Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) is planning to launch an as-yet unannounced eBook service, according to a number of promotional materials spotted online on Wednesday. The retailer is keeping mum on the new service, which appears to be called “Kindle Unlimited,’ but it's already leaked a number of details on its website.
Based on that evidence, the “all-you-can-read” book service will cost $9.99 per month, although it's not clear whether Amazon intends to charge members of its Prime subscription service for “Kindle Unlimited.” GigaOM pointed out that many of the 600,000 eBooks that Amazon says will be available in the unlimited program appear to be included already in the Kindle Owners Lending Library, which allows Prime members who own Amazon eReaders like the Kindle Paperwhite to download one free book every month.
The service will compete with similar ones like Scribd and Oyster. Scribd, which launched a book subscription service last October, charges $8.99 for access to best-sellers, classic books and new releases from bigger publishers like Harper Collins. It claims it has 80 million users and includes works from 900 publishers. It also allows users to contribute works. Oyster boasts access to more than 500,000 books, but the majority of those titles come from self-publishing companies like Smashwords.
In addition to charging a fee that's competitively priced to take on Scribd and Oyster, Amazon claims that Kindle Unlimited will give bookworms access to more than 7,000 audio books and the retailer’s own publishing imprints. However, the deal currently leaves out the “big five” publishers in the U.S.: Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Macmillan and Penguin Random House, the product of a 2013 merger. Hachette titles are inconspicuously absent from the list of books Amazon offers with Kindle Unlimited.
The book streaming service is similar to Amazon's Prime Instant Video service, which competes with Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX). Amazon Prime costs $99 a year, and it includes streaming music and free shipping from Amazon's online store.
GigaOM’s Laura Hazard Owen compiled a list of publishers who appear to be working with Amazon on Kindle Unlimited, including Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Harvard University Press, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Open Road Media, W. W. Norton and Workman.
Amazon did not respond to an email requesting comment about Kindle Unlimited. Questions remain about how authors will be reimbursed when their books are read by members of the service.
Author reactions were mixed on the message board that first noted the existence of Kindle Unlimited: Would authors receive only pennies on the dollar, like musicians on Spotify do? Author Eric Feka posted that he was cautiously optimistic about the unannounced service.
“Scribd and Oyster are tiny by comparison, and I’ve gotten good numbers from them,” Feka wrote. “Amazon Unlimited has the potential to be HUGE.”
Feka also said that “book nuts” who sign up for Kindle Unlimited will “gorge till their brains pop,” similar to how Netflix users are known to binge-watch TV programs. He said he joined the Kindle Direct Publishing Fund’s “Select” Program, a $1.2 million fund that rewards authors for making their books available for the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.