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Kindle Unlimited (amazon.com)
245 points by zeratul on July 18, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 191 comments

I'm very disturbed by the steady erosion of ownership that has been happening for the past few years. Subscription models are an attractive way to get some digital content for a low price, whether it's music, software, movies, or books—but the internet has a notoriously short memory, and I fear that we're condemning ourselves to becoming cultural goldfish.

I have books and records from my youth that sit on my shelf and are there for me any time I want to revisit them. Heck, I even have software from back then because I never got rid of my Apple II.

Of course, there are emulators, and Spotify probably has 60%-70% of the records that are in my collection, and I can find A Wrinkle in Time on the Kindle. But how long is that guaranteed to be the case? And how can I be sure that the digital simulacrum are really the same as the originals, if the originals are gone?

For the moment, it's an easy answer—just don't use the subscription services, and keep owning things. But will that always be an option? Why should ownership continue to be an option ten, twenty, or thirty years from now, when it's so much more attractive to companies to rent their products to you for a constant stream of monthly income?

Will books end up getting unskippable "updates," or even being deleted at the whim of the publishers or Amazon one day?

I can fully understand your sentiment, and to some degree emotionally connect with it, but rationally: my entire bookshelf of computer science and literary classics has gone untouched since my initial read through the vast majority of books.

I keep looking around and I'm not sure that I'm happy with the "ownership" aspect of books, or a lot of stuff in general. (Having moved three times during the last six years, moving books is an awful experience).

This is probably an expression of what I've been feeling in general as of late, but I am extremely happy with the "subscriptionification" of media that's been happening. Spotify's huge library is a net win for me, as opposed to collecting albums for them to just collect dust. For me, revisiting what I used to listen to in high school by over-hearing someone's playlist has a far stronger emotional reaction than revisiting it by walking past a bookshelf.

Regarding stuff disappearing ten, twenty, thirty years from now: my experpience has been the opposite. The Internet has been getting better and better and archiving content of yesterday, and has provided better and better access to it.

My personal lean has been to own less stuff in general, which includes books, music and media in general. So needless to say, I'm pretty excited about Kindle Unlimited.

This may sound weird, but I actually love staring at my bookshelf. I often will go, pick up a book I haven't thought about in a while, and read it again. I've filled it with (mostly) timeless technical manuals, plate picture books (like pictures of the cosmos, airplanes and things like that), plenty of sci-fi, flight instruction manuals, foreign language dictionaries and other odds and ends. There are plenty of books which I'll buy on Amazon and leave on the shelf for a couple of years and I'll randomly pick one up and start reading.

I think the point here is that a bookshelf makes ideas have a geographic location. With web sites, knowledge doesn't occupy physical space and doesn't have the same permanence which a book occupies. With the bookshelf you're reminded of ideas not because they're hyperlinked together in some ever shifting zeitgeist, but because they're literally sitting right in front of you.

The (method of loci / memory palace) technique of associating information with spatial location has been used for hundreds of years and is still used today in competitions.

Latency of recall affects recombination/creativity. Same reason why native apps have a perceived UX advantage over web-based apps, even milliseconds can make a difference. Typing search terms or paging through book covers is not the same.



iBeacon could lead to physical objects that can be spatially arranged and use for search navigation.

A couple years ago I had the idea to create some kind of projection system that would beam images of my e-books onto a wall. I'm not a hardware guy and am not sure there would be a market for it, so I didn't pursue it, but I hope someone else does.

I recently purged 60-70% of my book collection. I considered getting the remainder scanned from some place like $1 scan. I might have done it except that most of those books are picture books (art, architecture, photography, childrens). I feel like I'd be happy to let those go if I could get a non-scanned version (don't want scanned halftone dots, I want the original source). And if I had a lightweight 20+inch HD-DPI tablet to view them on.

But yes, basically I wanted to get rid of "stuff". I have notebooks of DVDs and CDs, all of which are ripped. I only keep them as "proof of license"

> moving books is an awful experience

You can own books without owning the big, clunky physical embodiments of them that are a pain to move (and I certainly agree those are a pain to move--on my last move my book collection turned out to require 34 boxes). I own a number of books only in electronic form, and by "own" I mean that I have copies of them that I control and can read and access no matter what Amazon (or Google or any other seller of "subscriptions") might do in the future.

Show me anyone's MySpace profile from 2006.

Tell me again how good the Internet's memory is.

The issue isn't about making a value judgment on what's worth having and what's not.

Whether you like it or not, a person's social media profile is a part of their life. I'm sure you don't care about someone's photo album, or their diary, or the box full of concert ticket stubs they keep in their closet, either. But they matter to the person who kept them.

Except that now, we've grown accustomed to keeping our personal memories on Facebook, or Twitter, and used to keep them on MySpace, Friendster, and LiveJournal. "Just back it all up" you could say—but how many average everyday people even know how to do that?

The other day, I was looking for a podcast that I'd been on in 2010. Unfortunately, the site where it was hosted had undergone a refresh, and all content older than two years was gone. It reminded me just how quickly online content churns and disappears, and how even someone as backup-conscious as myself can lose digital media.

There's so much good about the planet-wide accessibility of digital data, and it's certainly better to have, say, a podcast out there that might be on thousands of computers than a cassette tape that's going to be lost or damaged in your car.

I'm simply saying that we should treat digital media as just as inviolate and permanent as physical media, and make it a better experience, not a more ephemeral one.

Consider your ancestors. How far do you have to go back before you know essentially nothing about them? I know a lot about my parents, know a few stories about my grandparents, and nothing about my great grandparents beyond a name and a couple old pictures and maybe a letter or two.

What they were, the things they possessed, are all just gone. I am not sure if that's a good thing or not, but the idea that digital storage is ushering in a new age of ephemerality is not justified.

Its memory is probably better than yours. https://web.archive.org/web/20060408183534/http://profile.my...

That would be "Chris", one of the "Cool New People" on the homepage: https://web.archive.org/web/20060209175255/http://www.myspac...

We, as a society, put a value on MySpace profiles from 2006. Good riddance.

I donate most of my books to the library because there are only a few I could imagine wanting to read again someday. It would be nice if I could donate e-books too.

