Kindle Owners’ Lending Library vs. Kindle Unlimited

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Kindle Unlimited vs Kindle Owners' Lending Library - complete comparison

This overview should help you decide what’s better for you: Kindle Owners’ Lending Library or Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription.

Amazon offers two services that let users read Kindle ebooks for a fixed fee instead of buying individual titles.

It causes a lot of confusion among users. There is no such thing as “Kindle Unlimited Library” or “Kindle Owners’ Lending Unlimited”. These two subscription-based services are completely separate.

The comparison between Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited is divided into eight sections. You can jump to each one right from here:

Before the list, let’s define what is what:

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, also known as KOLL, is not a way to borrow for free the Kindle ebooks from a public library. It is a part of Amazon Prime membership program that costs $99 a year. KOLL lets you borrow one Kindle book a month with no due dates.

Kindle Unlimited is separate from Amazon Prime and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. This is a standalone ebook subscription service with a monthly fee of $9.99. You can read an unlimited number of books in a month, but you can keep on your device only 10 books at the same time.

You may immediately conclude that KOLL is for occasional users while Kindle Unlimited – for avid readers. You are absolutely right.

Taking the 20/80 formula as a reference, we can say that Kindle Unlimited is for 20% of users who generate 80% of sales. And Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is for 80% of users who generate 20% of sales.

Now, the term “sales” in this particular case is not proportional to the number of books read, because we deal with fixed fees, and not prices of single titles. So, the more you read, the more money stays in your wallet.

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Kindle Owners’ Lending Library vs. Kindle Unlimited – comparison

Main features compared

These two services are not directly competing with each other, so what’s the point of putting them side by side?

If you are into ebook subscription, you’d find the comparison between Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, and Oyster, much more helpful.

I believe that there are many users who can’t decide whether they need the ebook subscription at all.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a part of a basket of services that also guarantee other forms of entertainment: watching movies or listening to music.

This comparison will let you make up your mind: whether Kindle Unlimited is too much for you. Or maybe KOLL is not enough.

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library vs. Kindle Unlimited

Data collected on October 12, 2015.
Feature Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Kindle Unlimited
Number of books to keep at a time 1 10
Number of books to read a month 1 Unlimited
Due dates No No
Access from Kindle & Fire devices Yes Yes
Access from Kindle apps No Yes
Number of available titles 1.4 million 1.4 million
Books from the Big 5 publishers No No
Audiobooks No Yes
Subscription plan Yearly or monthly
(part of Amazon Prime)
Monthly
Subscription fee $99/year or
$10.99/month
$9.99/month
Free trial Yes, 30 days Yes, 30 days
Monthly cost $8.25 $9.99

We will compare major features later in a post, so now just a remark that each service can be tested for 30 days. You can sign up to find out which books are offered and whether there are enough to justify the purchase.

After 30 days, you’ll be charged with a first fee. You can cancel the membership any time. This is fine with Kindle Unlimited where you are charged every month.

Things are more complicated with Amazon Prime and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. You will be charged for a yearly membership. Therefore, make sure to set up a reminder to for yes/no decision on the membership before the 30th day from starting the free trial.

A limit on the number of books

Kindle Owners' Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited - the limit on the number of books

You will be able to read at most one book per month in Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Even if you finish and return it, you can’t borrow the next book before the month’s end.

Kindle Unlimited gives much more flexibility. You can read as many books as you can handle. It could be just one or it could be 30 (if you are able to read one book a day). However, there is one major limitation. You can keep only 10 Kindle Unlimited books at the same time.

In other words, if want to add the eleventh Kindle Unlimited book to your account, you’ll have to finish and remove one of the ten books you currently have.

Eligible devices and apps

Kindle Owners' Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited - eligible devices and apps

It’s where Kindle Unlimited is a clear winner.

You can read Kindle Unlimited books on:

  • Amazon devices – like Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle Voyage, Fire 7, or Fire HD 10,
  • Kindle apps – like the Kindle app on the iPad/iPhone, or Kindle for Android.

Now, the bad news for users who prefer KOLL. You can read Kindle Owners’ Lending Library only on Amazon devices. You won’t be able to access them from a Kindle app on the iOS or Android tablet or phone – even if you are an Amazon Prime member.

