Amazon Kindle Unlimited in Oz – worth it?

kindle-unlimitedAmazon has announced the launch of Kindle Unlimited in Australia, so I did some digging into whether it is worth getting. Short answer is: probably not.

Now I should start out by saying that two years after Amazon lunched locally I still use the US site. My reasoning hasn’t changed in those two years – basically I have no faith in them not dumping an Australia tax on the local site. That, however, doesn’t impact on the analysis of Kindle Unlimited.

Unlimited gives you access to books and magazines on a subscription basis. For A$13.99 you get access to over 1 million books and a range of magazines. The deal sounds awesome; especially if, as I do, you buy a lot of books. My family buys something like ten Kindle books a month on average and so a subscription would be a significant saving. Except it isn’t.

The simple catch is the type of books included in the over 1 million titles. Newly released books aren’t there, nor are books from the major mainstream publishers who are keen to extract their individual pound of flesh: Penguin Random House, Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins and so on are all missing. The result is more akin to an older-style library offering, albeit with more depth.

unlimited-book-coverThat depth, however, largely comes from self-published books. They make up the lion’s-share of the offering. While not all self-published books are bad, there are many which are not worth pursuing and over a million of them in one place creates a very high signal-to-noise ratio.  I just did a quick search and the first page of Unlimited books was dominated by (a) erotica, even with search settings excluding adult items, and (b) books with covers that look like they were designed by 14-year-olds (see Busted – “Brace yourself for nine swift stories of hard kicks and perverse punches! ” – which was in the top five listings).

Then there’s the 250,000 books in languages other than English.

Now, if you’re prepared to forego the more recent books and best-sellers, ignore the foreign-language books, and sift the self-published stuff, the A$13,99 still gives the voracious reader access to a lot of reading material. But the number of people who churn through books at a rate that makes that makes those sacrifices worthwhile is not so huge.

The other issue is of course that you don’t own the book – you only have access while you subscribe. While you don’t end up owning the books, that’s a paradigm that is shifting for many people as the advent of Netflix and other subscription services comes to dominate people’s mindset. So I’m not sure how big a deal that really is any more.

Overall I’d say Kindle Unlimited is not worth it. But right now they have a 30-day free trial going so the easy thing to do would be to try it out for yourself.

Oh, and on the Australia tax – yes there is one with the local offering. Kindle Unlimited in the USA costs about a dollar less a month – or $12 less a year. Not an enormous difference, but a ten percent premium is definitely a difference.

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