In what’s turning out to be quite the week for internet-based publishing innovations, Amazon has brought its Kindle Unlimited service to British shores. The subscription service, billed as a literary equivalent to Netflix and Spotify, allows users unlimited access (as the name implies) to over 650,000 Kindle books and an extensive library of Audible audiobooks for £7.99 a month (at current exchange rates nearly £2 more, incidentally, than the $9.99 a month charged by the American service, which launched earlier this summer). Amazon is offering a free 30 day trial of the service to all those who sign up.
As with Netflix and Spotify, however, the illusion of unlimited choice is just that, hemmed in by what deals Amazon could and couldn’t make with publishers. In the ‘could make a deal’ column: titles from all eleven indies that make up the Independent Alliance (including Canongate, Faber, Granta and Constable & Robinson), Bloomsbury, Pottermore and all previously announced Kindle exclusives and Kindle Singles. In the ‘couldn’t make a deal’ column: seemingly every major UK publisher, none of whom appear to have signed up directly, for eminently understandable reasons – if they gave away unlimited access to their titles for less than a tenner a month, their revenues would likely take a severe hit (perhaps they’ve heeded the concerns of independent publishers in the US, who had similar issues when the service launched there).
However, and unsurprisingly, vice president at Kindle EU Jorrit Van der Meulen prefers to focus on the benefits to Kindle users, saying: ‘With Kindle Unlimited, you never have to think twice about what book you want to read or listen to. With unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of titles, Kindle Unlimited offers by far the simplest and most cost-effective way to explore and discover e-books and audiobooks together, and you can even switch from reading to listening without losing your place. Our US customers have shown us how much they love the opportunity to discover new authors and genres, and now we’re delighted to offer the same freedom to our customers in the UK.’