As almost everyone knows by now, Amazon is now offering a revamped version of it's all-you-can-read buffet known as Kindle Unlimited. Affectionately known as KU 2.0, this new offering is the same on the reader side of the equation ($9.99/month), but represents what could be a seismic shift on the author side.
I previously wrote about how the original KU offered tons of opportunities for unscrupulous behavior. However, for the purposes of this article, I will disregard the presence of scammers, con artists and the like and assume that every author with books in KU is honest.
Basically, in its first iteration, authors in the program were paid whenever someone borrowed their books and read and least 10% of them. Moreover, it didn't matter if your book was 10 pages in length or 10,000 - each borrow paid the same. In other words, every author got the same buck-thirty (or whatever the monthly payout was) for each borrow, regardless of book length. Great if you're the guy cranking out Penny Dreadfuls every couple of days; not so great if you're trying to be the next James Michener.
However, under KU 2.0, authors won't simply be paid by the number of borrows but rather by the number of pages read. In my book (no pun intended), that's a much fairer system. For instance, an author with books in KU 1.0 priced at $3.99 or more would really take a beating in terms of earnings each time a book was borrowed. Now, being paid by the page, they at least have a chance of earning as much (or maybe even more) with a borrow. In short, I think this is one that Amazon got right (or at least is headed in the right direction).
That said, let's not make the mistake of assuming that Amazon is instituting this change so that writers can be more fairly compensated. Amazon is in the business of making money for Amazon; if authors just happen to benefit, that's merely a side effect. The whole point of KU, of course, is to put the squeeze on similar services, liked Scribd and Oyster. KU 2.0 seems geared to attract many authors who may have stayed away from the program or opted out because the payout was so low - mostly those who write longer works as opposed to shorter ones. And of course, the requirement for exclusivity - meaning that a book in KU can't be offered on another platform (e.g., Barnes & Noble) - would mean that authors opting in would have to remove their titles from other sales channels. (Needless to say, the exclusivity requirement is overkill; Amazon is already the 800-pound gorilla in terms of book sales, so there's no need to crush all life out of the competition. Besides, does Amazon really want to run the risk of there being an antitrust case down the road, with the company ultimately getting broken up like Ma Bell and Standard Oil?)
But back to the subject at hand, I would interpret Kindle 2.0 as a good thing. (I know that many will disagree with that assessment, but it just strikes me as a more equitable system.) As to whether it will make me put my books back into KU, the jury is still out on that. I'm really not a fan of exclusivity, and I like having my books available on as many platforms as possible. (Moreover, if their goal is to make money, I think Amazon will earn a lot more of it by dropping the exclusivity requirement.) So I'm still opting out for now, but maybe KU 3.0 will bait the hook with a more attractive lure.