Consolidating audio books
But for ebooks, Kindle Unlimited needed a two-tier approach.
One royalty model for mainstream publishers and another for small fry indies with no collective clout.
It was printed books on a screen, not remotely exploring digital’s potential, and at worst a small threat to bricks and mortar retailers.
Sure self-publishers could earn a notional 70% royalty, and that sector bloomed and boomed, but never enough to seriously challenge the existing order, even if some seemed to think otherwise in those heady days of 2010-13 when some seriously believed self-publishers would inherit the Earth. Big Pub learned it could contain the ebook beast it had fed and nurtured by the simple expedient of keeping ebook prices at a level that would not cannibalise print sales.
One reason is , and at the heart of why so many indies are willing to embrace Kindle Unlimited.
It presents no threat to Amazon or to the established order.
KU2, as it became known, paid out using a controversial model that not only paid indie authors from a “pot” by the number of pages turned, but only told them how much they’d get paid after the event. For its handful of mainstream publishing participants Amazon pays by the standard model.
Amazon further insisted indie authors place their titles exclusively with Amazon to participate. Lately Storytel has moved to the consumption model for publisher remuneration (minus the exclusivity demands for weaker players), but that’s not the real story here.
Publishers would be paid a standard royalty when a certain point in a subscription ebook was read.
It was never going to be a sustainable model if offering unlimited consumption, but unlimited consumption was what consumers wanted. Amazon studiously avoided this model for audio, with its one credit subscription service Audible setting a sustainable and profitable model that publishers were comfortable with.