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Amazon leaks Kindle Unlimited (googleusercontent.com)
304 points by ecrotty on July 16, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 230 comments

Lots of people in this thread are talking about this being scary for authors. When I was a kid, I got to read a ton of books any time I wanted. I got them at this place called a "library" where they let people come in and take books home with them to read for free.

People have always had the option to read books without buying them. In those days, going to the library was effectively the same effort as going to a book store. In fact, it was more convenient for my family. We happened to live a few blocks from the library and didn't need to drive across town to the mall to get books in dingy little B. Dalton bookstore.

I will grant that the economics in the eBook situation are dramatically different than with physical books, but I really wonder how different they really are. Local libraries already lend ebooks as well. I'm not sure why more people don't take advantage of that.

I'm a regular user of the local library, but I notice that most people in my "class" (i.e. tech people earning a lot) don't go there. It's easier to buy it on your Kindle for $10-$15 than to make a trip to the library. I'm gonna be a jerk and say that most people also like to hang out in expensive coffee shops with other members of their class, and not in the library where there are lots of poor people.

It's a little bit like grocery stores... you can often get a better deal if you go to another neighborhood. But most people want to hang out with their peers in the nice grocery store. The savings isn't worth the trip either.

I don't think any of these things have anything to do with "hanging out" and "class". When you get a book on your Kindle, you're not hanging out with anyone, you're just getting a book. Also, anecdotes and data notwithstanding, the times I've seen people "hanging out" with people they didn't arrive with at a grocery store in my life can probably be counted on one hand.

When your (cash-rich, time-poor) friends buy books on their Kindles instead of going to the library, it's most likely because they value the convenience of (a) not having to go to the library to get the book (b) not having to consider whether the book is stocked (c) not having to got to the library to return it (d) not having to keep track of when the book must be returned (e) not having to actually carry a physical book around -- more then they value their $10-15.

It's unpopular but I really enjoy reading on my phone. It's small, it's always with me, it's much more convenient than lugging around a physical book(and I love physical books). But that's why I buy ebooks(they're just expensive which sucks).

It's interesting to listen to the cascading excuses when bringing up books with friends. "Why not use a kindle?" "I like holding the physical book." "Oh, then why not go to the library?" "Well, I like owning the book too." "Oh."

I think you're right in that people like the "culture" around reading more than reading itself.

You can save a ton of money using your local library though. I really need to start doing that.

I read mostly technical stuff, mostly online articles, snd few books to begin with... I prefer physical books for diving into something more new to me as I tend to remember better with a physical book. I remember better with roughly where something is in the book. I don't get that with ebooks, I've tried. I don't go to the library as technology books are usually too dated for me.

Happy medium. I use the library for my 'summer reading books', the books you read once, enjoy and never thing about again. I use Kindle for books I really enjoy and want to read again (or for free/cheap summer books that the library doesn't have). I buy physical books for reference or if the library/kindle/nook/ebook provider does not have it available.

I buy physical books because they're cheaper than ebooks. I'll usually pay about $.50 to a buck for them. Sometimes my friends just give me a box of books they're done with. The local thrift store often has bestsellers for a buck.

The usual price for a used book on Amazon is $.01, which with shipping comes out to still far less than the ebook.

For ebooks, Amazon already has one free "rental" per month of select books, for Prime members.

There are other good sources of free books include this blog: http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/category/books/free-fiction...

I did that once (don't remember what book) but in the end I didn't like it. While I don't like to re-read books it kind of annoys me that the book is gone from my list of stuff I've bought/read. Plus the limitation of 1 per month means you can't switch to reading something else unless I buy that something else.

I don't like losing access to things. If it was "you can download one per month and keep access as long as you're a subscriber" sort of the way Playstation Plus works that would be OK with me.

But the rental program feels more like a cruddy crippled library than a real service.

I'd rather pay the $5-$10 for the eBook and not have to deal with it.

This new service is interesting. I don't read enough for it to be useful, but I could see it saving my dad quite a bit of money (or trips to the library) if they had enough books.

Last time Amazon gave me a free trial of Prime, I tried out the free rental. As best as I could make out, it was only possible to use it by browsing on my Kindle, which was a rather suboptimal experience, allowing only specific search or a paginated list of about 50,000 pages. I couldn't actually find anything I wanted to read.

If you know how to use Amazon's interface it's possible to see the list of books online so you don't have to do all the browsing on the Kindle, but you still have to 'buy' it from the Kindle.

It's sort of a hidden link or a special way of narrowing search results with the criteria on the left side of the page. If you google I'm sure you can find instructions.

Here's the super-secret password for the clubhouse.

In the search box on the main amazon.com page, there's a drop-down list on the left hand side of the text entry. Click that and change it to "Books". Now just hit search (you can leave the text field blank). That will bring up a search results screen with a bunch of filter groups on the left. Scroll down and select "Kindle Edition" under "Format". After the page reloads, scroll down even further and you'll have a checkbox for "Prime Eligible". Select that, and you'll have only the books you can rent with Prime. You can then further refine by genre, search term, whatever.

The selection is generally pretty awful though.

You can buy it from your phone or computer. Even if it is a Mac. You pick which device you want it sent to. And I totally don't get that y'all are saying ebooks cost more than trad.and "awful" selection? What don't they have?

You can buy from anywhere. But the Prime free rentals can only be done from the Kindle device itself.

I was not aware of this. Do you get to chose the book?

Yes, but you can only read them on a Kindle device, not the app.

Oh, that's right, that's what really killed it for me. I'm used to reading on my kindle and picking up my progress on my phone when I'm stuck somewhere with some free time.

Losing the sync ability basically killed the main utility I get from eBooks. If I have to carry the Kindle around, I can carry a library book around.

This is a good point. You could get the best of both worlds and just buy books on eBay for cheap. It's cheap and you end up with a physical copy.

> Happy medium.

An appropriate term to use in a discussion that's literally about different media for books.

Kindles are great for books I'll read sequentially, in which I'll never need to consult a specific section, and in which I'll never have to page back-and-forth. So, all fiction and most nonfiction I enjoy having in Kindle format. Textbooks and references I want to own in dead-tree format.

These are all valid reasons. I read a lot of ebooks because I'm travelling a lot but if I move somewhere to stay there permanently I'm going to go back to buying physical books. As much for myself as for my kids to grow with books around.

> You can save a ton of money using your local library though.

I'm quite specific about what I want to read. My local library (that happens to be just round the corner) never has what I want. I often don't even seem to be able to order in what I want. So I gave up and just buy books on a Kindle instead.

I can get just about any book I want through the library: http://www.georgialibraries.org/public/pines.php

There's no catch. You order the book from whichever library has it, and they deliver it within a few days. Plus, the eBook loan program's collection gets bigger all the time. More states should adopt a system like this. The software behind PINES is free and open source: http://evergreen-ils.org/

last time i checked i could reserve on my local library probably a billion more books than what is available in the tiny kindle library. e.g. taocp

Yes, not to mention that some of the best books (e.g. by author R.A. Lafferty) are out of print and only available in libraries or for hundreds of dollars on the used market.

There's an entire corpus of literature between 1920 and 2014 that is out-of-print for licensing or estate reasons, rather than quality, much of which can be found in libraries.

A lot of libraries are starting hackerspaces. You should see if you can mentor at one.

I mentor at a program at my library every week, and it's been really awesome.

I would love to see a national scale project to convert libraries to hackerspaces/coworking spaces.. Digital media should still be available (Kindles, iPads, etc with access to libraries through Amazon for copyright material and Library Of Congress/Internet Archive for public domain material), but its time they evolve.

You don't need a national scale project. You can start with your own, local library. Help make it into the best library around, and others will follow.

Half agree. Use a local library as the prototype, document how you did it and the results, and then scale up with that experience.

Seriously, libraries seem to all recognize the need for hackerspaces, but they don't have hackers to staff them.

They have budgets for things, and space, and a desire, they just need help figuring out where/how to spend things and how to then use the things they've gotten.

Is there an online community where hackers share knowledge about library-based hackerspaces?

You can search around CfA's blogs, their Brigade people, the Sunlight Foundation's blogs, Knight Foundation's blogs, Techpresident's blog, mySociety's blogs, Open Knowledge Foundation's blogs but to me the best example of a great library turned into a makerspace is https://www.fflib.org/make/fab-lab.

