Kindle Unlimited Subscribers Spend More on Books

Late last month I asked whether consumers were buying fewer books after switching to subscription ebook services like Scribd, Oyster, or Kindle Unlimited, and according to the latest info from Neilsen Book the answer is No.

A few details from the latest edition of the Nielsen Books & Consumers Market Research crossed my desk today, and this report shows that the subscribers in the UK and the US spend more on average than non-subscribers.

The data I have shows that about 4% of book buyers have subscribed to one of the standalone ebook subscription services. Curiously, when you add in the Amazon Prime members that figure jumps to 10%. It also shows that subscribers tend to be male (59%) while book buyers tended to be female:

RTEmagicC_nielsen2.jpg[1]When it comes to age, subscribers to any of the leading services tended to fall into the 18 to 44 years old age groups, while the older age groups were better represented among book buyers.


But no matter the age, the survey group was spending a lot of money on books. As a group, subscribers had a monthly budget of $58, while non-subscribers had a budget of $34. The survey also showed that subscription customers were willing to pay more for their subscription than the standard flat rate of $9 to $10. Men were willing to pay an average of $17, while women would pay $14.


That’s an interesting survey report, isn’t it?

I don’t have all of the data, but one of my takeaways from what we do have is that publishers are right to be concerned about making their ebooks available through Oyster or Scribd.

In a trend which mirrors the rise of ebooks, the ebook subscriber base tends to be concentrated among the most profligate book buyers.  If more publishers signed up then those book buyers would have fewer reasons to buy outside of the service, and they could end up spending less money on books.

Jonathan Nowell, the President of Nielsen Book, laid out in his talk the week before last how print sales have declined with the rise of ebooks over the past 5 years, and I’m sure that’s not a trend which publishers want to see repeated.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. anothername27 January, 2015

    But who’s getting the money? Amazon or the content-producers? That’s like saying the economy is doing great, but everyone could be working in Walmart.

  2. Rob Siders27 January, 2015

    But who’s getting the money? Amazon or the content-producers?

    I’m not sure I understand this question. It’s not as if sales occurring outside the subscription service are somehow exempt from selling agreements between the store and publishers.

    If more publishers signed up then those book buyers would have fewer reasons to buy outside of the service, and they could end up spending less money on books.

    Would this necessarily follow? It seems that publishers are being somewhat strategic with the amount of content they’re making available… releasing just the first book in a mystery series, for example. If someone wants to read others in the series, then their options are 1. hope the publisher includes the other editions eventually or 2. buy them. Based on how the survey describes these readers, my guess is they’re inclined to buy.

  3. […] Nate Hoffelder has done a bit of analysis and saw that subscribers spent about $58 per month on books while non-subscribers spent $34. Gender is almost split down the middle with women edging out men in subscription sign-ups. […]

  4. Mackay Bell27 January, 2015

    Given the history big publishers have in responding to changes in the marketplace, the fact that they are favoring Oyster and Scribd over KU probably means they’re going to shoot themselves in the foot again. Let’s review:

    1. Big publishers favor chain bookstores like Borders over Independent bookstores. Independent bookstores are hurt, Borders goes out of business.

    2. BP force Amazon to put DRM on ebooks, giving Amazon huge leverage over the market and their pricing.

    3. BP illegally conspire to raise prices on ebooks with Apple to stop Amazon. DOJ steps in, publishers forced to back down, iBooks store doesn’t compete with Amazon and now Apple is the only company that can lower prices on ebooks.

    4. BP favor Scribd and Oyster… ?

    I predict they will end up hurting their own Amazon sales (while encouraging Indy sales), and both of those companies will flounder and probably die, leaving Amazon in charge of the subscription market.

    1. fjtorres27 January, 2015

      Well, if those Nielsen numbers are to be believed, subscriptions are bigger than Kobo and Amazon has 60% of the subscription ebook market. With an Indie-heavy catalog and with a sustainability pay out model.

      That suggests subscriptions aren’t going to dent Amazon’s market clout any more than the conspiracy did. On the other hand, the ebook retailers without a subscription sideline just might feel a pinch if the subscriptions endure. We may indeed see yet more victims of BPH friendly fire.

  5. Jim Self28 January, 2015

    Well, more publishers will get into sub services if there’s more money to be made in them. Right now, there isn’t a lot unless you game the system (and plugs for those holes are probably on the way.) Right now the only relevant factors from an author/publisher perspective are visibility and how being in KU affects rankings (so, visibility again.) There isn’t much money to be made for most people.

    1. fjtorres28 January, 2015

      The BPHs have in the past eagerly and knowingly jumped into ventures that guaranteed less money to them and their authors so they just might do it again.
      At least subscriptions, so far, don’t seem to break federal law. 😉

      Contract law and fiduciary responsibility is another story, yet to be settled.

  6. Amazon Prime Members Spending Big | Digital Book World28 January, 2015

    […] Subscription Ebook Customers Spend Big, Too (Ink, Bits & Pixels) Recent Nielsen Book data indicates customers of the leading ebook subscription services like Kindle Unlimited, Oyster and Scribd are among the biggest spenders in the book market, both within and outside those platforms. […]

  7. Nielsen Shows Kindle Unlimited Users Buy More Books | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing28 January, 2015

    […] to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels and thanks to Joshua for the […]

  8. Cass Wilder28 January, 2015

    I know as a Prime member, my spending has definitely increased on Amazon since becoming a member, so it makes sense that the spending may increase with Kindle Unlimited.

    However, as an author it has changed the landscape enough for me to reconsider how I write, publish and market my books, at least in the short term.

    The bottom line I think is you have to be willing to adapt to the market if you want to continue to play in this indie-publishing game.

  9. […] Quelle: The Digital Reader […]

  10. […] of other books – more so than people who don’t use these services, the Digital Reader reported. Apparently, 4% of those who buy books already subscribe; add in Amazon Prime members and that […]

  11. […] New Data from Nielsen Book Shows Kindle Unlimited Subscribers Spend More on Books (The Digital Reader) […]

  12. […] thing gleaned from the Nielsen report (😉 is the age of subscribers. It’s a fairly large gap, but the majority of subscribers (about 79 […]

  13. […] services would be reported as being from royalties and not sales. When you consider that about 4% of book buyers are using at least one of these services -10% if you include Amazon prime subscribers- a 2.4% dip in sales overall seems pretty […]

  14. […] 2015 Nielsen Books and Consumers report does shed some light on ebook subscribers in the UK and US. The majority were found to be male […]


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