Amazon announced Friday the creation of a new subscription service for its e-book catalog. The new offering, known as Kindle Unlimited, gives subscribers access to 600,000 e-books for $9.99. Among the books that will be available to customers are The Hunger Games, the Harry Potter series and the Lord of the Rings series.
The subscription will also include access to audiobooks through Amazon's subsidiary, Audible.com. The service will be available through the Seattle-based company's Kindle devices, as well as through its Kindle reading apps for iOS and Android. Amazon is also offering a free 30-day trial to promote the launch. Authors participating in Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program will have their books automatically added to Unlimited.
Seamless Transition to Audio
The company announced the service after days of speculation following the accidental posting of a promotional video describing a subscription program on its site earlier this week. Russ Grandinetti, Amazon's senior vice president for Kindle, said in a statement that readers using Kindle Unlimited will have the ability to switch between e-book and audio versions of their books, allowing them to continue reading while otherwise occupied. "You can easily switch between reading and listening to a book, allowing the story to continue even when your eyes are busy," he said.
Amazon said the program would feature access to bestsellers, unlimited listening for books on Audible that have Whispersync technology, access to Kindle exclusives, and a three-month membership to Audible.
The online shopping site has primarily been focusing on expanding its Prime service recently. Amazon had announced plans for extended Sunday delivery, video streaming and grocery delivery for Prime members. Unlimited, on the other hand, will be available to any customer with a Kindle device or app. The service will only be available to customers in the United States to start.
Potential Pricing Problems
But the price point for the service may be too high for customers, said Jennifer Kent, a senior analyst with Parks Associates.
"Amazon's difficulty will be its pricing model," Kent told us. "We estimate that Amazon sells its e-books for an average price of $7.50 each, and most Kindle users only read one book per month. The potential market for this relatively expensive subscription service, then, might be too small to sustain the service."
Amazon will have competition from other services that already offer unlimited reading plans. Oyster and Scribd both offer similar plans, and have deals with major publishers such as HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Neither publisher is making its books available through Kindle Unlimited. Hachette, Macmillan and Penguin, which along with HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster represent the five largest publishers in the U.S., appear to also be withholding their books from the service.
Amazon has had difficulty cooperating with publishers, and recently engaged in a public fight with Hachette over the price of its e-books. Hachette accuses Amazon of delaying shipments of their books or listing them as unavailable as it tried to extract price concessions from the publisher. The advent of Kindle Unlimited may lead to further conflicts, as Amazon seeks to keep costs down in order to make Unlimited affordable.
Scribd's service is priced at $8.99 a month, and provides access to 400,000 books, while Oyster costs $9.95 a month for access to 500,000 books.