Edit to add: a few years ago I decided I would probably never buy another CD, so I imported all my CDs into iTunes and donated the CDs to the library too.

I hear you on this, and am in sympathy with your point. But this bothers me less than Amazon selling Kindle books does, because at least this is clearly marked as rental.

All your points are just as true about the Kindle books that Amazon sells to people -- you lose the right of first sale(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-sale_doctrine), so you can't re-sell or lend your books; they're tied to a specific DRM scheme; they can be modified or "turned off" remotely without your consent; etc. -- only Amazon charges you a flat fee, as if you were actually purchasing it the way you purchase a physical book, which you aren't. You're just purchasing a limited license to access its content via specific devices.

If they're going to be in the business of only selling limited licenses, I'd rather they do it via a subscription model, where every customer will understand that they'll lose access if they stop paying, than via a model designed to look and feel as much as possible like buying a real book. It's at least more honest that way.

they're tied to a specific DRM scheme;

I have an ebook available through Amazon and opted to have no DRM. I'm pretty sure this is still up to the author/publisher.

I just got an E-mail about Kindle Unlimited and it had a link to make my book eligible. However, to do so you have to enroll the book in Kindle Select (or whatever it's called) and that requires that the book not be available from any other outlets.

Well, fuck that.

I can see this as preventing a good many books from being available on Kindle Unlimited.

I expect this is more of an issue for self-publishing authors with zero rep.

In any event your comment reminded me that I need to make a current backup of the books on my Kindle and strip them of any restrictions.

UK and Germany antitrust regulators forced Amazon to drop their "price parity" clause for Marketplace sellers.

If Amazon tries to use (monopoly) Segment A of their business to impose conditions on (emerging) Segment B, it won't help adoption or regulation.



Having my book available on Amazon didn't require me to change or avoid doing anything on an other outlet. As far as I can tell you can publish a Kindle version of a book on Amazon at whatever rice you like, and sell it elsewhere at any other price you like. So, at least in that case, there is no price parity requirement.

It's their optional Kindle Select[0] special promo arrangement that says that to be eligible the work cannot be offered anyplace else. Joining Kindle Unlimited requires first joining Kindle Select.

Does anyone here know if the EU Kindle Select program has the same restrictions?

0: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A6KILDRNSCOBA

> It's their optional Kindle Select[0] special promo arrangement that says that to be eligible the work cannot be offered anyplace else.

That sounds worse than "price parity", it's like mandating an infinite price for every distribution channel other than Amazon.

Well, Amazon TELLS you that you lose the right of first sale. That has yet to be tested in court. EVERY industry (seriously, try to find one this isn't true for) has tried to kill the secondhand market in their particular corner of the economy. And every. single. one. of them failed utterly. Digital goods purveyors are going to fail just as spectacularly. It will require lawsuits, of course, but eventually digital property will be respected as actual property.

Right now, when you purchase a digital good, you are quite literally paying for nothing. You're giving money to a company and basically asking them to do you a favor and give you access to some content. Nothing in the "license" you agree to obligates them to actually provide you with ANYTHING. It conveys absolutely no rights to the purchaser and, just as importantly, places absolutely no obligations on the "seller". As it currently stands, it's basically just a giant sham with consumers acting in good faith and waiting for some CEO at Amazon or Apple or Barnes and Noble or somesuch to try to eke out a little more quarterly profit by doing something like requiring consumers to pay more to unlock content they already "paid for".

You might want to replace "quite literally" with something like "technically." I have paid for lots of digital goods, and have quite literally played all the games, used all the apps, read all the books, and listened to all the music that I have bought.

> to try to eke out a little more quarterly profit by doing something like requiring consumers to pay more to unlock content they already "paid for".

The gaming industry has already done this kind of thing with on-disc DLC, incidentally.

But you didn't already pay for the on-disc DLC to pay more later.

The purchasing model that amazon has isn't ownership either, it's rental with an indeterminate end date. Any time you cannot resell something or your children cannot inherit something, you don't own it. In some ways this kindle unlimited subscription is more honest, because it doesn't pretend to be something it isn't.

I totally get what you're saying, but as I've gotten older all of my physical stuff (including books and music) has accumulated to the point where it's become more of a burden and a logistical PITA than a source of pride or pleasure to me.

Up until my mid-30s, I was all about collecting and accumulating things, but since then (~10 years) I've been much more focused on minimizing the amount of physical things I own. The sheer volume of it became oppressive to me. Among other things, I stick to digital media whenever possible. I still own way too much stuff but at least it's kind of under control.

It's all trade-offs, like just about anything in life. I give up some nice things by avoiding physical media, including all of the concerns you (and everyone else) are raising, but at this point in my life, what I get in return far outweighs what I'm losing. This applies to physical vs. digital media, and also to subscription vs. ownership models for digital goods. The weighting pros and cons for these things are different for different people.

Not just ownership, but rights in general, and even worse: the concept of individual independence and empowerment.

There has been a consistent trend to portray the digital/online realm as a world apart from the "real" world, rather than, as is the truth, just another facet of it. This has facilitated massive erosions of civil liberties in the online world. Government censorship is the norm on the internet, not the exception. Warrantless monitoring and trespass on private systems and data by the government and law enforcement is also rampant, with few safeguards. In a similar vein, the protections of the rule of law and the criminal justice system are completely thrown out the window in many circumstances when it comes to the online realm. You can be effectively punished online merely due to an allegation (i.e. DMCA takedown), and often only arbitration is available as a remedy, erasing centuries of traditional protection for individual rights through the court system.

And that's aside from the ongoing war over DRM and the desire of major content aggregators to deny ownership rights and privileges to customers.

Add to that the growing reliance on paternalistic relationships with large corporations and business entities, eroding individualism. People rely on their ISPs and their cell carriers for access to the online world, a major aspect of modern business and private life. Unlike phone service these service providers have much greater leeway to decide what you can and cannot do online and have increasingly taken advantage of consumers. People rely on major services (gmail, hotmail, facebook, twitter, etc.) for their primary means of communication, services that in many cases border on unregulated monopolies. And at work people are increasingly dependent on their employers to provide medical and dental coverage, retirement savings, and so forth.

