Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription – 12 things to know
Facts and tips listed below will help you decide whether it’s worth spending $9.99 a month for Kindle Unlimited.
Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription was launched by Amazon in July 2014. Since that time, the catalog of Kindle Unlimited eligible books has grown from 640 thousand to over 1.4 million.
In the handy list below, you’ll find benefits and disadvantages of Kindle Unlimited, so that you can make up your mind whether this service is for you.
Kindle Unlimited, just like other ebook subscription services, is suitable for avid readers. However, “how many books can I read per month?” is not the right question. The right question you should ask yourself is “how many of the offered books would I be willing to read?”
When narrowing down the list to favorite books only, the word “unlimited”, meaning the endless choice of titles to read per month, may become questionable.
Besides the choice of titles, there are some other limitations of Kindle Unlimited, so let’s take a closer look at them.
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Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription – things to know
1. Kindle Unlimited offers 1.4 million titles
At launch, Kindle Unlimited offered the biggest number of titles among ebook subscription services, around 640 thousand. At that time the competitors, such as Oyster or Scribd, claimed their catalogs included over 1 million titles.
The landscape of ebook subscription is changing fast. It turns out Kindle Unlimited – which heavily relies on titles published within the Amazon publishing ecosystem – gets stronger and stronger while the future of other services is not so clear. For instance, Oyster ebook subscription platform was closed in autumn 2015.
The number of books included in other ebook subscription services is claimed by respective companies, and there is no way to verify it until you sign up. At the time of launch, Scribd ebook subscription claimed over 1 million titles. Nowadays, in Scribd’s help pages, we can read the catalog includes about 150 thousand titles.
On the contrary, you can easily explore the catalog of Kindle Unlimited eligible books without the need to subscribe.
Currently, the Kindle Unlimited catalog includes:
- 1.4 million Kindle ebooks in all categories,
- almost 20 thousand come with Audible Narration – you can seamlessly switch between reading and listening,
- over 900 thousand have Word Wise enabled – short definitions can be displayed inline above difficult words,
- 1 thousand of these ebooks are also Prime Reading eligible. It means they are available for free to Amazon Prime members – maybe getting Prime is enough for your reading preferences.
How does 1.4 million compare to other Kindle Store numbers?
The total number of Kindle ebooks offered by Amazon is currently over 3.7 million. Therefore, Kindle Unlimited represents 38% of the entire Kindle Store catalog.
What you’ll need to know is that only about 40-50 thousand Kindle Unlimited books are not exclusive to the Kindle Store.
What does it mean? There are three factors we have to take into consideration:
- Kindle Unlimited service is populated by books from Amazon’s self-publishing platform; most authors agree to sell the books exclusively on Amazon to participate in a special promotion program,
- most of the books published by Amazon’s own imprints, like Thomas & Mercer or Montlake, are sold only on Amazon website,
- many books from big publishers, hot new releases and big bestsellers, are not available via Kindle Unlimited.
2. You won’t find too many bestsellers
As I mentioned above, major publishers are still not interested in Amazon’s ebook subscription platform.
You won’t find books from Hachette, MacMillan, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Penguin.
If you want to save money on the hottest bestsellers by picking up Kindle Unlimited, make sure to check out the titles you want to read. Don’t expect to find books from Harper Lee, Janet Evanovich, Stephen King, Dan Brown, or Nora Roberts.
In fact, when you go through the list of the New York Times bestsellers in the Kindle Store, you’ll find few books that are included in Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription.
Other ebook subscription services are not packed with top bestsellers or hot new releases, either. However, Scribd offers books from HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, or Macmillan.
3. Most of Kindle Unlimited books cost $4.99 or less
The most common reason to sign up to an ebook subscription is saving money.
A very clear point of reference is a possibility of reading a $12.99 ebook for $9.99. Instead of buying this book you get it via Kindle Unlimited. The service pays off already when you read one book a month.
Well, this happens only in theory. Most of the bestsellers released by big publishers, and priced above $10, are excluded from Kindle Unlimited.
