Increasing reports are coming in that indie authors who are not in KDP Select and happily selling on other retail platforms, are seeing KU borrows in their dashboard. On further investigation they have found their product pages carrying the KU logo and KU download button for those same titles.
Then the KU logo has vanished (but the borrows are still showing).
A glitch? Some think so.
But a strange glitch to occur in the first place, unless…
Is Amazon advance-testing for all KDP titles to be pulled into Kindle Unlimited, whether we agree or not?
We’ve speculated on this before here (LINK), and now the evidence appears to be mounting that this is part of Kindle Czar Russ Grandinetti’s master plan.
If you are thinking Amazon wouldn’t do such a thing without our permission, think again.
Take a look at this report from The Bookseller (LINK) where numerous mid-sized trad publishers are protesting, and even considering legal action, against Amazon.
Why? Because Amazon asked them is they wanted to be part of Kindle Unlimited and they answered with a resounding “No.” So Amazon just went ahead and did it anyway.
The sop to the publishers is that they are getting paid full whack for a borrow.
Indies of course are much further down the food chain, so we just get a share of the pot, and as we’ve explained before, this is nothing more than stealth royalty cut. (LINK)
A $4.99 sale on Amazon nets the author $3.50. A borrow of that same book net the author around $2 (exact amount variable). A massive cut. Which is why of course Grandinetti – the most dangerous man in publishing right now – brought in the All-Stars jackpot payments to keep the top indies on board. Yes they lose money by supporting KU, but Amazon then hands them wads of cash to compensate for the losses.
For normal indies like you and I? Exactly. A royalty cut by any other name…
As per earlier articles (linked above), Kindle Unlimited is ahead of rivals Oyster and Scribd in the numbers game. KU fields some 700,000 titles, against around 500,000 each from the others. But as we now see, many of those 700,000 titles are there without the permission of the publishers.
Safe to say all 500,000 of the Scribd and Oyster titles are there voluntarily.
Both Oyster and Scribd have Big 5 titles on board. Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have both provided back-list to Oyster and Scribd, and more recently HarperCollins stuck in its newly acquired stock of Harlequin back-list titles. (LINK)
As Scribd and Oyster narrow the gap between KU and themselves with the number of titles available, so KU’s appeal diminishes. But if Amazon could suddenly push the KU volume over the million mark…
That would be a big selling point for readers, and perhaps more importantly right now a big news story for the media.
Those of you who saw our post on the Greenpeace assault on Amazon will also know that in the space of one month three of Amazon’s top execs have handed in their notice. You’ll also know that Amazon is about to announce its worst ever financial results, and is facing growing unrest from investors, as well as unrest in the Boardroom. (LINK)
The Q3 results (and equally troubling Q4 guidance) are due towards the end of this month. What normally happens is that Amazon rushes out a spate of news-friendly initiatives (KU itself was launched just ahead of the very bad Q2 report) for lazy journalist to recycle without looking too closely.
The launch of Kindle Germany and Kindle France at the Frankfurt Book Fair, with a simultaneous announcement that KU will now have over one million titles in, would be a great way of grabbing the headlines. And it looks as if Amazon have been doing some beta testing with non-Select titles to make sure everything is in place.
Given Amazon have rode roughshod over the wishes of the mid-sized publishers there seems little hope the wishes of us indies will be considered.
The sop to us will be that we won’t have to be exclusive. Yes, we’ll be in KU and get the potential borrows and the potential share of the pot, but we will still be able to stay on other platforms.
Of course that means the existing KU indies will be put at a disadvantage, so the downside will be that we won’t benefit from the KU perks. All-Star pay-outs, for example, will be Select only. And safe to say there will be less obvious penalties, like enhanced visibility from Select titles while the rest of us just watch our royalties go down as we collect pot payments instead of the full whack like the trad publishers.
But hey, no-one ever said Amazon was a level playing field.
Will it happen? Who can say, but no-one should rule out the possibility, and given the mounting evidence, it seems more and more likely.
If not sooner, then later. But sooner is looking like a strong contender right now.