Amazon might once again be preparing to upset the fragile balance in the ebook publishing and distribution realm. An Amazon Kindle Unlimited web page was mistakenly published and promptly taken down, but not before it was saved for posterity by Google’s almighty cache, giving us a sneak peek at what could be the retailer’s “read all you can” service, for only $9.99 a month.
Amazon is hardly the only one in this type of market. Entitle has the same $9.99 price tag but limits access to only two books a month, with one important caveat: those books remain in your catalog even if you stop paying your dues. Oyster, which landed on Android just last month offers unlimited access for $9.95, but it can only boast of around 200,000 or more titles on its virtual shelves. Neither has the industry clout of Amazon, whose leaked page boasted more than 600,000 in its inventory.
The retailer isn’t a stranger to such a business model either, having tested the waters with its Kindle Owners Lending Library in 2011. That said, the question now is how Amazon will conduct this new business venture. The absence of the “Prime” brand hints that this could be a service open to a wider audience beyond Amazon’s exclusive club, but it could still apply the same rules it does with Amazon Prime Videos. Cease paying for the subscription and you lose access to all books you’ve previous downloaded, even when you’re in the middle of that chilling suspense novel. Practically, you will be renting books and not buying them, a distinction that might be lost on those used to getting their ebook fix from Amazon.
That potential confusion, and all other reservations about the whole ebook trade, might be a reason for traditional publisher to once again stay clear of the Amazon machine. Publishers have alway been wary of jumping into this digital trend, a problem that even Entitle and Oyster encounter in their own markets. 600,000 is hardly even a fraction of Amazon’s entire selection and it will be interesting to see who will get on board once this Kindle Unlimited service takes off. Now to wait and see when, and how, it will actually take off.