Over the weekend I explained how Amazon was using the payment terms in KDP Select to manipulate the supply of ebooks in Kindle Unlimited, and damned if they didn't just do it again.
Amazon has just announced that starting 1 July, they will no longer be paying authors based on the number of times an ebook has been loaned and read in Kindle Unlimited. Instead, the new payment term will be based on the number of pages read.
Ever since KDP Select launched with the Kindle Owner's Lending Library in late 2011, Amazon has counted the number of ebooks which were loaned and read and used that number to divvy up a pool of money. The pool started small, but it has since grown to exceed $10 million in May 2015, and is expected to pass $11 million in July 2015.
That $11 million is going to be divided based the number of pages read, and not the count of whole books.
- This means, for example, that longer ebooks are going to be worth more than shorter ebooks (assuming that they're read cover to cover).
- It also means that quality matters more now; if a reader loses interest a third of the way in then the author will not be paid for the rest of the book.
- And last but not least, this change might make it worthwhile for authors to submit longer novels once again.
Amazon explained that they made this change in response to authors who had been telling Amazon that "paying the same for all books regardless of length may not provide a strong enough alignment between the interests of authors and readers".
That is true.
Hugh Howey is one of the authors who had been pushing for the new terms. He wrote today that the change is "one many of us have been clamoring for and even expecting." He added, "If anything, I’m surprised it took this long."
Later in his post he writes:
I have a feeling we’ll see some knee-jerk reactions from authors without considering these pros and cons. Shorter works still make a lot of sense in KU. It’s hard to justify selling short stories for more than a dollar, and you only make 35 cents on that dollar under KDP terms. In KU, a 20 page story might earn just as much as a sale. What we should celebrate is that short stories will no longer earn the same amount as a novel, especially since the 10% threshold was much easier to reach on a short story. That system just wasn’t fair. The new system is a vast improvement.
As I explained over the weekend, the old payment terms had been encouraging authors to submit short works to KDP Select. A short ebook was worth the same as a long one, so authors were writing to suit the market.
And now they're going to have to write to suit a different market. While it is too early to say how this will impact authors, I do think that readers will benefit. They'll be able to enjoy longer stretches of stories without having to switch between one ebook and the next.