> ... when it's so much more attractive to companies to rent their products to you for a constant stream of monthly income?

Which companies are you thinking of here? Amazon is still trying to drag book publishers into participating in this, and hasn't had much luck yet. Video subscriptions are more miss than hit. Spotify is the most mature, and (by your estimate) only has 60%-70% of what you want. And there's all kinds of complaints that Spotify doesn't result in the same kind of income that record sales did. I don't think the companies that own the products do like this model.

The reason they do it at all is because it's an effective way to compete with illegal downloading. The $10/month doesn't represent the actual value of the product (which for me at least is probably higher), but seems to represent about what the market will tolerate before it goes back to just torrenting stuff.

And that brings up a really good thing about these services: they address the market-efficiency losses of the copyright regime without needing to either break the law or change it.

For example, suppose the only way to get an ebook is to buy it, and each book costs $X. There are a small number of ebooks you value at more than $X, you buy those ones, and (in economic terms) positive value is created by each exchange.

But there is a much larger number of ebooks you value at more than $0 but less than $X. Those ones you would pay money for, and positive value would be created by that exchange, but the regime of "sell each ebook for $X" doesn't allow that value to be created.

Piracy fully reclaims that value, but has its own problems. All-you-can-eat monthly services also fully reclaim the value (as long as you can afford them and they allow the use you had in mind), but in a way that is mutually agreeable to everybody involved. That makes them a good thing to have around.

The real problem you're bringing up is that all-you-can-eat services don't allow some good and important uses, like saving stuff for later. But so far I'm not seeing any indication that they are replacing buy-it-and-own-it services -- or that content owners have any reason to want them to.

>Will books end up getting unskippable "updates," or even being deleted at the whim of the publishers or Amazon one day?

Amazon can already do this.


You're overlooking the followup where they restored access the next day, with a clarification that account closure isn't supposed to cut off access to your already-purchased content.


i had the same shock you're displaying when i came to the us.

"what do you mean your bank own your home? what if it goes under?"

"what? you pay your car every month, are required to pay the most expensive insurance, and in the end the dealership still owns your car?"

... my guess is that in America anything that makes you pay a little less will have consumers. nobody cares about a bookcase full of old paper as you do. also i think that when the thing matures past the amateurs like EA we will see companies buying rights from other just like it happens with mortgage. apple went under with its flopped Newton watch? amazon buys all its drm licenses and continue to give you access to your media in hopes that your new purchases will come her way.

Half of what I read as a kid came from the library (and by "the library" I mean any one of at least 7 systems) and went back a week later. Half the remainder came from thrift stores and was left back in there in boxes when we moved. How common is it to have a personal physical copy of all your childhood possessions? What's the demographic variation?

Other than some software, as far as I know you still have the option to "own" (ignoring copyright issues for the moment) most digital content. By "own" I mean "make a one-time purchase and then download the media onto your own device" as opposed to "pay a regular subscription fee and stream the media to your device."

I think the "erosion" you observe is simply the phenomenon that many people genuinely prefer subscription models to one-time purchases, or perhaps they prefer to not manage their own files, syncing, etc. I don't think there's anything bad about that.

I think there is something to be said about the environmental impacts of ownership. As much as we love to own things, it isn't sustainable for the environment.

As far as culture goes, I'd like to see mass archiving. I'm unclear whether what the Library of Congress does suffices, at least for the US, but a copy of everything should exist somewhere.

As far as personal access goes, I hear you, but that's how I took myself into near-hoarder territory with media.

I'm not too worried about subscription services becoming the only game in town. As long as some people will pay for permanent access of individual titles, or for value-adds like movie extras, someone will sell them.

The bigger worry is the yanking of the access to stuff you've "bought," of course. But I suspect the first time someone with power either gets hurt or even scared by a DRM-related action, we'll get some mass decisions that come down to "if it looks like a sale and acts like a sale, it's a sale."

You may or may not be able to resell or transfer it (legally), but I seriously doubt the courts will stand for someone arbitrarily taking it away. EULA or no EULA, there's a pretty fat implied promise there, and "buy" is used all over the place in language. That alone would be enough for the EU's courts to seriously hammer anyone who switched it up for "rent".

The early software-related decisions around owning "licensed" copies were in the infancy of digital licensing, and there's plenty of room for reversal there. The VHS time-shifting/personal backup decision is much more in line with what I'd expect the theme to be over time.

In particular, I expect format shifting to become legal as soon as a format shift or service closure screws someone with money/influence.

Right now, the only real-world examples are video game console libraries, and they just don't garner the same sympathy because everyone's predisposed to the idea that software ages out with tech shifts. It'll be when iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, one of those does it that we'll see action.

Also, will books that aren't on Amazon cease to "exist"?

There are a number of books I enjoyed in the paper era that I flat out can't find on Amazon now, and I tend to think of Amazon as "ALL THE BOOKS".

And it is all or none. If you fall on bad times and can't pay the subscription, you cannot have any books. Unlike your owned collection which you can reduce down to books you love. If you are low on cash, you cannot save and buy a book - you have to be subscribed all the time.

If subscription becomes the dominant mode of book consumption, it would be disastrous. As an add on service, it is nice. Especially in the areas without strong library systems.

I also share your sentiment. Completely.

However, I think you're also underestimating the risk of all or parts of your stuff disappearing or getting destroyed in a house-burglary, fire, flood or another kind of disaster.

I'm not entirely sure what the actual risks are, but my gut feeling is that there's a higher chance of losing what you physically own than for it to disappear or get 'updated' as a digital / for-rent product.

After all the Snowden stuff, I worry that it makes it too easy to 'erase' troublesome books when no one actually owns them.

I learnt to read before attending school by literally reading through my parents' bookshelves, the simpler books at first of course … today, I still have many books on shelves but all never books are digital and invisible, especially to children. In addition, digital content is not made for use in a family, it is usually linked to a single account …

Any time I see something that is both interesting and obscure, like an article or a podcast, I have a tendency to packrat it. I have a USB RAID drive full of that stuff. It's a habit I've had for a while and it comes from exactly what you say: the Internet has a short memory.

Copyright infringement to the rescue!