It’s important that people know about this limitation of Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Some users buy Prime without checking out whether they can use KOLL if they don’t own a Kindle e-reader or a Fire tablet – and they can’t.

Does it pay to buy the Kindle or Fire to get access to Kindle Owners’ Lending Library?

If you take the cheapest Fire 7 tablet that costs $50 and buy Prime instead of Kindle Unlimited, the total price will be $150 instead of a $120 for a yearly cost of Kindle Unlimited.

Available books

When it comes to the catalog of eligible books, the two services are very similar:

  • each one offers over 1.4 million titles – the number of books that are not common to two services is up to 5 thousand,
  • the majority of books are exclusive to Kindle Store – only about 40,000 Kindle Unlimited books are not exclusive to the Kindle Store. We can assume the similar amount refers to Kindle Owners’ Lending Library,
  • there are no books from big publishers – if you are looking for bestsellers from Random House or Simon & Schuster, you’ll be disappointed to discover they are not included in either service, although you can buy them in the Kindle Store,
  • a majority of books cost less than $5 – it’s because there are no books from the Big 5 publishers, which are usually expensive.

Lack of the bestselling titles from big publishers is the weakest point of both Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited.

There is one exception when it comes to famous book series. Harry Potter books are included in Kindle Unlimited, and essentially helped draw a huge attention to the service when it was launched in July 2014.

The attractiveness of both services will jump high the day Amazon will finally come to an agreement with the Big 5.

For now on, most of the books that populate Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited are:

  • the ones self-published by authors via Amazon’s self-pub platform, Kindle Direct Publishing,
  • published by Amazon’s imprints (Thomas & Mercer, Montlake, and a few others).

And now, it’s time for hard facts. We’ve checked the current Top 20 Kindle bestsellers against their availability in KOLL and Kindle Unlimited. The results are shown below:

Availability of Top 20 Kindle bestsellers in subscription-based services

Data collected on October 12, 2015.
Title KOLL Kindle Unlimited Price
Bad Boy Daddy – Chance Carter Yes Yes $0.99
The Martian: A Novel – Andy Weir No No $8.99
The Air He Breathes – Brittainy Cherry Yes Yes $2.99
The Survivor – Vince Flynn No No $14.99
The Good Neighbor – A. J. Banner Yes Yes $4.99
The Prettiest One – James Hankins Yes Yes $5.99
The Towers of Tuscany – Carol M. Cram Yes Yes $3.99
Wrong – Jana Aston No No $2.99
The Murder House – James Patterson No No $14.99
Owned by the Bad Boy – Vanessa Waltz Yes Yes $0.99
Still Waters – Viveca Sten Yes Yes $5.99
The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz No No $13.99
Last Immortal Dragon – T.S. Joyce Yes Yes $0.99
Make Me – Lee Child No No $14.99
Killing Reagan – Bill O’Reilly No No $12.99
The Allure of Dean Harper – R.S. Grey Yes Yes $2.99
Juliet – Anne Fortier No No $1.99
After You – Jojo Moyes No No $12.99
Code Name Verity – Elizabeth E. Wein No No $5.99
Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter No No $12.99

As you see, almost half of the Kindle top sellers are included in the subscription services. However, when you go through the titles, you’ll realize that these books don’t come from famous authors, like Nora Roberts, Lee Child, or James Patterson.

Why? Because the most famous authors have contracts with the Big 5 publishers. And the Big 5 publishers – as I already mentioned – didn’t agree to include their books in subscription-based services offered by Amazon.

The Big 5 publishers

  • Penguin Random House
  • HarperCollins
  • Macmillan
  • Hachette
  • Simon & Schuster

The next thing which is common to KOLL and Kindle Unlimited is the average price. The books are usually under $5. You’ll rarely find any book that costs above $10.

What does it mean? It affects the price attractiveness of each service. One book per month pays off if the book costs $10 or more.

With Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, you’ll save $2.99 or $4.99 – the usual prices for the books included in the service. You can save more than $10 with Kindle Unlimited – on condition you’ll read more than two books that cost $4.99 or more than three books that cost $2.99.

Cancellation terms

In both services, when you cancel the membership, you’ll keep the books until the next billing date.