Instead, you can expect lots of titles that cost between $0.99 and $4.99. As I already said, Kindle Unlimited is populated by titles published within Amazon ecosystem in two ways:
- published by authors via KDP self-publishing platform,
- pubilshed by one of several Amazon imprints.
Most of these books have very reasonable prices. Books more expensive than $5 are quite rare.
The fact the book was self-published doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading. Just the opposite. A lot of self-published titles are Kindle bestsellers
If you consider the price a major advantage, let’s make some calculations.
To make Kindle Unlimited a money-saving machine, you’ll have to read:
- at least one $9.99 book a month,
- at least two $4.99 books a month,
- three or more $2.99 books per month,
- ten on more $0.99 books per month.
4. Kindle Unlimited is not “Prime Unlimited”
Many users confuse Kindle Unlimited with Prime.
It’s because both services are offered by Amazon, and both are subscription based.
What’s more, some of the benefits offered for Prime members give also an unlimited access to digital content, naming only Prime Instant Video or Prime Music.
Most importantly, among many features Amazon Prime includes benefits for book lovers:
- borrow books from Kindle Owners’ Lending Library,
- get free access to Prime Reading,
- get Kindle First ebook for free,
- Get free access to Audible Channels.
The most recognized service that comes with Prime is Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Prime members can borrow one Kindle book per month from a catalog that’s quite similar to Kindle Unlimited.
One book per month. It’s clear that KOLL is addressed to occasional rather than avid readers. For more info, check out our comparison of Kindle Unlimited vs. Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
But things change. In October 2016, Prime Reading was introduced, letting Prime members access a rotating selection of ebooks, comic books, and magazines. The access is unlimited, and you get all the most attractive items you can find in the entire Kindle Store.
As you see, Kindle Unlimited and Prime have many common points, but they are separate subscriptions. Let’s clarify what are they about in the comparison table below:
Kindle Unlimited vs. Amazon Prime
|Kindle Unlimited||Amazon Prime|
|Type of service||Digital subscription||Multi-benefit subscription|
|What you get||• Unlimited access to 1.4 million ebooks, audiobooks, and magazines||• 20 million physical items with free two-day shipping
• 1.5 million songs free to listen and download
• 1.4 million books to borrow from Kindle Owners’ Lending Library
• 20 thousand movies and TV series free to watch
• Free access to 1,000 items in Prime Reading
• Audio Channels for free
• Prime Early Access deals
• and more
5. Kindle Unlimited gives access to books, audiobooks, and magazines
If you’ve read the table above carefully, you’ve probably noticed something that’s very important. With Kindle Unlimited subscription, you can read for free not only Kindle ebooks, but also popular magazines, as well as listen to audiobooks.
Kindle Unlimited started and ebook-only subscription service. But the service evolves with time, reflecting the new features being added to Kindle ebooks.
One of them is Audible Narration. It’s an extra feature of some titles available in the Kindle Store. For an extra cost (usually no more than $4) you can add to the Kindle book you’ve bought the ability to seamlessly switch to audio narration and backward. In short: you can turn the book you read into an audiobook.
Kindle Unlimited subscribers have this feature at no extra cost. Currently, there are about 20 thousand Kindle Unlimited books with Audible Narration.
In autumn 2016 Amazon has added also the selection of popular magazines to the list of eligible Kindle Unlimited titles.
It means that with your Kindle Unlimited subscription you can read current magazine issues for free. So far, reading digital editions of magazines and newspapers was possible if you signed up to a separate Kindle Newsstand subscription.
The list of Kindle Unlimted magazines includes, among others: GQ, National Geographic Traveller, People, Shape, Bon Appétit, or Bloomberg Businessweek.
6. How to find Kindle Unlimited books
Amazon is so crowded with features, categories, and dedicated subpages that it’s getting really hard to find books in special categories.
However, it’s good to spend some time to test Kindle Unlimited eligibility against the books on your wishlist. Assuming that the book will be available via Kindle Unlimited, especially when you want a bestseller, can be a source of a big disappointment.