Maybe ease into makerspaces like my local library which hosts meetings, and hosts kids events put on by one of the local makerspaces, but isn't technically "The Makerspace" probably because there is zero permanent storage, although makerspace people are there seemingly every day.

Once you're all there all the time anyway, then ease into the "now we want/need/demand permanent storage" And machine tools. And a pony.

The concept of a "Hackerspace-Lite" is interesting. No permanent stuff onsite. Carry in and carry out. The library is already full of meeting and presentation rooms and ours finally caved into to sell coffee and junk food for fundraising.

The biggest problem locally is the whole "A library is also a day care, right?" situation. Up to and including police taking abandoned kids into protective custody after a couple hours, which is weird.

Do they tag them with crayons like street parking spaces? Seriously, how does that work - is someone watching for unattended bag.. er kids and then calling police? What's the minimum age requirement for unattended visits to the library?

They have a regular police presence due to historical problems. Not quite an officer stationed there, but pretty close at certain times of day. Helps that there is a police substation next door. Calling wouldn't get an officer there any quicker, when one walks thru or past every ten minutes or so anyway.

There is a big cultural, uh, mismatch where the library requires more police intervention than any of the retail stores or bars or parks... liquor licenses have been lost for consuming far less police budget than the library. The library gets a free pass.

If all the policies were printed out from the web page it would be at least 100 printed pages. It is a very verbose CYA that boils down to anything you do that a librarian doesn't like will get you banned, and being there while banned is a legal trespassing offense, so one strike and you're out. If the librarians like you, you won't be banned no matter what you do. I can photocopy copyrighted materials, take pictures or videos of my kids, talk (whisper) on my phone, hang out for an hour while my kids take a class ... folks of a different race or economic group may have a somewhat different experience when they break any of those rules.

I was unable to find a minimum age, but I think you'd have to be at least upper grade school to survive not violating at least one of the hundreds of rules for more than a minute or two.

I did find that they define loitering as being in an area for longer than 15 minutes other than defined study desks, so no need for crayons or tagging. I've violated that rule a few dozen times, but I'm in no danger of being punished...

Given the sheer workload of homeless people and child day care, the librarians show quite a bit of restraint and can't enforce all the rules.

I was a regular user of the sf library until we found a dead bedbug in a book. It's just not worth the hassle of potentially infesting my apartment. Also, the bathrooms there are foul. I guess it's nice that street people have a bathroom they can use but the only way to describe it is rural western gas station. That killed lingering at the library.

San Francisco has one of the world's great libraries, e.g. see these photos: http://www.pinterest.com/stellacarruth/san-francisco-public-...

Did you complain to a librarian about the restrooms? That is a cleaning issue, same as a busy airport. The library belongs to all local residents, chip in and help make it the space where you would like to linger. Bathrooms can be cleaned. The rest of the building and books are wonderful.

I regularly have four or five books from my library (one or two tech books, a fiction book and two or three comics) at any one time.

Not to mention the, literally dozens, I get for my kids every month.

I use the library to sample books and because if I bought every book I read, despite my healthy income, I'd be broke. I am an information devourer.

I am pretty sure there are a lot of people like me, at least in the Austin area, because I have to wait on some of the books I'd like to read that I don't think very poor people would be interested in.

YMMV because my library is pretty awesome and well stocked, but I think libraries are a shamefully underutilized resource.

Library hours strongly conflict with 9-5 job hours.

Your local library isn't open weekends? My library's open 9:30 am - 9 pm on weekdays, 9:30 am - 5:30 pm on Saturdays, and 1 pm - 5 pm on Sundays. Those hours definitely don't strongly conflict with 9-5 job hours.

Wow... I don't know what libraries you go to but libraries are generally not full of poor people...

In the Bay Area at least, libraries are where people without computers go to access the Internet. The Internet is the easiest way to perform a lot of basic life tasks, like interacting with the government. People without computers these days are generally lower income, so it's true that there are more poor people in the library.

In some areas, it is definitely significant that libraries have bathrooms and shelter. But the Internet is always a big draw. With more and more of life moving online, libraries are providing an extremely valuable service by making Internet access freely available.

That doesn't match my experience. The libraries around Redwood City are high quality and filled with families.

In San Francisco, Portland, and certain places in Los Angeles, there is a significant number of homeless people who make use of the library. I don't begrudge them the access to books, internet, learning, and a quiet place, but there is a small contingent who are mentally ill and/or disruptive and cause problems for other patrons. Cf. “Why we can't have nice things”

This is most likely true of any large city, but I don't have any first-hand experience beyond those three cities.

Except for universities and affluent suburbs I would have to agree with the assessment. Why not? It's warm in the winter, cool in the summer, you won't be hassled to buy something and there is free internet access.

As much as we would like it to not be true, in the real world free services attract the lowest financial class of people. Libraries are awesome, and I spent a significant portion of my life in them, but as soon as I could afford to not use them, I quit going to them.

Depends if the "real world" is the US, Sweden or, for example, Bulgaria.

In the US, this might be the case. In Sweden, mostly you'll find kids, moms and people studying (depending on the city, if it has a university or not). A very small subset is there for computer access, but it's certainly not a majority.

In Bulgaria, no one seems to go to the library. They check your ID when you go in and it's not really a place to hang out.

Libraries aren't the same everywhere.

The libraries in my city just reflect the people in the community around them. In poorer areas, they are mostly poorer people, in the city centre there are mostly students and workers, in richer areas there are lots of middle class families and older folks.

Any library in an area with a significant homeless population.

I use my local library for a quiet co working space, but never borrow books because their inventory is horribly outdated. In my town many of the libraries are also where the homeless go to hangout, since air conditioning is key here in the south. I rarely see any other tech people at the library, but do see tons at the coffee shop a block away.

I live in chile and since i got my hands on kindle books i got access to tittles that don't even exist anymore in my country So any easy access to kindle books is well come,

I don't think it has much to do with "class" (I don't see many poor people in our library). The library is OK for fiction but poor for things like up-to-date technical books.

holy cow.. pretentious much?

No, that's pretentious' older brother: Elitist.

When I was a kid I got books from the library too. Then, like most people who enjoy reading, I began buying books of my own. Libraries are fine when you just want to find some books you haven't read before but owning your own books has significant advantages, which I hope need not be restated here.

How this goes for authors depends on how Amazon are purchasing the rights to the ebooks. Having seen what streaming has done to music revenue I can't say I'm too optimistic about this. Some authors will do fantastically well, of course, but the much larger number of people who make a modest income from writing may well see it shrink drastically. The problem is that this doesn't necessarily improve things for consumers. Super-successful authors are often producers of lowest-common-denominator material. If high quality writers who appeal to a much smaller audience are no longer able to support themselves by writing, then they either move downmarket or take up another line of work, which results is a loss of quality for consumers.

The problem with streaming is that proponents treat creative output like a commodity and then point to the laws of supply and demand to justify economic upheaval. But pure supply and demand only applies in cases of perfect competition, where commodity goods are actually perfect substitutes; I have no particular reason to buy oil/ gravel/ corn from supplier X if supplier Y can deliver identical goods at a lower price. This is not the case for creative works.

PS I don't mean this as a dig against Amazon in particular, but there is a potential monopsony problem. I worry about this a bit less with Netflix because the economics of film production and distribution are enormously different than for other media, and Netflix is more like a peer among distributors.

> owning your own books has significant advantages, which I hope need not be restated here.

I had to get rid of several hundred of my books years ago when I went traveling. It was tough since I had a lot of attachment to my physical books, but upon examination I realized there were few advantages and in my case many disadvantages. Exceptions are books you habitually reread or reference, but most novels fail that test.

I have several thousand books. Many I've cut & scanned into pdf's. It is just marvelous to be able to take with me that library when I travel - I never lack for something to browse. I no longer have to read those wretched in-flight magazines.

My bookshelves are still crammed with books, but they've all got a date with the slicer! Mua-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!

BTW, for examples of books I've cut & scanned, see http://www.generalatomic.com (yes, I either acquired permission to post them or they are public domain).

