The service, which costs £7.99 a month, offers unlimited access to a catalogue of more than 650,000 ebooks, as well as more than 2,000 audiobooks from Amazon’s Audible subsidiary.
The ebook equivalent of Spotify for music or Netflix for TV shows and films, Kindle Unlimited is being marketed with an emphasis on bestsellers: J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series; Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy; 2013 Man Booker prize winner The Luminaries and more.
However, Amazon is also pitching Kindle Unlimited – which launches with a 30-day free trial – as a way for people to discover new books, taking a risk on titles they might not have bought otherwise.
“Our US customers have shown us how much they love the opportunity to discover new authors and genres, and now we’re delighted to offer the same freedom to our customers in the UK,” said Jorrit Van der Meulen, Amazon’s vice president, Kindle EU.
Kindle Unlimited is the most high-profile attempt by far to create an ebook subscription service, although startups including Oyster, Scribd and Entitle have also been exploring the idea.
Amazon’s launch comes shortly after the company unveiled its latest range of Fire tablets and Kindle e-reader devices, with the latter including its new Voyage device, which will go on sale in early October.
However, Kindle Unlimited’s launch also comes after a bruising few months for Amazon in its relationships with publishers and authors, sparked by a contractual dispute with publisher Hachette.
Most recently, a group of authors including Malcolm Gladwell, Donna Tartt and Stephen King wrote to Amazon’s board members under the banner of “Authors United”, criticising the company for its hardball negotiation tactics.
“Amazon is undermining the ability of authors to support their families, pay their mortgages, and provide for their kids’ college educations,” claimed the letter. “Amazon has other negotiating tools at its disposal; it does not need to inflict harm on the very authors who helped it become one of the largest retailers in the world.”
What does Kindle Unlimited mean for those authors, given the heated debate about creator royalties from streaming music services like Spotify?
Amazon says that authors will be paid each time someone reads more than 10% of one of their books through the new service. How much they get paid depends on individual deals struck between publishers and Amazon, however.
This analysis by Digital Books World suggests a rough figure of $2 per unit, while stressing that the details can vary between publishers.
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