kindle unlimitedMy Kindle Unlimited subscription expires tomorrow, and I’m going to let it lapse, for now. I’m not letting it lapse because I don’t like it or don’t think it’s a great value. I’m letting it lapse because I still have eight months on my free-for-being-a-Smashwords-author Scribd subscription. Right now it doesn’t make sense to pay twice for comparable services. However, if you know how much I love Scribd, you’ll understand that I don’t say it lightly when I note that come May of next year, however, I’ll be revisiting which service I’m using.

If you don’t have the advantage of a lengthy free Scribd or Oyster subscription, however, you might want to take a serious look at Kindle Unlimited. It’s already got some big advantages over the other services, and if Amazon manages to sign up at least two of the Big Five publishers, the others may be in trouble.

I finished ten books in my two months with Unlimited and started but didn’t finish several more. That gave me a good look at how the service works and it’s advantages. Let’s look at the two big ones.

1. Kindle Unlimited books can be read on eInk Kindles

I know everyone keeps talking about the death of the dedicated ereader, but they aren’t dead yet, and if you are like me and love your eInk Kindle, Unlimited is great. None of the other services are accessible from an eInk device, and I think that’s their biggest weakness.

In a typical day, I read on my phone, a tablet and my Kindle, and, while my tablet does everything my Kindle does, I won’t give up my eInk reader. I estimate I read about 5% on my phone, 35-45% on my Kindle and the rest on one of my two tablets. That’s significant enough for me to seriously consider giving up Scribd next year (or paying for both).

“But what about content?” you ask. “Kindle Unlimited is mostly self-published stuff.” True, but that’s only part of the story.

First, consider the number of people who enjoy and read primarily self-published books. Unlimited is perfect for them.

Next, let’s consider that Unlimited also has books by Open Road Media, Kensington and the various Amazon imprints. Between Kindle Lending, Kindle First and now Unlimited, I’ve developed an appreciation for books published by Amazon. I discovered several new-to-me authors who are now on my “must read” list. Taking out the self-published books, there’s plenty available to keep someone busy reading for months, if not years.

With over 600,000 books to choose from, most readers will be able to find something. Oh, and think it’s too many books to wade through? I’ve had no problem keeping my Unlimited Wish List plenty full.

2. Some Unlimited books have an audio version

Before Unlimited, I didn’t get the whole Whispersync to audio books thing. I’m a fast reader, and I didn’t see the point of purchasing both audio and ebook when I might listen to, at most 10-15% of the audio book. With Unlimited, it’s included, and I’ve found I enjoy switching between listening and reading. I do wish there were more audio versions available, but I expect the number will increase over time, and when you consider the price of audiobooks, even listening to one a month, in addition to reading ebooks, makes Unlimited an excellent value.

Will Unlimited be the subscription service to rule them all? Maybe. Maybe not. But the last year with Scribd and now a couple of months with Unlimited tells me subscription services aren’t going away. They are just too good. Lots of people, myself included, have questions about the long-term sustainability of the current offerings, but, even if we are right to be concerned, someone will crack the formula to make one sustainable. Authors and publishers need to figure out a way to work with them.

Does this mean no one will ever buy books? No. I had coffee with a friend yesterday who said she still wants to buy books, to re-read later. However, even she acknowledged that certain types of books, like short, quick cozy mysteries, are books she will only read once. Borrowing them made sense to her. I think, at least for a while, borrowing and buying will co-exist, but I also think ebook subscription services are going to cut into book buying the same way Netflix has cut into DVD sales. Remember how I said earlier that I might keep both Unlimited and Scribd? Think I’ll be buying many books under that scenario?

Ignoring the problem isn’t going to make it go away, authors and publishers.

Avid readers, though, if you have an eInk Kindle, and you haven’t yet looked at Unlimited, you’re missing out.


  1. “subscription services aren’t going away. They are just too good” – exactly!

    As you say Juli, someone’ll crack the code to make this work, because people (readers) favor this model.

    I’m still only (as a reader) in Scribd, but will be adding KU later myself. Probably keep both.

    I had a small stash of bought books, and am almost caught up with that now.

    There are enough titles, esp from folk like Joe Konrath, and some how-to books, that interest me, that I’ll have both. There’s also more than enough books in Scribd not in KU that I’ll stay with them for a long long time.

    Great post, Juli 🙂

    • @Felipe, thanks! I’m also almost caught up on a stash of books, and when I finish those, plus make a dent in my library Wishlist, I’ll add KU back. I’ll definitely add it back before going on our cruise in December. KU is just the best way to load up for vacation!

  2. Two reasons I’m sticking with Scribd:

    1) If I read an ebook there I want to own, chances are good that it’s at Scribd via Smashwords, so I can buy a DRM-free version of the ebook and easily download it.

    2) Unless they’re pricing their ebooks at 99c, Kindle Unlimited authors get paid pitifully small rates by Amazon. Scribd and Oyster authors get paid the same rate as if they’d sold their book.

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