Starting in July 2015, Amazon paid publishers and authors who have books in Kindle Unlimited based on the number of pages read. The changeover was a response to authors who were gaming the system by releasing short works and were being paid at the same rate as Amazon was paying for novels.
This system worked great right up until scammers figured out that Amazon cannot track the actual pages being read. Instead, Amazon tracks a reader's location in an ebook as a distance from the beginning of the ebook.
Scammers are taking advantage of that limitation by padding their titles out with filler text like multiple machine translations and random gibberish, and then tricking readers into clicking through to the end of the ebook.
Amazon records that jump to the end of the ebook as the ebook having been read, and pays the scammer (up to approximately $14, based on the page count cap and the current payout rate).
No one knows the scale of the problem, but many have concluded that authors and publishers are being harmed by the scam. From The Guardian:
All the authors who choose to make their books available on Kindle Unlimited are paid, not a flat rate for each page read, but a portion of funding pool that Amazon provides. The size of the pool fluctuates, from $11m last summer to $15m last month, but it’s set by Amazon. No matter how successful the scammers are, Amazon doesn’t lose any more or less than the $15m it sets aside to pay Kindle Unlimited authors.
But other authors do lose out. The same pool goes to pay more “pages read”, reducing the fee for each individual page read.
That's one way to look at it, but can you really prove that is the case?
In retrospect, there is evidence that Amazon has known about this problem since January, and has been changing the rules and adjusting the Kindle Unlimited pool to compensate for the scams.
Amazon demonstrated that they were aware of this scam in January, and we can see that in the changes Amazon made to the Kindle Unlimited rules on 1 February.
The retailer adjusted how they measured a page size, and they also set a hard limit on the number of pages paid for a given title. That cap of 3,000 pages was ridiculously large (most novels run to 300 to 400 pages in Amazon's system) and was likely intended as a response to the scammers.
And ever since January, the per-page rate has held steady, suggesting that Amazon may be increasing the funding to compensate for the scammers.
Note: The monthly funding pools were announced after the fact.
- In January 2016, the funding pool totaled $15 million and the per-page rate $0.00411.
- In February 2016, the funding pool dipped to $14 million while the per-page rate rose to $0.00479.
- In March 2016, the funding pool rose again to $14.9 million as the per-page rate dipped to $0.00478.
The per-page rate has not fallen through the floor like The Guardian assumed would happen as the scammers cheated their way to higher revenues.
So unless you are going to argue that the rate would be higher in the absence of the scammers, we have to consider whether Amazon is aware of this problem, and is keeping authors from being harmed.
What do you think?
image by seanmfreese