That's basically what I ended up doing. After I got rid of the books, I imposed a rule on myself that except for rare cases where the book itself is an extraordinary artifact I would only buy books to cut and scan. My previous books were either replaced by ebooks or for the rarer books by buying new or used copies and cutting and scanning them. I was lucky enough that my employer at the time had an industrial-strength paper guillotine and high-volume scanner.

The paper guillotine was impossibly heavy to carry around and terrifying to operate.

This isn't about e-books vs physical books, but about the difference between subscription and purchase models.

I'm curious about this, I've got a bunch of books I don't want to throw away, but I'm tired of the space they occupy. Seems like scanning them would be a huge hassle though. Any special techniques that you use to do this? How long does a single book take to process?

You can build a book scanner: http://www.diybookscanner.org/

1dollarscan will cut&scan for $1 per 100 pages, they destroy the book afterwards. You can also ship to them directly from Amazon, etc. It's a way to buy electronic versions of older books which may never be on Kindle. Just cutting the spine from a book costs $2 at Staples.

I bought what's called a "stack slicer" used on ebay for about $300. It'll neatly slice the spine off and your finger! Man it's sharp, I found out the hard way. I do enough that it's worth the cost. You'll be sorry if you scrimp on this piece of equipment.

You'll also need a sheet feeding scanner with a hopper on it, that'll scan both sides at the same time. Otherwise, it takes far too long. The software with the scanner will OCR it automagically and create a PDF. I scan at 400 dpi, which looks real sweet on a retina screen. There are a lot of settings to tweak on the scanner, some experimenting will get you the best results. Make sure you turn the double feed detection on.

Use some denatured alcohol to regularly clean the window and rollers, I also use a solder sucker to blow the paper dust out of it.

And lastly, you'll never get 100% of a book to go through cleanly. Just rescan the screw-ups, and assemble the result using pdftk (a marvelous tool). I also like to scan the covers separately in color and fold them in.

Times vary, but I can scan an average paperback in 5 minutes. Turning the sheets sideways makes it go much faster.

> Turning the sheets sideways makes it go much faster.

Great tip, thanks - presumably it also reduces misfeeds.

Would you recommend a particular scanner?

How does pdftk help with rescanned pages, does it magically know where to reinsert?

My scanner is old and not sold anymore, but it's a Fujitsu and presumably their newer models are as good.

You have to explicitly tell pdftk what to do.


Ff you want some help using pdftk, check out the free 'PDF Succinctly' ebook from Syncfusion:


It explains use of iTextSharp, a C# library.

Just like the music industry, I think more writers are going to become acclimated to the book-signing aspect of the industry in order to support their themselves financially. Subscription based models and piracy that originated from the disruptive nature of new technology sounds like it would discencetivize writers from creating new works, but I think if you model the economics of future distributions, it will eventually favor the writers that create quality work. The best example I can think of is the existing state of stand-up comedy. Louis CK, Aziz Ansari, Joey Diaz can release a $5 special DRM free with low capital expenditures, and still make a significant payout. This model cuts out most of the pre-existing middlemen, and all that's left is artist and the audience.

Well known artists with a fanbase I'm sure are ok with charging $5, but authors spending years researching need that upfront money, and hopefully 25.99$ hardcover sales, followed by 7$ paperback sales. If they want to do this for a living I should say.

I'm curious to know how much of that $25.99 hardcover goes to the writer.

Not all, but enough that they are willing to sign a up front contract with a publishing company.

How do you sign an e-book?

You get your picture taken with the author/talent instead.

Do I want my Louis CK DVD autographed? Or do I want a picture with him? I'll take the picture every time.

I started getting into startups around when Lean Startup was the hottest thing out, led by Eric Ries. He was signing books after a talk and I asked him to sign my iPad case.

I was thinking this sounds strangely like a library card you pay $120 a year for.

For many, libraries just aren't convenient. Even if the location itself is convenient, navigating the the eBook collection might not be. Even if navigating the eBook collection is convenient, there is often (in my admittedly limited experience) a wait time for the books I'm interested in. Perhaps there are some who would admonish me for sticking almost exclusively to eBooks, or for my laser focus on What I Want rather than other available options. Whatever, let them. The point is that time and convenience are worth money to me, and many others.

If my Library let me donate $120 to them annually with the ability to borrow from an eBook collection of 500,000+ without having to go to a local branch or waiting for someone to "return" the digital file then I'd write the check tomorrow. I just get so tired of everyone on social media so smugly pointing out that libraries exist and have books you can borrow for free. Yeah, we get it, but many libraries don't provide the service I'm (and others, it seems) looking for. I have the means to be flexible in my selection of service/product providers, and I choose to spend money on those that match my habits and preferences.

>If my Library let me donate $120 to them annually with the ability to borrow from an eBook collection of 500,000+ without having to go to a local branch or waiting for someone to "return" the digital file then I'd write the check tomorrow.

My university's library sometimes has this feature. In my experience it's more delimited by the availability of ebooks beyond PDFs (especially scientific publishers only hand out PDFs, no mobis/ePubs at all) and a good measure of paranoia.

Currently, I can read the uni-library's ebooks only using Adobe's 'Digital Editions', which doesn't have a Linux client, and doesn't want to communicate with my Kindle, even if the file in question is an ePub.

(Of course with the right plugin Calibre can remove the DRM making the whole security theatre completely unnecessary)

I'm a digital nomad with no fixed address (currently staying with my brother in IL, soon on to Florida to live with family down there).

I can't get a library card, because I don't have mail show up at any residence I stay at. $120 for all I can eat books? Take My Money.

Well, even if you don't pay anything for a library card up front, most people pay taxes that support their local libraries, so it isn't necessarily free.

I was thinking more than 1 person must be thinking this sounds strangely like an invitation for a fat torrent.

You might be surprised to hear that some libraries have an ebook section. My hometown has a "digital library" that it shares with other libraries in the region.

It works the same as a regular book (only one person per copy) but you can pick it up on your Kindle or other appropriate device.

[Going to a library] was more convenient for my family. We happened to live a few blocks from the library and didn't need to drive across town to the mall to get books in dingy little B. Dalton bookstore.

Yup. Remember that well. "Bookstores" were tiny places with fewer books than we had at home. If you really wanted a selection, you'd go to the library. Then came B&N, Borders, etc with vast holdings on par with the local library (or bigger), and - better yet - newer content: everything was new & content turnover was frequent, as contrasted with the library which was pretty much stuck with what well-thumbed old volumes they had. In-store coffeeshops just clinched the attraction.

Local libraries already lend ebooks as well. I'm not sure why more people don't take advantage of that.

Mostly that it's just a new option that hasn't normalized yet. 'til recently, the process was obnoxious enough that physical media and/or a CC# made it much easier to get what you wanted. I'm using Hoopla a lot now; it's improving fast but hasn't quite reached the UX needed for normalization.

"Local libraries already lend ebooks as well."

Have you ever tried that? Limited selection and weird rules like only certain devices and complicated account creation and then you only get to "keep" the ebook for 2 weeks or whatever.

I can get "free" audiobooks the same way. Its sadly easier to borrow the physical CDs and rip them.

Authors can make money by people who get gifts, and are in a hurry, or want reference tomes. I can read Stross's new novel after waiting in line just four or so months from now for free at my local library... Ah, who cares, its like an expensive lunch to just buy the ebook so I'll do that instead and downloaded it on release date. Another method is gifts. Nobody I know goes to bookstores anymore other than to buy gifts. We don't buy books for ourselves; we do buy gifts which happen to be books. Like the hallmark holiday card business, I don't buy myself Christmas cards, and thats OK, buy some and send them to other people.

If you're not in the "gift" "reference" or "trendy in a hurry" markets, you're in big trouble.

> Local libraries already lend ebooks as well. I'm not sure why more people don't take advantage of that.

One would think that since ebooks are digital, any number of people could borrow the same book at once from a library. Alas, that is not the case. Just like libraries might only have one or two physical copies of a book, they might only have one or two copies of an ebook available to lend as well. If you want to borrow a new release, you might end up on a lengthy wait list. Additionally, if you borrow from a library, you miss out on a ton of books (especially self-published books).

