Friday, August 21, 2015

FOR KINDLE READERS: It is not just the words, it's the pages that count!

The Four-One-One on KOLL & Kindle Unlimited
By Judith Cullen
Image courtesy of Jeri Lloyd and her trusty devices - Thanks!

Do you own a Kindle or use a free Kindle app on your computer?  Do you download electronic books from Amazon?  If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, here are some important tidbits of information, and we all know that information is golden.  You might already know this, though information like this tends to come in very small print on the users end.

Amazon has two great programs for Kindle users: the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) and the new Kindle Unlimited.  Authors/Publishers are allowed to make their titles available through these programs based on options they are given when they upload their books and manage the title's settings for distribution.

KOLL is a benefit of Amazon Prime membership and allows you to choose from over 800,000 books, which you borrow for free with no due date.  This program only works for people who have Kindle devices.  So if you have downloaded a Kindle Reader program onto a PC, you are out of luck.

For a set monthly subscription fee, Kindle Unlimited lets you explore over a million titles on any device that has a Kindle Reader app program.  Additionally, Kindle Listening makes titles for which there are both text and audio formats available wherever you see “Kindle Unlimited with Narration” listed.

These are terrific programs for authors who are self-published, like myself, and still way down on the literary food chain.  People are able to access your work for even less than it would cost them to buy it.  Even better, Amazon pays an “honorarium” for want of a better phrase, to authors when their titles are accessed on these programs.  So for me, it is not giving my work away. 

When I first became involved with these programs, there was a pot of money that Amazon made available monthly to pay authors whose titles were borrowed during that particular month.  I cannot say for certain, but it might have been as simple as saying “We have X amount of money and X number of titles were accessed, divide one by the other and that’s how much each author gets for each time their work was picked by a customer.”

Of course some authors objected to this, and you might understand why.  To give you a historical comparison, it would mean that Robert Louis Stevenson would have been paid the same amount for one use of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (25,583 w) as Leo Tolstoy would have been for Anna Karenina (349,736 w).  While the example might be considered extreme, it also still might strike many as unfair.  Longer work should cost more, and we see this reflected in the retail prices of books for purchase in all formats.  

I am not sure how you would equate this to a lending situation.  After all, it’s not like your public library charges you different overdue fines for War and Peace (560,000 w) than it would for The House at Pooh Corner (approx 70,000 w). That analogy is not totally apt. In most cases the author has already received royalties for that single volume, and ebooks have a near endless copy capacity.

It is a thorny problem Amazon took on. In this brave new terrain of publishing in the 21st century, new ideas have to be tried and new processes explored.  The solution that they did hit upon, for good or ill, has everything to do with the size of the book and, moreover, the amount of your book the borrower reads. Yes!  If you participate in either of these programs, they know how much of The Kite Runner or Fifty Shades of Grey that you actually read (or rather how many pages you have accessed through your application/device).

As of July 1st this year, authors are now paid a percentage of the monthly “pot” of money based on the number of pages that are read from electronic copies of the books that are borrowed. Since ebooks are generally submitted for publishing to Amazon in a standard format, including font size and page layout, the only thing that makes any difference in terms of words versus pages is the presence of illustrations.  To go back to the first example: Stevenson gets more if you read his book all the way through to the bitter end than Leo does if you stall out before the miserable, conflicted Anna bumps into the dashing Count Vronsky. 

So, the good news is that you can participate in these terrific programs and still be supportive of self-published authors.  The inauguration of the Kindle Unlimited program even means that e-book borrowing is no longer limited to just Kindle devices. It’s is a great deal for everyone, actually.  But please remember, if you really want to be supportive of the "little guy": The Pages Count!


NOTE:  All my titles except Trio Tales 2013 are available for Kindle and should be available through both KOLL and Kindle Unlimited.

NO, Amazon did not pay me to write this article.  I am an author.  It is in my best interest to "move" books, whether by purchase or loan.

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