magazines, but not the far larger, million-title-plus catalogue on Kindle Unlimited.
Whether you have Amazon Prime or not, you have to pay the Kindle Unlimited price ($9.99/month) to access the service. But that only kicks in after the 30-day free trial. The same is true with another popular book-based Amazon service, Audible. A subscription there is different than a Kindle Unlimited one. To learn more about Audible, check out this Amazon Audible overview I wrote.
If you’re reading this article, chances are you heard something about Kindle Unlimited and thought it might be for you, and chances are trying it would be worth the few seconds it takes to sign up.
Now that you know how much it costs and how to get it, you’re probably wondering what it includes, mainly…
Why are some Amazon books in Kindle Unlimited and others not?
Authors - and/or their publishers - decide if a book will be in the program. Amazon doesn’t choose.
As an author/publisher, if you opt to not have a book in the service, all Amazon shoppers could buy it for Kindle at the same set price, with you receiving the same royalty off each purchase.
If you opt to include the book in the program, Amazon shoppers not in Kindle Unlimited would still be able to buy it at its set price - netting you the traditional royalty - while program subscribers could download it for free.
Though authors/publishers don’t earn a traditional royalty when a Kindle Unlimited subscriber downloads their book, they do get some income as part of a revenue-share agreement with Amazon based on a math formula out of scope for this non-technical article (but if you’re interested, do a Google search for “Kindle Unlimited earnings formula”).
The earnings for an author/publisher per download are typically less if a reader is in Kindle Unlimited vs. not in Kindle Unlimited. If that’s the case, then why would an author/publisher choose to put out Kindle Unlimited books at all? The answer varies, however, based on my own experience and what I’ve heard from others in the program, exposure is a main driver.
There are a lot of Kindle Unlimited subscribers. And if you have a book in the program, all of them can read it for free. Without a transactional-charge barrier, people are of course more likely to click the download button. Thus, you can reach many more readers than you would’ve at a universal set price. The long-term benefits of this exposure for an author/publisher could far outweigh the reduced profit per download.
Enough about author/publisher economics. As a reader, you probably want to know…
What are some examples of Kindle Unlimited books?
The program spans all sorts of titles across fiction and non-fiction in all sorts of genres (and also a selection of magazines).
You’ll of course find many indie books on there, especially from newer writers. Why? As mentioned, exposure is a big benefit of releasing a title into the program, and in an effort to make a name for themselves without the luxury of a large marketing budget, indie authors/publishers, especially newer ones, need as much exposure they can get.
That being said, a lot of well-recognized authors are also part of the service. For instance, Suzanne Collins, Melinda Leigh, Gregg Olsen, and JK Rowling.
So, that brings us to the central question…
Is Kindle Unlimited right for you?
If you answer yes to most of these questions, then yes, it’s probably a good fit:
Do you like reading on a Kindle or Fire tablet?
Do you read often?
Do you typically spend more than $9.99 per month buying books?
Do you like reading both well-known authors and authors who aren’t household names?
Lastly, there’s only one way to know for sure if it’s for you. And that’s to try it free.