As a reader, I'm excited about the prospect of Kindle Unlimited. As an author who self-publishes on Amazon, I am apprehensive (though the compensation for my books that have been borrowed with Prime has seemed fair so far).

This is exactly right. Also, the selection of ebooks at my local library is terrible. I always look for an ebook first, but I've never yet found an ebook version of a book I actually wanted to read in my library's catalog.

I'm self-published on Amazon, and I'll be happy to make them available on this new service.

I rather have lots of people reading my book, getting less royalty per person, than having less people reading my book getting more royalties.

I write because I want to share my ideas and point of views, not because I care about the money. It's nice though when someone pays the 5 EUR it costs, that keeps me awake with the coffee I can buy for the money.

I've always used Safari Books Online. I get every technical book I could imagine, and the company where I work pays for it.

Amazon unlimited seems good for the people that enjoy fiction, but I don't think they will be able to compete on the technical stuff.

My local library (Burnaby Public Library) lets me access Safari Books Online using my library ID and I agree: it's awesome!

The biggest concern for me actually is that in making this move, amazon is putting itself in direct competition with libraries' ebook/audiobook lending services. Many of those even use the kindle network!

Will amazon continue to allow books to reach those services as soon after release? Do they have the power to stop it in the first place? I think it will be interesting to see how the company, which it is clear has a lot of leverage in the book publishing community, handles competing with a free alternative.

> free

paid by taxes.

nothing is free.

The use of it is free. It costs you no more to use the service than it would to not use it

A few weeks ago Jon Evans of TechCrunch said this:

"Despite my techie contempt for their business practices, I really do want traditional publishers to survive, because their employees — unlike, I suspect, Amazon’s — tend to genuinely love books in the same way that I do, and because good editors are worth their weight in gold. But it’s hard to see how they can thrive fighting like this. In the long run their only real hope is to disrupt the Kindle ecosystem with a paid subscription model — a “Beats for books,” if you will.

I’m not sure how successful that will be. Books are not like songs. But it’s hard to see where else their future lies. Never mind the current Amazon vs. Hachette skirmish; that’s just a sideshow. Book publishers essentially conceded their long war with Amazon before it ever began, without even knowing what they were doing." [1]

Looks like he was spot on, and it looks like Amazon won the whole war.

EDIT: It looks like he predicted this almost a year ago in another article:

"With luck we’re entering a world in which readers have access to any and every book for a flat fee; authors get paid depending on how much they’re actually read; publishers remain a vital but decreasingly visible part of the process; physical books are still available via online print-on-demand and niche physical stores; and zillions of CC-licensed books are freely available to readers in the poor world who can’t yet afford books or subscription services. Call me Pollyanna, but it seems to me that that’s a win for absolutely everyone." [2]

And I have to agree, this looks like a big win for everyone.

[1] http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/14/the-only-tragedy-of-this-wa...

[2] http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/07/its-almost-time-to-throw-ou...

That's a great quote from Jon Evans, and it fits well with Steve Yegge's perspective on Jeff Bezos:

"I mean, imagine what it would be like to start off as an incredibly smart person, arguably a first-class genius, and then somehow wind up in a situation where you have a general’s view of the industry battlefield for ten years. Not only do you have more time than anyone else, and access to more information than anyone else, you also have this long-term eagle-eye perspective that only a handful of people in the world enjoy."

Jeff Bezos is playing chess simultaneously with a number of industries and so far he seems to be winning.

He's not winning across the board; Kindle Fire has not significantly impacted the tablet market (I think it has actually lost share recently), and no one expects their phone to do so either.

And while Amazon has a good digital media business, it would be a stretch to say that they are beating Google or Apple in that space. Only in books does Amazon have a strong digital media share.

> Kindle Fire has not significantly impacted the tablet market

I don't think that's the point of it. Tablets and phones are insurance policies for Amazon; so that they can have some minimal leverage with Apple and Google going into any negotiating table. I don't think it's a coincidence that they started working on them when Apple started messing with the Kindle app.

do you have a link to that quote? i'd like to read more

It's only a win to the degree that authors get paid enough for how much they're read. The pricing structure is fine, but the actual constant factors -- how much money authors get -- is critical.

It's not exactly a huge win for authors, but you never know. While the business of selling millions of individual copies of a books might go away, the opportunity to grow an audience and leverage that is a different thing.

The authors who figure out how to leverage more than just selling a book are the ones who will do well. The ones who don't build an audience will likely fail at a higher rate than they did previously.

Do you see someone other than publishers providing risk capital for authors to live while writing?

Personally, I'm not convinced that risk capital is really that beneficial for writers. The vast majority of aspiring writers either don't finish or don't write something people want to read. (I don't mean that to be harsh, it's just that good writing is very hard and since there's so much of it already out there, competition for the reader's time is fierce.)

At the same time, the capital needed to write is virtually nothing. All it takes is time. Editing, proofreading, and cover design are legitimate, important costs, too, but even those aren't that huge. And they only come into play once the book is written, which means most won't reach that threshold.

I, of course, want great writers to be able to devote all of their time to that and not have to work a day job. But I think having to write your first book or two in your "spare" time is an acceptable way to separating the wheat from the chaff.

In other words, write a book or two in your free time. The money you get from those will be your risk capital for your next work.

There's really no need to talk about "enough", "acceptable", etc.

It's very simple - if there's less money available for a first book, less people will do it. This means that there will almost certainly be less authors, therefore almost certainly less great authors (though it's probably not linear).

Not to say you're wrong, just that talking about "I think it's sufficient" masks the fact that it doesn't matter what you think, there will in effect be less great books written.

There's already very little money available for first books, relative to the many many people who give it a shot. I've worked at a number of publishers and trust me, the "slush pile" is always huge, always growing, and always hopeless. The other poster is correct that most writers will never finish, but more than enough still do.

Most of the risk capital in publishing is in the promotion, not the writing.

Angel investors and incubators provide basically the same service, but rarely for books. I wonder why that is? There have been a number of books/series that I can think of that have spawned $100M+ valuations - Harry Potter, Hunger Games, 50 shades of gray, Jurassic Park, Song of Ice and Fire. If you include comics, then the list just goes on: Superman, Spiderman, Batman, X-men, Watchmen, etc.

In the long run their only real hope is to disrupt the Kindle ecosystem with a paid subscription model — a “Beats for books,” if you will.

Not sure what "Beats" means in this context - essentially he's talking about Netflix for Books, yes? I'd also love this, not least because most publishers still adamantly refuse to drop DRM and the paid-subscription all-you-can-eat model is pretty much the only one (aside from rental, which isn't going to happen) where I consider DRM to be morally defensible.

But I just don't see it happening. We'd just end up with a separate subscription service per publisher/imprint; it's the way they think. It's as if the whole concept of convenience isn't even on their radar.

He was referring to Beats Music, a Spotify/Rdio alternative [1].

[1]: https://account.beatsmusic.com/

"essentially he's talking about Netflix for Books, yes? [...] But I just don't see it happening."

already happened: http://www.scribd.com multiple publishers - not all, but neither does any music service provide "all".

Also there is https://www.oysterbooks.com/ which I was using for awhile but didn't have the time....

Most people don't spend $9.99 on books every month on average. If Amazon encourages people who are infrequent readers to devote more of their time/entertainment-dollars on reading, then this service will be a win-win for Amazon and authors.

Also, if my service is all-you-can-eat, I'm definitely going to take more risks with authors I haven't heard about. That is a definite win for unknown and unpromoted authors.

Some of the blockbuster authors may suffer lower revenues ... but fuck them. I'm less worried about JK Rowling who makes a billion dollars on each book, and already has plenty of incentive to write. I'm more worried about Professor Joe Schmoe, a Com. Sci. academic who has this really great AI story inside him, that needs just a little monetary incentive to come out.

> Most people don't spend $9.99 on books every month on average. If Amazon encourages people who are infrequent readers to devote more of their time/entertainment-dollars on reading, then this service will be a win-win for Amazon and authors.

Totally. I'm one of those people and right smack in the middle of the crosshairs for this. I'm the kind of person that is always willing to overpay in order to have "unlimited" anything, even if it doesn't make direct financial sense. I'm not sure why, but I guess it's because I don't like having limits or having or budget, etc. Part of the reason I happily pay $9.99/month for Spotify when, if I really think about it, I wouldn't really buy 7-9 new songs a month every month on iTunes. But I don't care -- I'd still rather know I could stream 20 entire albums if I want for that same $9.99.

