Amazon Unlimited: Good for Now, No Promises Later

So I self published a book on Amazon. Nothing special, just a short history of the Cimbrian War. More to the point, I was interested in Amazon’s book lending and Amazon Unlimited. With those, people who have various level of Amazon subscriptions can get books without having to pay. Amazon, in turn, fills up the KDP Select Global Fund (by the way, KDP Select means you only publish on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing). The Fund is then split up at the end of the month, divided among the authors according to how much the author charges per book.  So get this, Amazon actually pays slightly more than the list price.

To break it down: my short history book costs $2.99 and I get 70% of that on a normal sale.  Last month, with Amazon Unlimited, they paid me MORE THAN $3 for each copy. Instead of making the normal $2.04 (with a .07 delivery fee, of course, because that Whispernet doesn’t come free), I made $3.08.

But here the thing. Amazon makes NO PROMISE to continue to fill up the KDP Select Fund. None. Here’s what Amazon has to say about that in their FAQ:

“The size of the global fund is calculated to make participation in KDP Select a compelling option for authors and publishers. We will review the size of the fund each month to consider adjustments.”

They’re trying to lure people into using this. Say it works. Say everybody signs on. We will be beholden to whatever amount Amazon decides to put into the fund. Sure, they’re giving me a good deal now, but looking to the future, this is will probably screw over writers. The day they have to be accountable for how much they’re spending is the day they’ll short the fund. Right now is everything is peachy, plenty of cash, but what happens when money is tight?

Amazon’s business strategy so far is, make TONS of cash and then blow it trying to lure more customers in. That’s why they took the loss on Kindles when it first came out. And it worked! But come on, we know how this works. A business conquers with cheap prices and good deals until they have a relative monopoly, then they can change prices on a whim.

There’s no reason for Amazon to continue paying me $3.08 for every copy they give away. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but this seems pretty underhanded to me. Good for now, but later?

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