Amazon has announced pay per page read for ebook borrows under its Kindle Unlimited subscription service.
As with everything ebook, change is becoming the only constant, so with this latest change, what will it mean for authors?
Here is how Amazon describe the change in payment model:
…we’ll switch from paying Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) royalties based on qualified borrows, to paying based on the number of pages read. We’re making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read. Under the new payment method, you’ll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it.
This raises two points immediately. One is that it clearly demonstrates how Kindle readers are minutely monitored in their reading by Amazon, which many Kindle readers would be totally unaware of.
It has a tinge of ‘Big Brother‘ about it. Secondly, authors are about to have their notions of book sales and royalties totally redefined, as they will now be paid by the page, and not by the book.
Amazon give the following examples of how the new payment system will be calculated:
Here are some examples of how it would work if the fund was $10M and 100,000,000 total pages were read in the month:
- The author of 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).
- The 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).
- The 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).
We will similarly change the way we pay KDP Select All-Star bonuses which will be awarded to authors and titles based on total KU and KOLL pages read.
The formula above is of course dependent on what Amazon decides to allocate to ‘The Fund’ each month, so the examples given are very rubbery.
Another issue is that Kindle Unlimited is only available to US subscribers, although other countries can access the service, but only in their local store.
For example, if you live in Spain, Kindle Unlimited is only available from the Kindle Spain Store, which of course limits ebook availability. For countries that don’t have a Kindle Store, they are completely out of luck.
These limitations make it very difficult for authors to decide how to promote their ebooks, as there are so many factors now in play as to how a Kindle ebook buyer or borrower actually purchases the right to read.
Pay per page read also opens up a whole new set of dilemmas for authors. Will it mean that writing shorter ebooks will work better, or will longer ebooks, which are hopefully read to the end, earn more because more pages are read?
As with all changes, the proof will be in the eating.
When Kindle Unlimited was first introduced, there was a lot of hand wringing, complaining and even outright anger from authors, who believed their royalty earnings had suffered badly.
Time will tell if ‘pay per page read‘ helps, or hinders.
Note: Since originally writing this article, Amazon has made a number of changes to the Kindle Unlimited payment model for authors. Whether these changes have been advantageous is very much open to discussion.