Amazon still won't comment on yesterday's story about it pulling titles from Kindle Unlimited in Japan, but the usual anonymous sources aren't so reticent.
While most of the ebooks in Kindle Unlimited earn a royalty based on the number of pages read, Amazon sometimes offers sweetheart deals to publishers which have popular titles. The Harry Potter series was added to Kindle Unlimited under one such sweetheart deal, and so were other titles including ebooks published by Kodansha in Japan.
As part of a deal to attract customers to the service, Amazon made contracts with Japanese publishers to pay them a premium through the end of this year when a customer read at least 10% of a book or other content, publishing company officials said. The goal was to get publishers to offer popular content.
It worked—too well. Since it’s easy for readers to get through the first 10% of a magazine or photo book in just a few minutes, Amazon quickly found itself on the hook for large payments, a person at one publisher said.
A person at another publisher said Amazon made an overture for talks in September saying it had hit its budget limit for the payments to publishers and wanted revisions to its contract with the publisher.
But rather than negotiate, Amazon pulled Kodansha's titles.
While we only have the statement of one publisher and a few anonymous sources, this is a plausible story. And setting the inevitable anti-Amazon FUD aside, it is also a relatively benign story.
Amazon found that the ebooks were costing it too much under the contract with publishers so it pulled the titles from Kindle Unlimited. That type of activity is so run-of-the-mill that you would have to start with the assumption that Amazon is evil before you could spin it into a sinister act.
Of course, that isn't going to stop anyone from trying.
image by jo.in.pink