There is no way to check out on a page with a Kindle book details whether this book is included in Kindle Unlimited or not.
There are two ways to find Kindle Unlimited eligible books on Amazon:
- Start browsing from the Kindle Unlimited home page,
- Browse Kindle Store with Kindle Unlimited filter turned on,
1. Browse Kindle Unlimited home page
If you go straight to Kindle Unlimited home page, you’ll see a couple of featured sections, followed by the entire catalog of the KU eligible books.
Currently, the featured sections are:
- popular titles,
- popular romance,
- popular club picks,
- popular biographies.
When you scroll down, you’ll see the entire catalog, sorted by featured titles. “Featured” means that a book was hand-picked by editors, based on a sales popularity, number of positive reviews, and a quality of the book.
You can change the sort order to price, average customer review, and publication date. Relying on customer reviews is a good way to find good reads, especially if you haven’t heard about the books and their authors before.
You can narrow down the list of books by selecting one of the categories from the left-hand sidebar.
2. Browse Kindle Store with the Kindle Unlimited filter turned on
Even when you don’t go directly to the Kindle Unlimited home page, you can still narrow down the search results to books that are included in the subscription service.
When browsing Kindle Store, look for the Kindle Unlimited Eligible check box on the left. It usually comes as a first filter option in the left sidebar.
When you use a search box to find the book you like, for instance, Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, and check KU eligibility box, you’ll see the book disappear from the search results. It means it’s not available via Kindle Unlimited.
7. Kindle Unlimited is available in selected countries
Kindle Unlimited was launched on Amazon.com as a service addressed to U.S. customers only.
It’s now also available in localized Kindle Stores in selected countries. Here are the Amazon stores and monthly fees. The data was collected in October 2016.
Kindle Unlimited countries
|Amazon store||Country||Monthly fee|
|Amazon.com||United States (U.S. customers only)||USD 9.99|
|Amazon.co.uk||United Kingdom||GBP 7.99|
What you have to keep in mind is that international customers of Amazon.com are not eligible to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.
Amazon offers over 10 million goods to foreign customers. Kindle books and devices sell to over 180 countries from around the world. Why there is such a restriction with Kindle Unlimited?
Sure, there are legal issues. However, most Kindle Unlimited eligible books, especially the ones from KDP self-publishing platform, are sold worldwide.
Why can’t they become available globally via Kindle Unlimited? The basic fix is to add a Kindle Unlimited opt-in check box for self-published authors in their KDP dashboard.
Sure, the number of Kindle Unlimited books available outside the US will be smaller. However, it’s still much more than any of the local ebook platforms could offer.
If Scribd can offer a global ebook subscription, why Amazon can’t?
8. You can keep up to 10 Kindle Unlimited titles at a time
Don’t think of packing your Kindle with hundreds of Kindle Unlimited books, or making extensive collections from them.
You can only keep up to 10 books from Kindle Unlimited in your account at a time.
Other ebook subscription platforms also have such limits. For instance, Scribd has a limit of 20 books.
While this limitation is against the “unlimited” selling proposal of the service, I understand it. When you pack your Kindle with 500 books, you won’t be able to read them at once, anyway.
There is one disadvantage, however. 10-book limit is too low. It’s below the number of books many readers have in different stages of reading.
9. The books will be gone when you cancel your Kindle Unlimited subscription
Getting too many KU books to the Kindle e-reader or application can be a waste of time because if you don’t read them they will be gone when you cancel your subscription.
Some users try to outsmart the Amazon and think they could load lots of Kindle Unlimited books to their e-reader, then cancel the subscription, but keep the books.
It won’t happen. When you cancel the Kindle Unlimited subscription the books will be automatically removed from your Kindle library the moment your device connects with the web and sync content with Amazon servers.
Even if you deregister the device from your Kindle account, the maximum number or books to have at a time is 10, so it doesn’t pay in the end, anyway.
10. Bookmarks, notes, and highlights will be kept after cancelation
All Kindle Unlimited books behave like any other Kindle books.
