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Kindle Unlimited Funding Reaches New Peak in January 2016 as the Per-Page Payment Drops

3734200307_95934b3f4c_bAmazon delivered the first blow in a one-two punch on the future of subscription ebooks on Monday. (The second blow is coming Tuesday.)

Amazon announced on Monday that the retroactive funding pool for Kindle Unlimited totaled $15 million for January 2016, up from $13.5 million in December and almost double the $8.5 million paid out in January 2015.

More people than ever are using the service, which helps explain why the KENP per-page rate dropped to $0.00411 per page in the United States last month, down 11% from the December 2015 rate. That’s a huge change for just one month.

This is both the largest funding pool, and the lowest per-page rate, since Amazon switched to the new plan in July 2015, and while the news is disappointing it still makes a lot of sense.

Amazon sold a "record" number of Fire tablets and other devices this holiday season, and all those devices came bundled with a free trial month of Kindle Unlimited. The retailer also bundled Kindle Unlimited subscriptions during a few of their promotions, and discounted it a couple times last fall.

And with more reading devices activated on Christmas day than any other day of the year, it would make sense that KU usage would reach a new high in January (this is also why there is usually a post-Christmas surge in ebook sales).

While the per-page rate has dropped ever since Amazon switched over to the new system in July, there could be a light around the corner. Remember, Amazon is shaking up the way Kindle Unlimited works starting next month, when they switch over to the new KENP 2.0. The new system counts page sizes a different way. Some authors have reported that the page counts for their books went up, while others reported a drop.

We’re still waiting to see whether authors will come out ahead, obviously, but if the per-page rate drops too much then authors and publishers will need to ask themselves if they can do better outside of Kindle Unlimited than they can inside.


That is not an easy question to answer, and the answer will vary from one publisher/author to the next and even from one title to the next. And while each borrow page read in Kindle Unlimited does count towards a title’s rank in the Kindle Store (thus boosting sales indirectly), publishers and authors should always ask whether they can make more by adopting a wider strategy and selling in other ebookstores.

And after tomorrow’s news, authors and publishers are going to have to ask themselves whether the whole idea of subscription ebooks has a future at all.

P.S. Here are the pages read payouts for a handful of countries:

  • United States: $0.00411 per page (USD). That’s a drop of 11% from December’s payment of $0.00461.
  • United Kingdom: £0.00262 per page (GBP). That’s also a drop of 14% from December’s £0.00306.
  • Canada: $0.00476 per page (CAD).
  • Spain: €0.00408 per page (Euro).
  • India: ?0.1008 per page (INR). That’s nearly identical to December.

P.P.S. Here’s a list of the monthly funding pools.

  • May 2014: $1.2 million
  • June 2014: $1.2 million
  • July: $2.5 million (Kindle Unlimited launches early in the month)
  • August: $4.7 million
  • September: $5 million
  • October: $5.5 million
  • November 2014: $6.5 million
  • December 2014: $7.25 million
  • January 2015 – $8.5 million
  • February 2015: $8 million
  • March 2015: $9.3 million
  • April 2015: $9.8 million
  • May 2015: $10.8 million
  • June 2015: $11.3 million
  • July 2015: $11.5 million
  • August 2015: $11.8 million
  • September 2015: $12 million
  • October 2015: $12.4 million
  • November 2015: $12.7 million
  • December 2015: $13.5 million
  • January 2016: $15 million

Chris McMullen

images by ElsieJorge Franganillo

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Greg Strandberg February 16, 2016 um 2:10 am

I think you said it when you mention each author/publisher needs to find their own course.

Is the bump in Top 100 chart visibility enough to forgo selling at iTunes and B&N?

Is the pages read income enough to forgo building an audience outside of Amazon’s world?

Will your books get enough pages read income to justify staying in or will you continuously sell yourself short…perhaps not even knowing it?

3 months is the length of time you have to experiment with, at a minimum. If you have a few books, it might be best to make a plan. I’ve done so with several books, going back and forth between Amazon and D2D.

This might be a good strategy for you as well, seeing what works and what doesn’t.

