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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.

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anothername January 27, 2015 um 3:35 pm

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.

Rob Siders January 27, 2015 um 4:32 pm

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.

Nielsen Shows Kindle Unlimited Users Buy More Books | TechCrunch January 27, 2015 um 6:08 pm

[…] 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. […]

Mackay Bell January 27, 2015 um 6:12 pm

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.

fjtorres January 27, 2015 um 11:14 pm

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.

Jim Self January 28, 2015 um 1:24 am

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.

fjtorres January 28, 2015 um 11:02 am

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.

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[…] 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. […]

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Cass Wilder January 28, 2015 um 3:45 pm

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.

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[…] 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 […]

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Does Kindle Unlimited Increase or Decrease Book Buying? | February 24, 2015 um 11:48 am

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

Analysis: why ebook sales fell in 2015, and students prefer printed books • Wyld.Media February 12, 2016 um 8:53 am

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Who is buying and reading ebooks? – BookMachine May 19, 2017 um 2:49 pm

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