You can even have your cloud-like experiences with software like Plex and Calibre (though I like Plex better, it won't do plain ebooks). Audio books work well enough on Plex, and you can even share the server with friends if you want.

I actually like the rental model for ebooks. The books I usually end up buying are hardcover anyway.

When that holographic storage media finally comes around, we'll just store a full copy of all of human knowledge in our pockets, and this won't really be a problem anymore. That's one possible solution at any rate.

Shall we also get off thine lawn? Having big stacks of books in your home is a relatively recent phenomenon. People used to borrow them from the library or circulate them from person to person. Mass availability of inexpensive books has only been with us for 100 years or so.

How do you know Jeff Bezos didn't tweak a couple of sentences in your Kindle copy of Catch 22? I don't know, but I do know that detecting such a change will be far, far easier with digital publications than it ever was with paper.

"Get off my lawn" is an intellectually lazy argument.

George Lucas has already famously done repeated "updates" to Star Wars. If it existed only in subscription form, you'd never be able to see the original.

There's also a subtle point here about accessibility of creative works that I think is often missed -- copyright, as a social contract, exists because society has a reason to provide creators with a period of economic exclusivity in exchange for the release of the work. There's no natural or defensible "right" to prevent people from copying. If a creator chooses to release their work in a format that they can retract (e.g. they can negate the societal benefit of the release), society is under no moral obligation to respect their copyright.

> George Lucas has already famously done repeated "updates" to Star Wars. If it existed only in subscription form, you'd never be able to see the original.

Or, you might sign up for a service where access to more than one version is a differentiating feature, and get both for the same subscription price rather than having to buy multiple re-releases.

What makes you think Lucas would grant any service the license to distribute multiple versions?

You're right about the intellectually lazy argument, but the rest of that comment made what I think is a substantial and valid argument.

I love the idea, but the selection is not good enough (for me) yet. I keep an Amazon wishlist as a "reading queue" and none of the 60 books (technical, business, pop-psych) in it were available on Kindle Unlimited.

I usually buy 2-3 Kindle books a month at around $9/per, so I would definitely use this service if the selection improves. I kind of wonder if Amazon could get away with charging $9/month for any book they have and just cash-in on folks that "spend" less than that a month.

Agreed. I don't read many books, but I asked my wife about the last 3 ebooks she'd read. One of the three was already a free book due to Amazon prime and was also included in Kindle Unlimited. The other two weren't available as part of Kindle Unlimited.

So comparing Kindle Unlimited to Netflix's online streaming is actually a pretty accurate correlation. It's currently comprised of second-tier (or lower) books that aren't likely to yield the same profits as new and currently popular titles, so they're used as filler for this service.

Free, top-tier pre-1920 ebooks from centuries of book reviews:


Yep, just went through my list of 38 and only 2 are on unlimited. My list is comprised of relatively popular books that are relatively old, nothing like new or anything. Examples: Army at Dawn, Eternal Golden Braid, Tale of Dueling Neurosurgeons, When Genius Failed, Snow Crash, Good Omens, The Signal and The Noise, The Looming Tower. I would expect at least a couple of these to be on there, its not like they're at peak popularity or anything.

But I did chuckle at Piketty's Capital being on unlimited.

How'd you find the overlap between the two? I'm trying to do the same but can't find a simple way to do it other than checking every book.

Me neither - I just opened 60 tabs :)

Ah got it. I spot checked a few and had a 0% success rate so gave up on more.

Was wondering if this could replace my Safari Books Online subscription, and the answer to that is a resounding 'no'.

I use Safari heavily and I've been hoping some sort of competitor would come along.

It's not that that I dislike Safari, merely that I expect competition would push for a better product. The interface has barely changed in as long as I can remember with the same old clunky flash and limited search. It took years for the mobile app to go from horrendous to tolerable and it remains quite bad.

Giving 'Online' the same visual style as 'Flow' would be a start, but they seem to be keeping them separate and beyond the visuals I found Flow to underwhelming and frustrating even. I cancelled my Flow subscription despite being offered a deep discount as some sort of early adopter.

Meanwhile, Inkling is great is several ways, but lacks the critical 'all you can read' subscription option.

The interface is being redone. I don't know how they are planning to cut-over though: https://www.safaribooksonline.com/

Edited: They just announced how the cutover will work: http://blog.safaribooksonline.com/2014/07/08/new-safari/

Interesting, I figured something was up when the landing page changed.

Several of the new/upcoming features of Flow are precisely what I asked for while using the service.

If I'd gotten some sort of acknowledgement of that feedback as something being considered or upcoming I'd have kept my discounted subscription.

Kind of disappointing that the new service is separate from the existing 'Safari Books Online' service. I'm grandfathered in to the $9.99 5 books/month plan right now. Jumping to $24.99 for a new interface hardly seems worth it.

In Toronto, Safari Online is available for everyone with a Toronto Public Library card (anyone who lives or works in Toronto)

I seem to recall getting an email last week saying they were merging Flow into their main service, or the other way around. Did I dream it?

The current series I'm reading and the last series I read are not available.. nail in coffin for me

Where do you see what is available? Do you have to pay to know?

Same as me. I think I can wait for the list be improved.

Very saddened by this:

  We're sorry. Kindle Unlimited is currently only available for US customers.
  Please visit us again when it is available in your country.

I still don't understand why, when content is digital and distribution doesn't cost anything extra, things like this are restricted to specific countries.


See this explanation by author Charlie Stross: http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/07/some-ram...

But amazon have no problem selling me ebooks and audiobooks even thou in am located outside the us.

That's because they made deals with content providers to sell you ebooks and audiobooks outside the US, and presumably they don't have those deals for Kindle Unlimited yet. Just because Amazon has the publisher's permission to sell you an ebook doesn't mean that they automatically have the publisher's permission to give that ebook to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

Sure, because those books have rights to be sold in your geo. OR, your account is based in the US (billing address).

My billing address is Danish so that is not it.

I have not yet been declined the opportunity to buy a ebook so it's strange that the rules for renting is different.

I think the OP's point is some subset of the Kindle ebooks are already available in his locale, so why not roll-out this service for those titles?

Probably because the license they have to sell those titles doesn't allow them to rent them on this service.

It's legal, not technical restrictions.