And same goes with Kindle -- I probably (actually, certainly) don't buy a book a month, but knowing I have a catalog of 600k titles at my disposal for $10 will be a no-brainer.


Imagine if we could get access to the O'Reilly library of technical books, that would be extremely valuable.

What's the advantage of accessing O'Reilly's library of technical books via an Amazon app vs. an O'Reilly app, other than O'Reilly losing money that would otherwise go to improving their technical books?

They already do this with something called Safari Online: https://www.safaribooksonline.com/

One of the great things about the Kindle is that I can sample a chapter or two of any book in the catalogue. This is a massive benefit to me and I'm quite happy to shell out five bucks to buy something if the first couple of chapters hook me. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but a free reading of the start of the book is an enormous benefit. It's a qualitatively different experience than hearing a track or a sample from a music service. So I'm not sure it really will help unknown authors become more widely read - it's free to try them already.

I don't know whether you were implying this, but paying for "unlimited" services when you wouldn't otherwise spend the monthly (or annually, etc.) fee on that product isn't necessarily irrational. It may be that a person isn't willing to spend $5 a book on 2 books because a book is only worth, say, $1 to them. But given that returns diminish at a low rate, that person could be willing to buy, say, 20 books at $1 a piece. In that case, paying for an unlimited service that effectively lets them do so makes sense.

It'll be fascinating to see how our relationship with books plays out over the next 10-20 years. On one hand, unlike music, books are very physical objects, their content very much associated with their form, used by many as decoration within their home. On the other hand, most of us only read most of our books once. I suspect that many, like me, then hang onto those books primarily for sentimental reasons (along with the slim chance that someone else might want to borrow them, future children might want to read them, we might re-read them one day, but probably never will), but that feels very much like a cultural fad, albeit quite a long-lived one!

My most annoying possessions are books and vinyl.

They are worth next to nothing to sell and I find it almost impossible to actually part with them. I've had some of them for 30 years+.

They are an albatross of culture around my neck.

Music used to be home decoration too. Walls filled with vinyl, CD and tape racks prominently displayed.

I'm aware of that (my father had quite an extensive 'wall' of vinyl, and I've had bookshelves of CDs in the past, too) but I don't think music-as-display-item was quite in the same league. It was more for real enthusiasts whereas pretty much everyone displayed books, and for a much longer period of history.

Well, printed books have been around a lot longer than "printed" music, so of course, there was a time when people (who were lucky/rich enough to own books) displayed books because they had nothing else to display. That's not really a fair comparison, nor one that makes sense in this context.

I also think you're really underplaying how people enjoy their music collections. I hold on to records for the same reasons you hold on to books.

The next few decades will be interesting. Just like how vinyl has received an increase in popularity for many reasons, if this Kindle Unlimited type of distribution for the written word takes off like digital distribution did for music, you should fully expect hip young people in 2044 to start buying books again.

No, I totally understand about music collections. I still buy new albums on CD, despite the fact that I mainly take advantage of Amazon's instant MP3 delivery (autorip?) [1] which means the original CDs might even never get played. I simply cannot shake that sentimental need to own/collect an object that I can associate with that album. I truly think this is unhealthy behaviour, though, one which the human race will overcome, but that I personally probably will not.

I'm guessing [2] you hold onto records not just because of your attachment to the physical object, but also because you get them out and play them from time-to-time. I hold onto countless books that I will almost certainly never read again.

[1] Yes, I'm aware that, in some people's eyes, this makes me the worst kind of philistine, but I'm a music fan, not an audiophile.

[2] With apologies if that's not the real reason you hold onto records :)

It's still audible decoration.

Hurricane season and electrical outages will still exist in 15 years and paper has proved to be the only storage medium that doesn't change every 20 years.

Hurricane season and electrical outages won't wipe out your Amazon library (stored in the cloud), while a hurricane might wipe out your paper library. Also, it might actually be easier to find a 30 year old book on Amazon than a paper version.

On the other hand, Amazon going bankrupt will wipe out your cloud library.

BTW, 20 years ago was 1994, and PDF was initially released in 1993.

Amazon is the new socialism. There are basic services which the government ought to provide -- access to unlimited books, movies, music, software, and similar. It's dramatically more economically efficient that way. The governments won't, for a whole range of reasons. Amazon seems to be stepping up. You pay a private tax, and you join a private government.



Awesome. This is a nail in the coffin for Oyster or whatever that other app was. You can't beat Amazon's selection or prices, and this just makes the Netflix comparison even better. Oof. Sucks for competition, good for my Kindle and my wallet.

It was OysterBooks: https://www.oysterbooks.com/

It does suck -- in the spirit of competition, I hope they keep on going!

What sucks about it?

I think they meant "It sucks for OysterBooks that Amazon is doing the same thing", rather than "OysterBooks sucks".

Not true.

Oyster knew Amazon was going to end up trying this eventually. It's the obvious move. But Oyster also knows that the publishers do not like working with Amazon, which puts Oyster in a much better position to get good deals and get the publisher support necessary to have good books available.

So we'll see how well this works. If Amazon can't get the big 5 on board, but Oyster can, then I think they'll do just fine.

Unclear what subset of all Kindle books would be included.



No big-5 publisher appears to be participating yet, based on my preliminary glance through the test pages. Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have both made their ebooks available to Scribd and Oyster, but I haven’t yet seen books from those publishers on the Kindle Unlimited page, though I’m not done poking through all 600,000+ titles yet.


The publishers are really in the position to kill this. They obviously don't want to support an Amazon-based unlimited book rental service, and no users will join it if they can't read the books they want to.

It really depends ...

How much do people read? Nobody's too sure, but it looks like an extremely long tail distribution -- not just a matter of 80% of the books being read by 20% of the readers, but of 80% being read by maybe 5-10% of the readers.

The $9.99/mo price point will work fine for the major publishers if the readers end up on average reading $9.99 of retail-value ebooks per month, but not too much more, and if AMZN's accounting back-end pays them pro-rata for loans. It's like an all-you-can-eat restaurant buffet; some people will pig out, but most people don't fill themselves to the point of nausea, and it all averages out in the end.

However, I suspect it's no coincidence that this is surfacing at the same time that AMZN are renegotiating their ebook pricing contracts with the big five (starting with the current dust-up with Hachette). It's another form of leverage: Amazon can offer it as a tasty extra -- in effect, a commercial library access channel -- for compliant publishers, but can also threaten to withhold access to the new channel if they won't play ball over discount structures.

>How much do people read? Nobody's too sure

We actually have a pretty good idea. According to Gallup/Pew research[0], the median American reads 8 books a year. Slightly less than a third read more than one book a month. I doubt any customer who reads less than one ebook (let alone a physical book) per month would find it worth signing up for this service. That leaves the service with mostly heavy consumers of books, which is going to really stretch that $10/mo price point. Since the major publishers already think that a single ebook is worth at least that, I can't see them joining a program that will almost certainly deliver less revenue.


The problem is, those figures aren't granular enough to use for marketing purposes. For example, it's known that about 50% of genre SF/F book sales go to about 20% of customers -- and about 45% go to less than 10% of customers! Some folks are reading over 100 books/year. (I know plenty of them.) We know there's a curve; we just don't really know it's shape in enough detail to predict how an all-you-can-eat book buffet will pay for itself.

> We know there's a curve; we just don't really know it's shape in enough detail to predict how an all-you-can-eat book buffet will pay for itself.

The thing is, Amazon might. They can read the distribution of books bought per unique user annually straight out their database, and them being the size they are, that seems like quite a good proxy for how many books are read per year by people.

I generelt buy for about 15-30 worth of books a month (mostly e). So the publishers would loose money on me if I can pay a flat 10.

How is the deal structured? Per stream, per 'play', per open? What about books that have higher list prices? etc. Existing ebook rights contracts are based on the agency model (70/30 split with retailer, then some portion of the 70 for the publisher and author). What happens in this model? Authors and agents will probably want to hold out for 'streaming' rights as a separate thing, perhaps. Not sure how Oyster and Scribd are structured, but i suspect that one thing limiting the major houses for streaming is contractual question marks.