Please  remember that for KOLL, as a part of Prime, the membership is being paid once a year – $99. For Kindle Unlimited, it’s once a month – $9.99.

The day after the end of the subscription, your book (KOLL) or books (Kindle Unlimited) will be gone from your Kindle account. You will, however, keep all the notes and highlights. You will be able to access them online at kindle.amazon.com.

Technically, it’s possible to keep the books for a longer time. This can happen if you have them on a device that is not connected to the internet. Therefore, your Kindle e-reader or app won’t be able to sync the content and check out its status in the cloud.

Searching for eligible books

Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owner’s Lending Library are different services and there are different indicators across Amazon site that an ebook belongs to each one.

However, as I mentioned above, the offer of both services is almost the same. Therefore, if you find out that the book belongs to KOLL, it will usually belong to Kindle Unlimited – and vice versa.

The easiest way to check the availability of the books from your wishlist against KOLL and Kindle Unlimited is to browse the Kindle Unlimited catalog. It’s because using the search box here will limit the results only to Kindle Unlimited eligible books.

Searching for Kindle Unlimited and KOLL books - the easiest way

Type the title of the book in a search box, and you will immediately know whether it’s available in Amazon’s ebook subscription services.

The only exception I’ve found is Harry Potter books. They are included in Kindle Unlimited but you won’t borrow them via Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

Cost calculations

Many users believe that the monthly subscription fee of Kindle Unlimited could equal the cost of a single Kindle book.

It is true if you compare the fee to the price of a bestseller, such as Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, which is $14.99.

There is only one problem. The book was published by HarperCollins. HarperCollins is one of the Big 5 publishers, therefore the book is not a part of either KOLL or Kindle Unlimited.

Let’s start from what we already know: the eligible books that are among Top 20 Kindle bestsellers, shown in a table earlier in this article:

  • the total price of the 9 eligible books is $29.91,
  • the lowest price of the eligible book is $0.99,
  • the highest price of the eligible book is $5.99,
  • the average price of the eligible book is $3.32.

You should assume the value of the book you get from Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Owners’ Lending Library will be something between $0.99 and $5.99.

With the average price at $3.32, you will need to read three Kindle Unlimited books per month to break even.

But you can’t borrow three books via KOLL, only one. Every month, you will not break even, comparing the $0.99-5.99 price range with the monthly cost of $8.25. Fortunately, Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is a part of the larger service, and should be treated this way. You shouldn’t join Prime just because you want access to KOLL.

If you want to find out how many and how good are the most expensive books that belong to Kindle Unlimited, and therefore KOLL, check out the KU catalog sorted by price: from high to low. Are you going to read any of these books, really?

What to choose: Kindle Unlimited or KOLL?

This set of recommendations will change totally the day after the Big 5 publishers will finally agree to include their books in Amazon’s subscription services.

For now on:

  • the biggest benefit of Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is that it’s a part of Amazon Prime, that offers also video and music streaming, as well as a free delivery of millions of physical items,
  • the biggest benefit of Kindle Unlimited is that there are lots of books to read in popular genres.

If you are an occasional reader, and just want to read the current hottest bestsellers, neither Kindle Unlimited nor KOLL will give them to you.

But there are many interesting romance books besides the ones written by Nora Roberts, right?

This is where Kindle Unlimited shows its strength. For any avid reader who is constantly looking for new books in her favorite categories, there will be a plenty of titles to pick up, and plenty of new authors to discover.

Discoverability… I’ve heard that Kindle Unlimited could be a great tool to test new books from new authors. You know, getting a free trial and testing any book you wish to finally decide which authors to put on your wish list.

On the others side, you don’t have to use Kindle Unlimited or KOLL for that. Don’t buy the Kindle book – download a free sample instead. You’ll be able to decide whether you like the book or not after reading the first chapter.

If you are a Prime member and one book per month is not enough, think twice before joining Kindle Unlimited. With the access to KOLL, you’ll quickly realize how many books are there for you. If it’s a lot, you can obviously get Kindle Unlimited. If not, and if you really believe in ebook subscription, you should compare Kindle Unlimited with Scribd. The other service offers many books from the Big 5 publishers.

Useful links

To let you dig deeper in Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited, we’ve collected the most relevant links below:

• • •

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