It's not even laws, it's just contracts. Which, if parties were motivated, could be rewritten.

"Please visit us again when it is available in your country." makes it sound like they are motivated to rewrite them. But you can't just rewrite everything at once. I understand the frustration that people outside the US feel when a new service is launched as US-only first but you have to start somewhere. And a US-based company is most likely to start at home and then branch out.

I was pretty bummed when Spotify was Europe-first.

Motivation to rewrite is often tied to money. No money? No motivation.

Which is why some people in "remote places" don't really have many qualms about piracy. If it's not available at any price, what _should_ I do??

Content licensing. Different companies (or legally distinct subsidiaries) control licensing & distribution for different countries. Inherent limits of physical books (i.e.: space & mass & energy needed to haul content across significant distances) mitigated the issue, as it's usually cheaper to get a book locally than ship it from afar. Now that content can, for most practical purposes, be shipped free with instant delivery the legal ownership rights are being enforced and controlled (and more middlemen squeezing into). Amazon will get around to sorting out licensing issues elsewhere, but 'til then they've got a big local market to satiate.

I am really sorry people downvote you. People please don't downvote for mere disagreement; not upvoting is enough. You are actively discouraging otherwise completely legitimate and sensible questions.

This isn't Reddit. It is perfectly acceptable to downvote out of disagreement, as pg has stated before.


Specifically which?

Depends on country. Laws for selling books can actually get quite complicated (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_book_price_agreement)


I'd imagine they don't have the copyright to distribute things in this manner outside the US at the moment.

They want you to pirate so they can later sue you. More profitable biz mod than making something useful

I live in France but it worked right away. I still have an old address in the US on my amazon account from when I studied there which might explain why it works.

My credit card's billing address is in France though so I think they're really just trying to make it as easy as possible to sign up while still respecting the letter of the contracts they signed.

I just changed my address to a US one and I was allowed to sign up straight away.

To all the "this is just a 10 dollar library card", I ask you this: if library books are the way to go, why do people buy endless amounts of books from amazon. Amazon became successful by selling books. Audible is another successful company that offers a feature that according to you, can be achieved at a library. Clearly libraries are missing something or else we'd be using them more. Maybe it's one click instant access. Maybe it's the larger selection, or that lack of having to wait. Regardless, it's not the same.

This of course all depends on which country you live in. Where I am from libraries already offer ebook and audiobooks and university libraries have bought licenses from most academic publishers, so that students can download most of their course material and almost all journal articles free of charge. Also all libraries are a 15 minute bike ride away. All of them combined carry a higher quality selection of books than Amazon with their 600.000 could possibly have. Of course they probably won't have some obscure medieval vampire romance novel.

The only books I ever ordered from Amazon were books in foreign languages and academic books that Amazon apparently prints on demand on behalf of publishers. Books in my mother tongue can only be sold at a fixed price set by the publisher, so there is little incentive of buying from a company that mistreats their warehouse workers.

I'm surprised by all the comments in this thread saying that you have to physically go to your library during their open hours to borrow a book. Most libraries I know offer digital downloads through the Overdrive app.

I regularly borrow audiobooks and ebooks from the library with a couple of taps on my iPhone.

Yes, but they don't allow an unlimited number of patrons to read the book at the same time. You have to get in line. At my library, the wait time for popular ebooks can be more than a month. And once you do get to check out an ebook, you only have it for a couple weeks, then you have to "return" it, and if you want to read it again/more, get back in line.

That's clearly inferior to Amazon's service where you can read any book in their catalog at any time, even if a million other Amazon customers are simultaneously reading it, and you can open it and read it as often as you want, with no waiting.

I borrow ebooks from my library quite often, but I also buy a ton of books for my Kindle, for similar reasons as above, and will most likely subscribe to Kindle Unlimited (depending on the catalog — right now the catalog looks like a few bestsellers I've already read or don't care to read, plus several hundred thousand self-published romance novels).

> Maybe it's one click instant access. Maybe it's the larger selection, or that lack of having to wait.

Yes. Yes. Yes. As well as book condition/cleanliness, and being able to keep books forever.

My local library is also only open from 10am-6pm, and closed sundays, so unless I want to take time off of work, my only time to go to the library is on a Saturday afternoon. Usually when I buy a book via Amazon, it's spontaneous because of a recommendation. I'll have a friend recommend me a book. Click, it's ordered and shipping. I'll see a book recommended several times in the same HN thread, check reviews for it, click, ordered and shipping. I don't really remember the book's info in order to look up later while at a library.

Currently I have no idea how to check if a book is available at my branch or a nearby branch. I tried going to the library website and clicked their "check availability" link, and I was brought to a calendar for conference room reservations. Amazon is just a much more polished experience than my library. So yeah, I'll buy a book instead of getting it free from the library.

It reminds me of when people say that services like Netflix, Spotify, Steam, etc are cutting down on piracy because in many cases, they provide a simpler experience than the piracy does. Amazon and books (hell, Amazon and most products) provides that same simplification over a cheaper/free distributor.

Does your library offer e-books? You can check them out without ever visiting the branch - of course, the selection may be limited, but the convenience factor shouldn't be off by that much - apps like Overdrive and the like are fairly usable once you learn how to use them.

Libraries have fixed locations you must travel to, and limited collections (rarely more than one copy of each book) of aging content (limited range of latest material). If you want something in particular, good chance it's not available.

Amazon will, from the convenience of any computer (mobile devices included), ship you books from a vast & nearly inexhaustible collection at acceptable costs.

Now the Unlimited plan brings you both for $10/mo: beyond-library-scale of practically free books delivered instantly, and bringing you in close proximity to darn near every book ever written available at modest cost in 2 days.

Heck, many subscribers would pay more than $10/mo just in gas driving to the library.

Just to make sure we're all on the same page. Audible is just another piece of Amazon.

> Amazon became successful by selling books.

Licensing, not selling. Unless you were talking about dead-tree versions.

Since Amazon became wildly successful by selling dead-tree versions of books before it even started selling ebooks, yeah, I would assume that selling rather than licensing was what the grandparent post intended, and that it referred to dead-tree rather than electronic books.