William Ockham February 16, 2016 um 4:15 am

Did you mean to say that each KU download affects sales rank? Because that’s how it works. Page reads determine payment.

Nate Hoffelder February 16, 2016 um 7:12 am

Yes. My goof.

Frans Van Wyk February 16, 2016 um 4:35 am

For some non-fiction books it definitely makes no sense at all. If somebody reads only to page 20 in your book the chances are very high that they found what they were looking for, not that the book is bad. That will usually be not true for fiction.

Nate Hoffelder February 16, 2016 um 8:02 am

I think that KU could make more sense for non-fiction than fiction.

I’d say the larger issue with non-fiction is less KU than Google Books and websites. There are many ways for readers to get info for free. KU might not pay a lot but it’s better than nothing.

Cómo publicar un libro en Amazon – techleo February 16, 2016 um 6:54 am

[…] que hayan leído por primera vez quienes eligiesen sus ebooks dentro de estos dos servicios. Datos: en enero de 2016 cada página leída en España se pagó a 0,00408 euros, en Reino Unido a […]

fjtorres February 16, 2016 um 7:41 am

Sounds like they’re on track to $200M in payouts for the calendar year.
That’s the equivalent of 100M sales (at~$3).

That is a pretty big channel all by itself.

Daniel Vian February 16, 2016 um 9:36 am

And what is "tomorrow’s news" (the "second" blow}????

Nate Hoffelder February 16, 2016 um 10:13 am

It’s embargoed until 2pm eastern.

fjtorres February 16, 2016 um 11:05 am

Audible Unlimited, probably…
Or the new audio service.

Chris Meadows, Editor of Teleread February 16, 2016 um 1:11 pm

No, it’s not something to do with Amazon directly. Wait and see. (TeleRead will be covering it too.)

Scribd will change its subscription service from unlimited to semi-unlimited – TeleRead News: E-books, publishing, tech and beyond February 16, 2016 um 2:00 pm

[…] able to start the race at a considerable advantage for its own “Kindle Unlimited” service. But as Nate Hoffelder reports on The Digital Reader, Amazon itself is changing up the way it pays for its own unlimited subscription reads, even as its […]

Daniel Vian February 16, 2016 um 2:06 pm

So? It’s now 2:07 pm EST.

Chris Meadows, Editor of Teleread February 16, 2016 um 2:09 pm

Looks like Nate hasn’t gotten his article up yet. So here’s mine. 🙂

Nate Hoffelder February 16, 2016 um 2:14 pm

I was busy applying for jobs.

SteveHut February 16, 2016 um 2:14 pm

Gulp! Maybe a new lower cost Audible subscription tier (Whisper sync pricing is already too low as it is..)
Or… maybe a Smashwords Unlimited subscription..?

SteveHut February 16, 2016 um 2:17 pm

Phew…its just Scribd starting to show symptoms of its terminal illness. 1 more year tops is my prediction, especially after this new consumption limitation.

Chris Meadows, Editor of Teleread February 16, 2016 um 2:23 pm

Well, if you listen to the CEO, it’s not an actual limitation for 97% of subscribers. But we’ll see.

fjtorres February 16, 2016 um 5:15 pm

Hmm, KU is racking up 100,000 ebook-equivalent reads a day or 3 million a month.
If they too average 3 books, then KU would be running a million subscribers, 10 million a month in revenue, and be losing 5 million a month–60m a year. But for Amazon, KU generates added sales and draws readers to the platform. And $60M a year in customer-acquisition to a $2B-plus a year platform is cheap.

Size has its benefits.

Rasputin February 17, 2016 um 9:43 am

So there is a bigger funding pool, more KU readers but authors are earning less? Did I get that right?

Nate Hoffelder February 17, 2016 um 9:56 am

On a per-page level, yes.

Kindle Unlimited Funding Dips in February 2016 as the Per-Page Payment Increases | The Digital Reader March 16, 2016 um 10:42 am

[…] funding pool for February 2016 totaled $14 million, down from the $15 million (plus bonuses) paid out in January. (While the drop in the total funding may surprise some, I would remind you that we […]

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