Is Kindle Unlimited Fair on Authors

Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC) pays between $0.004 and $0.005 per page, but is this a viable return for authors?

If you are an author, your answer is probably going to be a resounding, no.

However, the reality is that Kindle Unlimited (KU) is proving to be very popular with Kindle ebook readers, so in all likelihood, subscription ebook reading is now very much here to stay, fair or not.

All you can read for $9.99 per month, and even less in some markets, is a bargain for hungry readers, but will it mean that authors are starved of income as a result?

There is little point trying to calculate pay per page read against copies sold, as there is no way of knowing if a KU reader read the whole book. The only basis to use is that Amazon calculates a page to be about 187 words and for every 1,000 pages read; authors get between $4.00 and $5.00. Last month Amazon paid $4.78 per 1,000 pages.

With KENPC, it doesn’t matter if the 1,000 pages were read by a couple of readers who finished the book, or by 500 readers who only read a couple of pages.

In the end, it is all boils down to 187-word pages and not ebooks. Quite simply, this means that getting more readers to read more pages is the only way to increase an author’s income.

So, how can you make your ebooks more attractive to KU readers?

Everyone loves a bargain, and for KU readers, getting to read an ebook with a cover price of $5.99 is going to be far more tempting than one at $0.99.

Your ebook price needs to be tempting for KU users, but at the same time, setting the price too high will dissuade ebook buyers and have a detrimental effect on your per copy ebook sales.

Alternatively, for ebooks that don’t generally sell many copies, increasing the price may, in fact, lead to a better return from KU than from unit sales.

Another factor is naturally that the higher the ranking an ebook has, the more interest and attention it will attract. KENPC counts towards an ebook’s sales rank, so while the return might be less than the sale of a copy, every page read helps lift ranking. Again, it doesn’t matter if a reader finishes the book, or if 100 readers only read a few pages.

Because of this fact, it may be worth reconsidering free ebook promotions. Gaining 1,000-page reads will do far more for an ebook’s ranking than giving away a few hundred copies. So instead of putting a lot of marketing and promotional effort into a free ebook period, perhaps putting the same effort into promotion aimed at KU readers might be more beneficial.

In the end, though, to maintain an income, authors who have their ebooks available on Kindle Unlimited will have to make smart decisions about finding a balance between the two reading markets – buyers and subscribers.

So, is KU fair for authors? It doesn’t really matter if it’s fair or not. It’s the new reality, so the only way ahead is to accept the fact and adapt, or to remove your ebooks from Kindle Unlimited and rely on ebook sales.

This page was last updated on August 8th, 2017

9 thoughts on “Is Kindle Unlimited Pay Per Page Read Fair For Authors?

  • March 20, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    The problem with the question in your title are the erroneous assumptions that this offer is only open to authors, and that a loan can’t be worth more than a sale.

    There are authors who say that they get more for a KU read than for a sale, and there are publishers who are signing up for KU under the same KDP Select terms as authors:

  • March 20, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    I can’t disagree with you, Nate. My article was primarily addressed to self publishing authors, however I understand that publishers are also using KU. As the article you linked points out though, this is not quite such a simple process for some publishers.

    With regard to KU returning a higher royalty than a sale, this would only be possible if an ebook was priced very low. I didn’t see any examples in your linked article to support your view, but I am open to being corrected.

  • March 21, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Derek, do you have hard data that shows page reads increases Amazon ranking? Many authors believe that the borrow increases rank, but the page reads have no effect. Can you please explain how you came to the conclusion that page reads are part of the calculation.

    • March 21, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      Yes, JB, I do have hard data. I did not sell a book yesterday, but gained page reads through KU. My sales ranking jumped 250,000 in this one day of no ebook sales. Amazon now class page reads as incremental sales. So yes, they do count with regard to ranking.

  • March 22, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Derek I notice that my rank jumps tremendously from pages read too. On a day where I had little pages read and little eBook purchases and then suddenly had over 700 pages read my ranking improved by over 100k. Thanks for the info. I had no idea amazon paid barely 0.04-0.05 per page. I thought you were paid if a reader read the first 30% .I guess quite a bit has changed since the last time I released a book. Looks like I have some more strategizing to do

  • October 19, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    I know a few authors who have pulled their books from KU in the last few weeks due to a glitch with the new page-flip feature resulting in no credit for pages read. From what I’ve heard, Amazon so far hadn’t made any efforts to address the issue.

    • October 19, 2016 at 10:36 pm

      I have heard similar. Amazon, as usual, is refusing to even confirm or deny that there is a problem, which clearly, there is. In fact, KU has been an ongoing problem, mystery and secret for all since its inception.

  • December 9, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    I have read many sites on this subject and have a different view on things. I began to write very late in life. I don’t think that I will get what I expected out of my craft, but at the moment I’m very glad I had the opportunity to publish my work at all.
    A little bit of change here and there is fine with me.

  • January 25, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    In the brick and mortar world, about 25% of books are purchased as gifts. Most gift books are never read. So, KU book paid for and gifted. Gifted book is never claimed; Amazon keeps the money, author gets zilch.


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