You can add bookmarks and notes, as well as highlight passages. Progress, bookmarks, notes, and highlights will be synced between all your Kindle devices and apps.
As you can cancel Kindle Unlimited subscription at any time, the big question is: will everything get lost? No. Amazon promises to keep your bookmarks, notes, and highlights:
After the billing date passes, you will lose access to Kindle Unlimited books that you have downloaded. However, your bookmarks, notes, and highlights within the book will be saved to your Amazon account. They are available if you access the book in the future.
The last sentence may suggest you’ll have to renew the subscription or buy a particular book to get access to bookmarks.
However, I believe, all the bookmarks and notes will be kept in your Kindle account, available online at kindle.amazon.com after you sign in.
11. Kindle Unlimited works on Kindle devices and apps
Finally, a good news. Unlike Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, you don’t need to own an Amazon device (Kindle e-reader or Fire tablet) to make use of Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription.
Any Kindle application works with the Amazon’s ebook subscription service. Kindle for iPhone/iPad, Kindle for Android, Kindle for PC and Mac – you can use them right away to access your Kindle Unlimited books.
However, browsing for Kindle Unlimited books is only supported on Kindle devices, Kindle for Android, and Kindle for Samsung. On other devices, you’ll have to use a browser, and visit Amazon site.
12. You can gift Kindle Unlimited
Kindle Unlimited is offered as a minthly subscription, and many users wonder whether it’s possible to gift it to someone else.
Yes it’s possible. Amazon has a special solution for this – you can buy a longer subscription plan, and send it as an email. Quite similar to Amazon gift cards.
Instead of visiting the regular sign-up page, go to Kindle Unlimited Gift Subscription.
Currently, you can choose from three Kindle Unlimited plans:
- 6 months – $9.99 × 6 = $59.94,
- 12 months – $9.99 × 12 = $119.88,
- 24 months – $9.99 × 24 = $239.76,
When you hit “Add Kindle Unlimited to Cart” button, you will go through the checkout process where you’ll be asked to write down the email address of the recipient. You can also set up the day of the delivery of the Kindle Unlimited gift.
The recipient will receive the gift on the day you choose and can start Kindle Unlimited membership immediately.
12. You can save big on Kindle Unlimited if you wait for the deal
Kindle Unlimited is a monthly-based subscription and you shouldn’t expect the fee to go down anytime soon.
However, if you want to save on the service, you can wait for the deal. Amazon was running Kindle Unlimited promotions during:
- Black Friday & Cyber Monday – November/December
- Amazon Prime Day – July
Every time the deal was tied to a change of a payment period. The longer the plan, the bigger the discount. Here are Kindle Unlimited plans offered for Cyber Monday 2015:
- 6 months – $44.95
$59.94– you save 25%,
- 12 months – $80.32
$119.88– you save 33%,
- 24 months – $143.85
$239.76– you save 40%.
So, the biggest 40% discount is applied when you decide to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited for 24 months.
Please keep in mind that if you take part in the promotion like that, and, for instance, buy the 12-month plan, you won’t get a refund for 11 months if you decide to end the subscription in the first month.
Kindle Unlimited – useful links
Below, there are some useful resources that will let you further explore Kindle Unlimited before signing up for the free trial.
- free Kindle reading apps – you’ll be able to read Kindle Unlimited books on them; Kindle e-reader or Amazon Fire tablet is not needed,
- how to download a Kindle Unlimited book – a step-by-step guide on how to get an eligible book to your Kindle app,
- Kindle Unlimited: manage your subscription – you’ll learn here how to cancel your Kindle Unlimited subscription,
- send Kindle Unlimited as a gift – from this page you will be able to buy Kindle Unlimited as a gift and send it to the recipient,
- Kindle Unlimited Made Easy – a $0.99 book by Clive Alden, an unofficial tutorial to better understand Amazon’s ebook subscription
- Kindle Unlimited help – most important topics for the subscribers, including termination terms, gifting, and audiobooks.
• • •
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- 10 protective cases for your Amazon Fire HD 8 (2016)
- Explore Amazon’s 100 best books of 2016
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