Kindle Unlimited a Victim of Its Own Success in Japan?

247269298_a4de1e1041_oAmazon 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.

The Japan Times and the WSJ each cite unnamed sources which say that Kindle Unlimited was a victim of its own success.

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.

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About Nate Hoffelder (11467 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

1 Comment on Kindle Unlimited a Victim of Its Own Success in Japan?

  1. If there indeed is a minimum time period of a year included in the contracts, it’s time for the lawyers and the courts. Seems like a pretty straightforward case.

    But as usual, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If all we see is whining by the publishers, they stand exposed for their anti-Amazon FUD.

    Amazon aren’t stupid, and pending further developments, I’m inclined to believe that they wouldn’t break a (supposedly) straightforward contract as that.

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