When Amazon launched the Kindle Unlimited service last July, the idea was that popular indie authors could use the service as a way to gather royalties and raise their author profiles in tandem. The all-you-can-eat reading service was supposed to help, not harm, authors.
The opposite has been the case. After the launch of KU a number of prolific writers have seen sales drop precipitously. The Digital Reader found a number of examples including writer H.M. Ward whose sales fell by 70 percent. She wrote:
But Ward added an interesting aside near the end of her post: she would love to offer her readers a paid subscription to her work.
Ward, with 60 pieces in the Kindle store, is a rare case of a writer who is making a living from her writing through sheer volume. Most writers have one book in them at best but, as most Kindle experts note, the best way to make money is to write, publish, and repeat – ad infinitum.
By allowing users to subscribe to writers like Ward they will be doing everyone a solid. Ward and other writers will get a steady stream of income, readers will get the work of their favorite authors automatically, and Amazon has a captive source of revenue. Patreon, created by Jack Conte, is a perfect example of this dynamic. That service allows fans to pay a small amount every time an author creates a piece of content, be it a song, a blog post, or a podcast. By ensuring that the creator is paid the consumer ensures the content keeps coming.
KU thus far has been a dud. The selection is awful at best and laughable at worst. While some titles, like the Harry Potter series, seem like a great deal, the rest of the KU pool is an undifferentiated mess. By creating a sea of free content, Amazon has reduced the value of paid content. That’s horrible for writers who are trying to live off of their writing.
Amazon should kill or reduce Kindle Unlimited and instead allow subscriptions. It makes sense for everyone involved and it’s a great way to change the way writing is consumed on a mass scale.