Scribd/Smashwords is 60% to the author (capped at $12.50) after the customer reads 30% of the book.


I bet Amazon, Apple, and B&N's Nook have data on how much people read.

In fact, I know that Amazon tracks how much people read. They know how many copies are sold, what people bookmark, what page they are on, etc...

I bet they have analytics somewhere that could tell you all kinds of amazing things about each book. That would be incredibly useful to an author that cared to dig into how people interact with their work.

Someone did a study recently using Kindle public highlights as a proxy for reading progress - not many books were finished :)

Sounds about right.

I don't see "big publishers" either, but I own many of the books listed there (just after a preliminary glance), and I paid as high as 9 - 10 dollars for many of them (and quite a few of the 1.99 - 4.99 books were quite good). I think this service would fit me rather well.

I wonder about the average use specifics for kindle users. Obviously Amazon has insight into this and would set their pricing appropriately.

Assuming the kind of books listed here are the kind on the daily deal (1.99): The average user would have to read only 4-5 books a month to break even (say 9 books every two months counting taxes).

I doubt most users would read that consistently. Maybe the first month, but usage would likely drop, and the deal works out better in Amazon's favor until they quit. Which for many users could be until their credit card expires.

I probably only read 6 books a month at the most these days, and some months I probably drop down as low as 1 book every month several times a year. I'd probably enroll in this service so even if they have 9.99 normal cost ebooks, I think overall it'd work so Amazon doesn't lose much more than they would with their current structure.

Things look a lot rosier for audiobook listeners, though, because audiobooks are significantly more expensive than textbooks. Even the cheapest Audible subscription is $15. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they mean by "thousands of audiobooks;" if they're incorporating the Audible library, then this is an easy decision.

I'm an Audible subscriber (all of my book-reading comes via audiobook), and I would obviously jump over immediately if the entire library was available. Audible has many more than "thousands" of books, though, so I think it will be a gradual process.

I'm very confused by all of this since Amazon owns Audible.

Interesting. I wonder what this implies for authors. Amazon might take a cut currently, but the lion's share ends up with the author -- a royalty based scheme significantly changes the playing field, and I worry that it could be for the worse (http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-25217353).

EDIT -- and what it implies for publishers.

It'll definitely be interesting to watch. The article you linked talks about the effects of Spotify on making a living as a musician. Spotify economics are, as you've pointed out, much tougher for authors than for songwriters. Books take a lot longer to create than songs. Also, people listen to the same songs hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of times before getting sick of them. People generally read books once. Maybe a few times, over the course of their entire lives, if they really love the book. You don't get the frequency effect that you do with music consumption. So a fractional royalty, multiplied by a lot of individual readers, each of whom reads the book once, is probably the best outcome for any given book in this case.

If this model takes hold, the thing that may need to change is the book itself. The economics of subscription suggest a shift in incentives away from the years-long creation of 300+ page tomes, and toward serialization or shorter forms. It behooves me, as an author, to have 10 or 20 "books" (or serialized installments) floating around the system each year, casting a wider net, than to bet the farm on one book a year.

>The economics of subscription suggest a shift in incentives away from the years-long creation of 300+ page tomes, and toward serialization or shorter forms.

This has already happened. For smarter writers, Amazon's distribution model killed the Big Novel model and pushed them to a cheap installment-of-the-month model.

Dickens used to publish like this (not through Amazon, obviously) so it's not necessarily a bad model.

But writers are notoriously bad at business, which is why mainstream publishing contracts have gotten away with being so larcenous and exploitative for so long, and why it's been so hard to make a living out of fiction unless you top the best-seller lists.

Amazon changed that. A lot of authors were finding they could support themselves from self-published fiction, full-time - which was never possible with trad-pub contracts, because they give mid-list and lower writers a tiny advance, insultingly small royalties, and take up to two years to get a book into the stores after the writing is done.

Those self-pub writers are going to be looking at this nervously to see how it changes the economics again.

Not that they should be surprised. A lot of people predicted this.

Absolutely. Although I'm maybe more optimistic on this point:

"Those self-pub writers are going to be looking at this nervously to see how it changes the economics again."

I dunno. For the time being, many of them will need to think carefully about how this shift changes things. But they're the ones who stand the benefit the most here. Self-pubbers who have been playing a volume and catalog game -- as the more successful ones have for years now -- are going to understand how to play this new game. Traditional authors, who've never been much for business or self-promotion as a group, are going to freak out. People with large catalogs are going to win. People with one or two Big Novels are going to lose (unless those Big Novels happen to be bestsellers already). People who can produce reams and reams of new material every year, nurturing mailing lists and activating fan bases, are going to keep doing that, and it will keep serving them well.

People consume fewer books than songs, though. I might listen to hundreds of songs in a month, but only read two or three books, so that $10/month fee is being split between very few authors. Say this means that an author gets $2/reader under this model. Is that unsustainable? It doesn't seem too different to me than what authors have always gotten in the dead-tree model.

It also seems like the incentives depend on how Amazon is compensating authors: a fixed per-book fee would incentivize splitting large books into small pieces, so as to collect the fee multiple times, while a per-word or per-page fee would be more neutral (assuming that Amazon tracks how many pages actually get read, e.g. Piketty would only get credit for the tons of people who read his first chapter).

Agreed completely with your first paragraph. Your second point is key, and that's where I don't have enough information to really know how this plays out in the long run.

What we can reasonably predict, regardless of compensation structure, is that Amazon will gain more and more buyer power over the book market, especially vis-a-vis a fragmented ecosystem of thousands of self-published writers. This gives the company theoretical power to drive royalties lower. Whether Amazon exercises that power, and to what extent, depends on the royalty model. Whatever the model, I still think this incentivizes authors to produce a higher volume of shorter works, as opposed to a lower volume of longer works. Piketty, in this model, would be better served breaking Capital in the 21st Century into two or three smaller volumes. As a side benefit, his wider net would allow him to increase the statistical likelihood that he appears in any given reader's 3-4 choices a month. (Holding aside the ability of the reader to read more per month if books get shorter.)

And that may actually be a better thing for readers and writers. More digestible, approachable, less intimidating books might actually be consumed and read more. Sort of like breaking a bigger meal into several courses. I can almost guarantee you that the majority of people who bought Piketty's book have only skimmed a few parts here and there. Which is suboptimal from the perspective of Piketty's mission, which is to transmit the knowledge contained in his book. So shortening or serializing the form might help get the book actually read more often.

If this model takes hold, the thing that may need to change is the book itself. The economics of subscription suggest a shift in incentives away from the years-long creation of 300+ page tomes, and toward serialization or shorter forms. It behooves me, as an author, to have 10 or 20 "books" (or serialized installments) floating around the system each year, casting a wider net, than to bet the farm on one book a year.

This is a prime example of how this development could end up hurting consumers. For those of us that strongly prefer 'deep' books rather than ones released in chunks, the economic disincentives facing authors of such works suggest that there will be fewer options available in the future.

Of course, this isn't unprecedented. Dickens used to publish serially (partly because publishing and copyright enforcement was a bit of a free-for-all back then), and even the book-length versions of the novels had to be subsidized with advertising to offset the piracy losses. I have a copy of Great Expectations with advertisements for laundry soap and brass polish, which were aimed at the servants who were the target audience for the book.

> Also, people listen to the same songs hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of times before getting sick of them.

But people also don't read as much books as they listen to songs, so naturally the royalty per unit consumed will be higher for books.

Há you just re-invented the Feuilleton! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feuilleton

I don't imagine this is new territory in terms of licensing for music, but may be for books.

Look at iTunes Match - you pay a monthly fee, what Apple does on the backend is likely royalty payments per song (there may be negotiation with labels as to iTunes match rates).

iBooks Match would be wonderful.

Does iBooks do audiobooks? I'd love an alternative to Audible.

I hope this works on the iPhone although since the Kindle lending library does not I would not be surprised if it doesn't. Since I'm blind a $69 Kindle obviously won't work and I can't justify $200 for a Kindle Fire that I would use just to read books. I did the math and it would take me several years to make buying a Kindle Fire worth while verses just buying the books through Kindle.

