Amazon has released another new service, but not everyone is happy about it. Authors are upset that Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited program has slashed the income that the authors are seeing from sales of their books in digital format. The new subscription service from Amazon offers Kindle users access to 700,000 books for $9.99 a month. While great for readers, some writers have seen their income drop considerably.
In the last few years, the creators of fiction books have seen a boom in their industry. Revenue from e-books increased nearly 50 percent in 2012, but leveled off in 2013 at about $3 billion. Since 2010, Amazon has seen its e-book library grow from roughly 600,000 books to more than 3 million books today. Smashwords, a distribution site for self-published writers, has seen the number of books on its site grow 20 percent in the past year.
The Kindle Unlimited program operates under the same all-you-can-eat business model as music website Spotify and video retailer Netflix. Consumers seem to love these services because they can access them as much as they want whenever they want for a low monthly price. Unfortunately, that low price is translating into less revenue for the writers providing the books.
Self-published writers are being hit the hardest by the new platform, as they have depended on the retailer’s publishing platform to expand their audience. Some of the writers who left their regular jobs to embark on a new career in book writing have been struggling to make ends meet and have had to return to the workforce. Author H.M. Ward left Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program after her income dropped 75 percent two months.
This is not the first spat that Amazon has had with authors. Mainstream novelists complained to the media loudly and often regarding Amazon’s tactics during the company’s fight with publisher Hachette, which led to the company actively taking steps to discourage the sale of some book titles. Amazon claims that author participation in the program is voluntary. However, based on Amazon’s past tactics with authors, many are now afraid that refusing to participate in the program will result in them being blacklisted by the company and their books will not be promoted.