Can anyone offer any guidance on the audiobook aspect of this? What is a "Kindle book with narration"? If I'm an audible customer... doesn't this seem like a far better deal? Their page seems very light on details for audiobooks.

Edit: I just found a link that includes Kindle Unlimited books with Narration: http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=9630682011

There are about 2,000 audiobooks available through Kindle Unlimited. Compared with 150,000+ available through Audible.

So yes, if the books you want to listen to are on KU, it's a better deal.

*Full press release embedded here: http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-unlimited-reading-2014...

Full press release ended with me finding a link that shows the narrated books they include. Edited above.

To anyone complaining about country restrictions:

Selling books is actually quite the complicated matter in some countries. At least in Germany you are not allowed to sell a book at a price of your choice (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_book_price_agreement)

It can be pretty fucking annoying to have these laws in place (they do have their merits, but... that's a completely different debate), but I can understand Amazon not having worked out all the legal issues to go worldwide with this

Given that Amazon royally screws independent authors (not being a publisher, I can't speak to whether they screw larger publishers too) who want to price their works about $9.99 (if you're after a vertical market, Amazon hates you) I can only imagine they'll extend the screwing to authors who won't also make their works available via Unlimited.

(How do they screw us? They cap the 70% less download fee royalty at the $9.99 level. In order to make more than $7 (less download fee) per sale, you need to price a book at over $20. So if I sell a $20 book on Amazon, BN, and iBooks -- I get twice as much from BN and iBooks as I do from Amazon. To make the same royalty from Amazon, I need to charge $40, but Amazon won't let me do that. So I pulled my book from Amazon and revenues increased.)

I assume it's a technical book? There are very few novels I'd pay even $10 for.

That's a pity, too, from the writer's point of view.

$7 to the writer for a fiction work is pretty good, IMO. There's probably no way you're going to achieve that otherwise. (I'm part of the "fuck the legacy publishers" camp; I do care about compensating writers and some editors, but in general, I'd rather pay less, read a lot more books, and have writers paid more, and fewer useless NYC publishing house employees playing games and acting as gatekeepers.)

Oh, now I remember hearing something about how high the margins in the publishing business are. Probably you're right: $7 to the writer should be more than a writer can count for, with any reasonable retail price, in the traditional publishing model.

Perhaps, but before I had a Kindle I spent roughly $0/year on books. Now I buy 3-4 books in the $1-$5 price range a month.

Yes it's a technical book.

Do you think indie paper book publishers don't get screwed?

Which book?

If I have a digital copy, it's important for me to have a physical copy, as well.

At different times, I prefer different media.

Until I can buy a book and get a digital version for either free or for a (very) small added fee, I'm just not getting on board with kindles (or whatever e-reader device).

Amazon did roll out some version of this book+ebook service a few months ago, but it included such a small number of volumes that it was virtually worthless.

It's dependent on publishers. At any time you can ask Amazon to search through your _entire_ history of Amazon print purchases and it will give you free access to the Kindle versions, if the publisher enabled this feature.

Yup, I know. But out of the hundreds of books I've purchased through Amazon, only a small handful offer free Kindle versions.

The complications between Amazon and publishers are deep and messy and I surely won't get what I want as a consumer for some time, if ever.

Just thinking about the ideal situation for me, however unrealistic it is.

Perhaps my reading behavior is atypical - but "Hyperion", "I Robot", "Ringworld", "Stranger in a Strange Land", "Dune" - none of the books I read were in the Kindle Unlimited List, and they were all in the Vancouver Public Library.

I love the concept - but I need at least a 50% hit rate on the books I read before i'll be willing to pay $120/year to use it.

Well, I looked up a small handful of books I have been interested in reading next, and while all are available on Kindle, none are on the Unlimited program.

Looks like I'll be giving this one a pass.

Can someone explain to me, whats the difference between Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime[1]?

[1] http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/?docId=1000739811&ref=...

Kindle Unlimited gives you unlimited access to about 600,000 ebooks and audio books on Kindle devices.

Prime gives you free 2-day shipping on a large number of Amazon products and gives you unlimited access to Amazon Video.

I personally was a little surprised (and disappointed) Amazon didn't roll this out as another Prime perk. I'm not sure why making Amazon Video available to Prime members makes financial sense to Amazon, but making Kindle Unlimited doesn't.

edit: With Prime, you also get access to music, some ebooks, and something called "Amazon Pantry". There is a description here:


Probably because Amazon is known more for their books than their movie/TV show selection.

Also: Prime gives you access to the lending library, but you can only lend one book a month.

> Prime gives you access to the lending library

I'm a Prime subscriber and I didn't know about this. It seems the lending library has 350K-500K books, not dissimilar to Kindle Unlimited. And like other commenters, it looks like both unlimited and the kindle lending library has pretty small intersection with my reading habits.

Lending library, though, only allows you to check out one book a month, and you have to have a physical Kindle device. The Kindle unlimited, it seems, allows you to use any kindle app, which is a nice change. I did just recently get a Paperwhite, so it doesn't affect me as greatly now.

I'll agree with both points. I tend to like non-fiction books more than anything. But I imagine both the lending library and Kindle Unlimited are trying to hit the greatest percentage of the population.

...and that book can only be read on a Kindle-branded device. No iPad/Android Tablets.

Ah yes, good point. You can see I don't use the lending library that much :)

I would like to see a "Pick One" because I have zero use for the Prime Video but I could have a limited use of Kindle Unlimited. Prime Video is not supported by any of the platforms I choose to consume media on (linux desktop and RaspPi Media Centers)

In a Dream World I would be able to get a Free Shipping only Prime Account. I will probably cancel my Prime after this year since the jacked the price up to $99, Just not worth it anymore (plus they now charge Taxes for my state so I am buying less and less on Amazon)

I would rather have unlimited Kindle books over both videos and music.

I guess that's why they can make it a separate product.

Prime gave free access to some ebooks but I'm pretty sure they were mostly classics

So let's see... 10 bucks for books, 10 bucks for Spotify, 10 bucks for Netflix. That's $360 a year. It kind of adds up, doesn't it? :)

When I was little I went to the local library. There I had unlimited access to movies, music and books, for free. Sure, it's hard to compare the music collection to Spotify. But at the time I was content. And I actually think I'd still prefer both the movie collection and the book collection of the library (especially as my native tongue is Swedish).