The Kindle has a T2T engine which makes a pretty good job, I think.

The basic $69 one does not have a speaker. I think the $129 one may though.

This type of thing makes me wonder about the business model for authors. An obvious comparison is the music industry. It is common knowledge that almost no musicians make a majority of their money from sales of their music (and only elite acts really make any substantial money). Musicians basically give away their content in the hopes that it attracts people to their live events. Authors do the exact opposite and do numerous free events in hopes that it attracts people to purchase their books. I wonder if this will change over time or if these business models are caused by the inherit value of the content vs experience of each form of art. Stand up comedy probably exists in the middle ground of the two regarding the value of the content vs experience and standups generally follow the musician business model of giving the content away to attract people to their live events.

The physical performance of a book is in the user's imagination, a private, personalized and high definition experience.

I would pay something similar just to browse selected sites all month long without encountering a hundred different pay walls.

for a voracious reader like myself this might be a great money saver depending on what is excluded. However it is quite possible to have more than you read for free just by surfing Amazon for all the free ebooks

Most of these books are available through your local library for free.

That's true of most books, yet people still seem to buy them.

I remember reading a study that suggested that having a mobile library with onboard printer to print your request instead of a paper loan, would work out cheaper. Each library loan approximately worked out to be about £6. Libraries aren't really free.

Now I'd personally prefer any book or text over the wire, to spending over £4 getting to my local library, where the seating is crap, and I can't hold a cup of coffee.

> Most of these books are available through your local library for free.

All inter-library loans in my library board cost 1 UKP ( c. $1.40 ) which quickly mounts-up when there's very little on the shelf in the local branch.

I could read 'Excel 2003 for Dummies' again, I suppose, but I'm a bit bored of it to be honest...

In the US, many libraries have a system called Overdrive that offers ebooks (and audiobooks) for borrowing. It's essentially a free version of this service, but with better selection.

Hoopla as well.

Actually I doubt that, 50% are probably automatically generated rubbish that is (luckily) not available in a local library.

But yeah, this is probably just "renting". I doubt you could download them all but I would love to try doing exactly that.

Actually, I bet most of these books are published by Amazon and are Kindle exclusives. Then they manually add in a few hundred or thousand well-known books to make it look like a grand selection.

Let's see, got to my local library or just tap the kindle app? Hmmmmmm

This won't have the major publishing houses titles (beyond those who have agreed to work with Oyster). So no Penguin Random House, the market leader in print and audio. It also remains to be seen if the subscription model can work for books - they take longer to consume than movies or music. So you can imaging slower or busy readers being punished with a subscription unless they make it through 1.5 books per month which is where it makes sense to buy it. I don't think many people would like that over their head. Plus there's the library and used books, and just borrowing - all things we do way less of for movies and music.

> So no Penguin Random House, the market leader in print and audio

The market leader in print and audio fiction.

Fiction is ephemeral - mostly read and then discarded. The awesome potential for this service is in factual and reference books that are used hundreds or thousands of time each in their lifetime.

The 1.5 books per month metric is diluted in that case when it's possible to dip into 100 books per month just to extract the one snippet of information needed from each.

Kindle rental price for academic nonfiction is often quite pricy, e.g. $10 for one week for one book.

True, O'Reilly books has had a successful, expensive, subscription service for years. All reference titles, and more enterprise customers.

I think Safari Books Online has been doing well

It's a shame how little the authors of the books see from that service.

Is the royalty structure public?

One thing that immediately strikes me is that this would be very useful for nonfiction, if one wants to nibble a chapter here and a chapter there. For my own use I'm more worried that unlimited really is "unlimited". Not that it's going to matter for me, the chance that it will be available outside the US is nil.

On the other side of that, it kind of makes more sense (to me) to buy music and rent (subscribe to) books because music is usually listened to repeatedly while books are usually read once and then not again (or at least not for a long time after the first time).

On the other hand, you will almost always want access to an enormous music library (few $ per month), but might not always need a new book. With used paperbacks only a few bucks each, you can collect (or cycle through) a lot of books for $120/year.

True. But we're not talking about used paperbacks anymore more than we're talking about used CDs. Digital copies of books are not discounted once they're "used" so you aren't going to collect as many ebooks for $120/year. It really just depends on the usage patterns. My kids could probably put a $10/month book service out of business. I would probably be their best customer with like 1 book a quarter. :)

>Digital copies of books are not discounted once they're "used"

Well this is a whole different issue entirely, and could start another entire discussion.

Amazon Kindle Unlimited is really converging into what I talked about here: http://blog.minming.net/post/83447062229/unlimited-movies-mu....

"I feel like there’s an opportunity here for Amazon to provide a all-you-can-consume digital lifestyle at a fixed subscription price. If we could subscribe to one single service and forget about every pay-as-you-go service, it would be quite an attractive proposition."

This is becoming all too real really fast.

Looks like the same book selection available through the Prime Kindle Owners Lending Library, which gives you one a month with Prime membership. A nice to have, but not worth paying extra for to me.

Here in California, libraries are offering bigger selections of e-books on-line, which usually come with two restrictions: limited time of readability on your device, and limited number of copies available (and a waiting list to manage access). Amazon has historically appeared to support these library programs, presumably because they make kindles more appealing to the core "book purchasing" demographic as well.

In the near future I hope to have limited access to all these books for free, or unlimited access for $9.99 a month, and the ability to easily switch between the two consumption models. That, for me, would be an easy sell. This is pretty much how i consume Hulu - most of the time, I just want to watch recent episodes of the Daily Show and am satisfied with the free tier. And when I want to get after specific content, I bump up to the paid tier for a bit.

I don't understand why "some content is always free" model isn't more popular in the content world. If Netflix offered something like three free movies a month, I would never "cancel" my account. They would get better brand loyalty, better app lock-in, and lower customer churn. Instead, I get annoyed at the always-on subscription model and cycle between subscribed and unsubscribed.

Digitization of content changed distribution patterns, which changed pricing patterns, and the combination of both changed consumption patterns. It feels like there is a feedback loop where now it makes sense for pricing and user management (acquisition, retention) strategies to adapt once again, this time to changes in user behavior and consumption patterns.

"Enjoy unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks"

@Audiobooks, does this mean they're replacing Audible?

Answering my own question a bit, it appears to be "no" (at least short term) -- there's a new Kindle Books with Narration in Kindle Unlimited category with only a couple thousand titles http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=9630682011

So they must be testing various parts of the Amazon Prime value proposition as piecework services. Lets see 'Unlimited {video | kindle | music}' for 9.95 each or get all three for $24.95. Seems Kindle is a safer way to start since neither Spotify or Netflix is going to respond competitively to book reader services.

It seems that you can search which books are going to be available through it, at last as of this moment


Selection seems extremely paltry, though.

Awesome. I've been hoping Amazon would do this, since Google or any of their competitors were too shortsighted to do this for books, even though it was their only chance to disrupt Amazon and actually take some market share in ebooks from them. But once again, Amazon is the one innovating and disrupting itself, even as an almost monopoly.

This should be great for people who want to read a lot of books, and could even encourage people who only read say 1 book per year, to read a lot more.

This is a pretty awesome deal when you consider it for a whole family. I go through a couple books a week reading with my daughter (generally in Kindle format on an iPad). We get what we can from the library, but she really likes series, and if we finish book 4 while book 5 is still a two week wait to check out I'll typically just buy it. Throw in my personal reading and my wife's and we're buying an average of 3-4 books each month.

This is a pretty awesome price if that audio book catalogue is Audibles. I signed up for Audible when I started commuting, 1 audio book a month would be just about right since I wanted to start reading asoiaf.. Turns out they split the book in 2 and I only got 16hrs in the month unless I paid notably more than I pay Netflix for unlimited. I decided that was rubbish and cancelled, unlimited is a much better model and this is an awesome price for it.

I'd love an Audible unlimited. I'm sure it's only a matter of time, though it'll likely be > $49/mo., which is reasonable.

Nothing different than O'Reilly Safari for tech books. At least I sometimes need to reference old tech books. But do I need to do it for novels?

Shouldn't you buy the tech books, and rent the novels then?

