Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Is "Kindle Unlimited" for you?

Amazon recently announced its new "Kindle Unlimited" plan: for $9.99 per month, you can have access to over 600,000 eBooks and 2,000 audiobooks. Wow! Sounds amazing! But let's look closer at this model:

For $120/year, you'd have to read at least 16 eBooks in those 12 months in order to break even. OK, fine. Many avid readers achieve that goal easily. (Reminder: your public library ebook downloads are always FREE. Yes, you may have to be on a waiting list for the popular title you want. And yes, the download process has more steps than simply pushing the "Buy" button on Amazon.)

Also keep in mind that this "glorified library card" (as HuffPost calls it) does not include any titles published by the so-called "Big 5" publishers: Simon & Schuster, Harpercollins, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, and Hachette. So that leaves most of your best-sellers and popular titles unavailable in Amazon's inventory. (Reminder: your public library does offer all publishers.) It's hard to estimate but I'd say at least 60% of the print titles we buy for our library are from these five publishers or one of their subsidiary imprints.

One article estimated that as much as 31% of Kindle Unlimited's large catalog are works by self-published authors. A critic of Kindle Unlimited has surmised that this new Amazon  service is just a way to monetize their aging backlist and self-published content. Now, indie authors are strongly endorsed in public libraries: many are good writers with loyal fan bases for their works, but a lot of self-published stuff online is truly just dreck: feeble plots, substandard sentences, terrible grammar and misspellings. (Reminder: your public library vets titles for quality and demand before purchasing.)

Coming clean here, your FREE public library card is not really free either. In Dover, the library is 1.2% of the city budget. So take 1.2% of your property tax bill and that's what you pay to support the public library...probably a bit less than $100/year for the average household. And thank you for your support, by the way!

Kindle Unlimited is offering a free 30-day trial to new subscribers, so go ahead and take a look. Search for the titles you really want to read and see if they're there. (Probably not.) Then search the DPL's catalog http://librarycatalog.dover.nh.gov/ and compare! Amazon will win on convenience and rapid delivery for sure, but your public library has the items you really want to read. We'd love to hear from Kindle Unlimited subscribers locally...tell us your impressions of the service and why you like it. I also hope that we'll hear, "...but of course we still come to the library."

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