Less than a dollar a day for unlimited media consumption doesn't sound like a lot to me. It's still significantly less than 1 cable subscription.

$400 or so was about one month's budget for me for media, though that included games and my $100/mo cable bill.

I'm way ahead with KU (was using Oyster), Netflix/Hulu, and Rdio. If someone comes out with a decent all-you-can-eat gaming service that doesn't make me juggle discs, I'll be way, way ahead.

It looks like I was incorrect when I predicted that the ebooks would only be available on true Kindle devices (and not for example the Kindle app on iPad).

Unfortunately it looks like the Lending Library (which comes with Prime membership) still only works on true Kindle devices. I wonder if this is a licensing issue, or just a deliberate choice on Amazon's part.


"We're sorry. Kindle Unlimited is currently only available for US customers. Please visit us again when it is available in your country."

That's ok Amazon. My local library lets me check out as many ebooks as I can read. And audio books. And paper books.

Total cost? FREE!

via taxation which works out as £13 per year (budget is £8 million, population is 650k)

Amazon isn't intentionally discriminating against your country, they don't have a choice.

I'm well aware of that. And, I don't think it's discrimination to only sign complex licensing deals in only one territory.

I'm just not sure why people in the UK would go for this when the Library already does a fine job of "all you can read".

It's often the case that the books I want to read are not at my local library; either because they don't have them or they are already checked out. This is especially true of e-books. Wilbur[1] doesn't have the greatest selection.

[1] http://wilbor.lib.overdrive.com/826F0311-F3BF-4487-A2D0-CA70...

Luckily, in a democracy, you can address this. Write to your local elected council member (or whoever it is in your part of the world) and ask them what they're going to do about it.

Or, get on the board of your local library.

I haven't been to a Library in probably 20 years, so this is a legitimate question, not being snarky. Can you somehow check out e-books at libraries these days? Some people actually prefer that experience.

Usually you can even do it online without having to go to the library. Go to your local library's website and see if they have anything there.

Yes. Most libraries (in the UK) will let you check out ebooks online. See, for example, http://ebooks.surreycc.gov.uk

A few will let you take your eReader to the physical library and help you put books on there.

They do have a choice - as a huge book store they have a leverage over publishers which they have used with great success.

They CHOOSE not demand their books to be available globally from publishers.

This service would have the extremely interesting effect of replacing itself with all your reading sources. Consider: Given a choice between buying a book elsewhere and reading it here, you're going to choose the latter because it's free. But also, if you normally read a book per month, since you're paying for it whether you read or not, you'd have to basically read more from here to be able to make it "worth it". So given a choice between buying a book elsewhere or reading a different one here, you're still going to lean towards reading it here. Pretty smart!

Are books fungible?

If you're in a rich Western country, the time you spend reading a book probably has an opportunity cost much greater than the cost to acquire rights to read the book. Why would you spend 10 hours with a book whose marginal cost is $0, when you could pay $10 and spend those ten hours with a better book?

Wow, never thought of it that way. Although I don't think that'd factor in as much if there's books I want to read on both sides, which I assume is the case. So it's not so much an absolute ranking of books. If it's over a threshold, I want to read it. Given two books I want to read, it might not be that clear that I want to read one over the other, but when you add the cost difference it'd become clearer.

I think Amazon's always done a pretty good job of rolling out new services, but this is a train wreck. About 3 minutes after I signed up for the free trial, I cancelled it. 99% of the books are the same type of low-quality, spammy nonsense that I was already getting free through Prime.

I was hoping for something along the lines of Safari Books, only with a much wider range of categories. As hard as it might be to imagine, the selection of books here is far far worse than Netflix's selection of movies. That's pretty fucking sad.

this is the first comment in this thread that is not predicting the future. there is some 200 i just scrolled past above.

yeah, amazon prime content is anything but prime. odd seasons of old series. movies that even late night open tv is embarrassed of showing, and now teen romances.

I think the audiobooks part is going to be more interesting than the rest. I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts, so listening to unlimited audiobooks is something that might be amazing.

I completely agree with you. Right now, I mostly rely on audiobooks from my public library system (the price point -- free -- is hard to beat). Audible (also owned by Amazon) is really the only other decent option for professionally narrated stuff (I've tried non-professionally-narrated stuff, and it's generally really bad). And since people don't generally listen to the same audiobook over and over again, the way they do with music, I don't think many people will mind that they don't get to "own" a copy of the book, like with Audible. If it weren't for the fact that Audible has a far better selection, I'd say it would be ridiculous for anyone to continue with Audible over Kindle Unlimited. I mean, one audiobook a month vs. unlimited? No hard decision there.

Agreed. Did you checked the list if it is really good?

Hmm... how can you tell which books are available for it?

I searched for a philosopher I like to read and none of his books had the "unlimited" indicator... so I don't think this is for me.

To answer your question: Try searching the Kindle store for something that is in Kindle Unlimited. For example: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3D... You'll see "$0.00 kindleunlimited" for books that are available. The selection is grim.

As an author with two books enrolled in KDP select, I didn't know they'd be included in Kindle Unlimited. It will be interesting to see if this has any effect on sales.

Do you know how you and the publisher are compensated in this situation? I'm assuming there is some sort of royalty stream coming back to you? (I'm not asking for details, just generalities).

I'll answer since they didn't. Kindle Select is direct publishing only, so they don't have another publisher.

They get paid based on number of their reads (that's anyone who reads >10% of their book) as a proportion of number of total reads across the library, calculated against a money pool that Amazon determines month over month and tunes to keep the program attractive.

More details here:


Is this the same as the Lending Library you'll get with Prime, where you can get 1 book for free per month if you're Prime customer? If so, the offer in Germany is absolutely terrible. I found only 2 books in that library, because they count endless self-published garbage-titles to their library of "600,000+" titles.

From the comments here, I assume that the model is similar in the US and 9.99$ is only so cheap, because there's mostly junk in the library.