The business is in owning, managing and curating media catalogues, not in distribution anymore. Almost anyone of us here is capable in setting up a torrent server and distributing any number of books to any number of consumers. Same is valid for music and movies.

This looks scary for authors, and maybe it should. Like digital music and movies, the marginal cost of an ebook is pretty much zero. If you are an author, you need to rethink how to make money from your work. It won't be from selling $10 books much longer.

The following analysis of self-publishing's future is from an author who had two successful books on self-publishing. Those (excellent) books are now free on his website. The economics and discovery challenges sound like mobile apps. And this is before fractional book royalties are introduced.



EDIT: trimmed quote

POD books provided a handsome profit margin even at reasonable prices. But Kindle books, with their lower prices, have decimated POD sales. Meanwhile, Kindle customers expect more and more for the low prices they pay. Many feel cheated if they spend 99 cents or even less on a book that isn’t “full-length.” And the flood of easily-published books makes it harder and harder for individual ones to stand out—a problem that can only worsen with time.

The upshot is, if you want to self publish and are new to it, then by all means, hop in. But for a long time at least, it’s likely to be more for love than for money. Sure, self publishing is still a money machine—but nowadays, that’s mostly for Amazon, not authors.


There is a lot of reaction on the source by indie authors, including Hugh Howey, on kboards :


Any idea what the catalogue will be?

Very interested if it includes the kindle editions of the various science and math textbooks offered.

E.g. having unfettered access to the entire Dover Books on Mathematics series would be a delight.

The convenience and efficiency of being able to read any book instantly will be a huge boost for education as well I think more people will start reading more books due to this product.

Once you get past the big name books where Amazon is probably subsidizing the costs, a lot of the content is Amazon-published. I wonder what that compensation looks like.

Will this compete with Safari Books Online (https://www.safaribooksonline.com/)?

I think Safari Books Online is mostly tech books. Yes, I know it has other stuff, but Harry Potter? Lord of the Rings? No.

Looks like it. I see Scribd as the company most affected by this.

"Access to a huge panoply of books that are either in public domain or for which we're pretty sure most of you wouldn't pay for anyway!"

I think the next step is all you can eat games, we already have movies, books, music, why not games? It seems easy with platforms like Steam

Future Gamer: "I have access to any game in the world, but all I ever play is a combat themed hat collection simulator".

Several of the stores Smashwords distributes to have been in this market for a while. I wonder how they'll react.

While this is a neat idea, 600,000 titles seems to me to be a small figure.

Suddenly the disgruntled publishers makes sense.

how was this leaked?

"Leaked" now means "intentionally released to the media by the marketing department"

How this came to be I don't know; leaks are bad. They're unintentional (by the company) and contain unfinished/unspun/out of context information that can possibly be detrimental to the company.

Yet people keep using it to mean "press release"

I don't understand what other people are complaining for.

Is this price too cheap? WHAT? too cheap? WHAT?

Is this price too expensive? So just don't buy it.

I don't understand.

Free is not always better. Sometimes giving up resources increases people's engagement and perception of value with books and other media.

First they made music a subscription service. And because I like music but I'm a poor struggling author, I didn't listen to those greedy musicians who said this was unfair. Screw you musicians. This Fantasy novel isn't going to get finished unless I can listen to my power-ballad spotify playlist.

Then they made video a subscription service. And because I didn't make videos (video being a lesser form of entertainment), I didn't complain. In fact it's great. I get NetFlix for $6.00 a month.

And then they devalued the perceived cost of software with the App Store. $0.99 for a game that took tens of thousands of hours of work to complete. Those greedy lazy programmers.

And finally, they came for the books. And I spent nearly a full month writing this book. And oh, if it doesn't make me furious that Amazon has the gall, and the temerity to allow people to read it for a fixed monthly subscription.

- Signed, a.n. author.

And oh, if it doesn't make me furious that my local library has the gall, and the temerity to allow people to read it for free.

Libraries are not always easy to get to, have restricted opening hours, often won't have the latest books available, impose fees if you don't return the book within a certain period of time, can only supply a very limited number of copies of each title at one time, and (as pointed out elsewhere) might require you to be a tax-paying local resident. Libraries have been pretty solidly proven not to negatively affect the market in new books for all these, and possibly more, reasons. Kindle Unlimited is a whole other ballgame.

Most libraries have ebooks you can "check out" without setting foot in their building.

While I agree with what you're saying to some extent, it's not so one-sided.

Take the (digital) music as an example. For a long time CDs were the only way to buy it. Then it was DRMd CDs I couldn't easily listen to. (but Kazaa already offered an alternative) Then it was music downloads with its own players, that were more expensive than CDs. (alternative: DC at the university) Then it was DRMd internet download/streaming services at prices comparable to physical media. (and torrent everywhere)

Now finally we've got a fairly cross-platform access to (almost) all the popular music out there that brings the physical production, storage and distribution costs down to almost nothing. Artists had nothing to do with it, but the distributors/producers could be in the position currently taken by Spotify / Google Music / iTunes many years ago. They could also keep prices higher than the current ones. They absolutely failed by sticking to old ways.

Customers finally got what they were asking for for a decade and now people act surprised it's a good business causing race to the bottom. It will sort itself out if it's unsustainable. Interesting bands will likely create a new service, offering streaming at higher prices with more profits going to them at some point.

If some band wants to get paid above the streaming rate, they should publish their album for direct download - people will buy it if they're good enough.

Why would you care how much amazon charges for a monthly subscription? Firstly, you don't need to sign up your book to be part of the program. Secondly, it doesn't matter how much amazon charges for the service, it matters how much money you make. Unless you don't care about that, in which case why did you write this post?

I think it is much more likely that businesses are readjusting for the new reality of customer expectations regarding media: cheap, on demand, and cheap. Customers don't care about how much royalties an artistic creator might get, and if they did they wouldn't have supported the music or book publishing industries, which gave authors tiny royalties for each book sold. Customers only care about price. And if piracy and large abundance of media is any indicator, the sheer volume of work being created along with a greater entitled feeling among customers is the primary downwards force for price.

While your frustration is understandable and disappointing, the customers are far more to blame than any one company.

To the immediate comment: it's the customers fault the writers don't get a lot more in royalties. I think this rather narrow minded-- to think that as consumers we have control over what business(& believe me, publishers are a business), pay to the writers. That's like saying we have control over what a grocery store pays the company that makes Cheerios. The writers have to fight for what they want, just like we have to fight/negotiate with our boss for a raise. We, as consumers and fans of their writing could certainly support them in their endeavors but ultimately...it's up to them. :) I would like to make a comment about The initial topic in relation to digital books & Amazon Prime. I read a lot! I mean a lot! Perhaps... 1 book every 1-3 days. What I've noticed is that books that would normally be offered as free books or, at the most 99 cents, are now being offered only in the Amazon Prime lending program. So now, what I use to get for free, I now have to pay a monthly fee for access. This upsets me greatly! I write reviews for the books which are published on Amazon, goodreads.com, & the authors blog, as well. This only helps the writer for future readers which in turn means better sales now and in the future. If Amazon left alone: the already free and the books in the future that fit that same category for free, then I think, this Prime lending idea might be a fair idea for consumers but it's not if they stick the free books in this Prime selection. As far as the authors go and fairness to them...? Idk. It's going to be up to those writers to let us (as their readers) know what they think of the whole thing. If they ask for out support in changing things then I'm sure we all agree, we'll do what we can to help. Our library doesn't have a lot of digital books but they're improving quickly, however the system is a little chaotic, and the wait list is long. I will gladly rent a physical book or digital from the library before paying for it but, quite frankly, it's not as easy as a download from Amazon. I personally love to hold a book in my hand. I love the smell of them and the nuance of turning a page. There's also the different text types that authors print. It's a way to customize their story. However, I also love the convenience of my kindle. If I took 20 books with me on vacation, I'd have to pay the extra weight fee for luggage :) but with my kindle the books are easily stored and transported. Portable. I have this ongoing fear that in our future an actual printed/paper book will be a huge commodity, children will be intrigued and mistified by this rare find and libraries will be no more. This would be a tragedy beyond my comprehension. I hope, for our children's sake, that printed books are very much a part of our future! 😉

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