Sadly, I don't read nearly enough to justify a $10/mo subscription. (This is something I'd like to improve, but I have ADHD and poor reading comprehension.) This is contrast to a service like Google music that I use nearly every day. I wish there were a cheaper tier with perhaps fewer rentals at a lower price. Based on the current volume of reading that I do, the most I can see myself paying for a subscription is about $3~5/mo.

I notice few commenters have brought up the obvious deflationary pressure being brought to bear against authors and publishers here. The same thing has occurred in music and film.

In the future is art and literature going to once again be the exclusive province of either those who have taken a implicit vow of poverty or the independently wealthy? Are we seeing the end of the era when a person could actively earn a living doing these things?

Just as an alternative, the NYPL (which is the New York City public library system) allows you to get a library card, and browse from their online ebook collection, as long as you are a resident of New York state. It's a bit of an annoying process, but their large selection makes it worth it.


I signed up for the 30-day free trial, and immediately found books that I'd like to read that are on long request waiting lists at my friendly county public library. Now I can look up those books any time I like during the next thirty days. I'll see whether or not I think there is enough value here to pay ten dollars a month indefinitely to keep this service, but I think I will.

This is also interesting from the cloud storage perspective. Amazon is slowly making personal cloud storage almost irrelevant by providing all these subscription streaming services. You don't event have to digitally own something anymore you just rent it and stream it from the cloud. No need to back up the majority of the files you have.

Looks like Amazon is trying to do to ebooks what Spotify and Netflix have done to music and content.

The pricing is interesting. At $9.99, it's more than Netflix and the same as Spotify. I'm not sure if anyone will binge read books the same way people do with the other two services.

There are plenty of people already on the $15/mo plan with Audible. Myself included. I listen to audio books on my commute. The difference with my more expensive plan is that I get too keep the audio books. Though I have not re-listened to any so this is something for me to think about.

It is a surprise that Audible is an Amazon company. Will the launch of this service create self-competition?

Amazon also own GoodReads, CreateSpace, Shelfari, Abe Books, The Book Depository, BookFinder and 40% of LibraryThing. Some of those compete.

"I'm not sure if anyone will binge read books the same way people do with the other two services."

Surely you're joking, right? $9.99 is typically close-to the cost of a single ebook. For any avid reader, they'll easily blow through at least a few books a month.

I mostly read software and technical books. None of the books I am interested in is in the collection. Maybe the improve the collection later, but for now it's cheaper to buy for me.

I think this is good for "candy books" like thrillers, etc. but for books that I want to keep...no. I don't care as much about movies but for books...this is not for me.

I wonder if you get to keep the notes you make from books in this? Of the last 5 books I've read, only 2 were in this, so I'm not sure I'll sign up.

It seems that the debut of $10/mo Kindle Unlimited was accompanied by the demise of the one per month free Kindle lending library for Prime customers.

Where did you see that? The KLL page is still up and accepting Prime memberships, and the Kindle Select (author program behind KU and KLL) terms are clear that authors can opt their books into or out of either or both.

Edit: I do notice that the website doesn't display the KLL option for me on eligible books, but I assume that's because my KU subscription enables less restrictive access to the same book.

My books which were formerly enrolled in Kindle Select are no longer. They are now in Kindle Unlimited. I didn't change anything.

It seems I'm wrong about that. Apologies.

We're sorry. Kindle Unlimited is currently only available for US customers. Please visit us again when it is available in your country. (figured)

It looks really great! So bad it isn't available in Poland. Does anyone know when they will expand to other countries?

How do authors get paid with this? I don't imagine a pay per play scheme work like it does with the music industry

I assume the same way they do with KDP Select where prime members can borrow a free book once a month. Amazon will set aside a pool of money and divide it among the books that were read each month as part of the program.

Yes. As a Kindle author, I got an email this morning stating that's how it will work.

This offer is only available to US customers - I think it's worth to reflect that one in the title in here.

Let say I'm not in the US, what are my options if I'm interested to subscribe? Will VPN work?

This has a ways to go in terms of content before I would actually use it.

Does anyone have any info on how royalties will be calculated yet?

Are they making the whole Audible library available through this?

nope... very limited audio selection compared to the audible.com catalog.

What does this mean for oyster?

It is like a paid pass to amazon's selected digital library.

"We're sorry. Kindle Unlimited is currently only available for US customers. Please visit us again when it is available in your country"


Companies just don't learn. This is the Internet. If you sell digital content online, there is no "US customers". There are exactly two groups of customers: those with credit cards that are willing to pay you and all the rest.

This whole idea of segmenting by country is not only outdated, but harmful to business and outright offensive to customers that were not "included" in the "segment" that was "chosen".

Let's see, what will those people left outside the door do? Will they wait and "visit us again when it is available in your country"? Surely! They will patiently regularly check the webpage to see whether Amazon has graciously agreed to take their money. Or they'll just turn to Bittorrent and get the goods anyway, right now.

Anticipating responses: yes, I know, the usual narrative is that it's the evil publishers. So what? Amazon fights the publishers on other fronts, why can't it arrange for worldwide licensing here?

The copyrights are often dispersed, with different publishers owning different rights. It's not a matter of just "arrang[ing] for worldwide licensing." It's dealing with a completely different set of owners who may have no interest in signing on.

Of COURSE Amazon wants to access customers in other countries, it's not like they haven't thought of it!

> Of COURSE Amazon wants to access customers in other countries, it's not like they haven't thought of it!

Actually, I believe they are not fully aware of the adverse effect these kinds of restrictions have: as much as many people try to explain that it's not Amazon's fault (just observe the downvotes on my previous comment!), it is Amazon.com that rejects me as a customer.

But perhaps I should refrain from commenting, as downvoting based on opinions seems to have become the norm recently.

Publishing and Media (Music, Movies & Entertainment) are two sectors known to have illogical business practices and entrenched interests. The internet is still trying to disrupt these sectors, Amazon would love to take your credit card number but they have to operate on what is possible and choose their fights wisely.

Secondly, US is the trend-setter in many things internet, that may be coming to an end but companies would want to try new things in a market they have most comfort before expanding out.

I don't understand why you have been down-voted so much for this comment. I too feel the pain (living in Canada) and I love my Kindle. I wish Amazon showed more support internationally, or at least to the neighbours in the north.

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