The Amazin’ Amazon, or Unlimited Fail Series:
This is a part of what appears to be an ongoing series about Kindle Unlimited, the program Amazon has in place to take care of subscriptions. Authors who participate definitely tend to have better exposure, but at what cost?
Authors are now being paid per page, rather than per book, and for some, this has been a terrible change. Others, however, are able to take advantage in a way that Amazon had not forseen.
I myself have a collected edition of the first three books in The Inventor’s Son Series. If it was in Kindle Unlimited, and was borrowed and read all the way to the end, I would get about 465 pages read, and the payout would be fairly “decent” as far as standards for pages read payouts seem to go. And like most authors of collected editions, I have a Table of Contents at the beginning of he book. I felt to have a Table of Contents was essential for a collected edition, for a reader to be able to navigate, especially if, by some chance, they had read the first book.
Some people have been able to scam this experience, and the results are turning catastrophic, both for the program itself and for fellow authors participating in the program legitimately. Rather than use a proper Table of Contents at the beginning of the book, scammers have been advising readers, when the initially open the book, to “Click here for important information.” Readers then get taken to the end of the book through a link placed n the begnning, and because Amazon does not have the technology apparently to realize that the person borrowing the book has merely tapped a link, Amazon pays the author for a full book read.
The most unscrupulous of scammers take this one step further. Instead of merely writing material and having people go to the back on the book, they stuff the eBook with thousands of pages worth of scraped or stolen content, books in other languages, virtually anything they can find, and place all this material between the beginning and end, and the borrower unwittingly triggers Amazon to pay this scammer far more money than the book would have ever gotten had it been bought.
I will propose that this goes even further. Scamming Amazon has become so lucrative that these people band together, borrow each other’s books, and trigger massive page read counts and thousands of dollars in illegitimate payouts, putting each other on the Kindle Unlimited All Stars every month. This not only steals money rom Amazon, it steals money from honest authors by forcing Amazon to lower its Kindle Unlimited payout. The payout, as of February, has been something like $0.0041 per page read. When the program first made this change, the payout had been something more like $0.0058 cents per page read. If someone has lots of pages the lower payout rate is immediately apparent.
Amazon has slowly begun to try and crack down on this business, once it was brought to their attention. They have capped the KENPC to 3000 pages for any book. That still puts the payout at the present rate to $12.30 for a completed book (and now makes boxed sets like the one I have of the first four books of A Song of Ice and Fire extinct). Now, the presence of a Table of Contents anywhere than the beginning of the book seems to trigger Amazon to take the book down, as well.
So, a word of advice to any authors publishing books to Amazon’s platform; put the Table of Contents at the beginning of the book, regardless of whether you’ve heard advice to the contrary in the past, that have said that eBooks should have the Table of Contents in the back. This of course presumes that you’re putting an HTML Table of Contents in your book at all. Many authors, especially if they use Word to write their book and then upload it directly to Amazon, tend to be following this protocol anyway. With my method of using Scrivener to compile to EPUB, the “logical” Table of Contents is automatically generated, and I can opt to create an HTML Table of Contents and place it anywhere. I usually put it right after my blurb in the beginning and my title page.
I am uncertain if this will be the only changes Amazon makes to what we need to do in order to assure them we’re not trying to game the system. Some theories about what they might do include preventing links of any kind in eBooks on Amazon (which would destroy the user experience completely and would probably be impossible) to getting rid of boxed sets. Or, worst of all, limiting Kindle Unlimited in page reads. If a reader mistakenly borrows one of these scam books, and blows through their entire month’s worth of pages read on one book by clicking a link that shoots them to the end of a 3000 page long mess, you can bet that Amazon will hear the complaints!
For more information on this issue, I recommend David Gaughran’s blog post about this topic. I think he gets it more than most people.
My take on this may be controversial, but I’m now of the mind that Amazon needs to get rid of Kindle Unlimited. This may be unpopular for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that many of my author friends have adapted to a career which includes the program in their marketing and their income. But I cannot really see any sort of solution that will eliminate the scams that are hurting those very same authors’ income so badly. I am uncertain if this will be the only changes Amazon makes to what we need to do in order to assure them we’re not trying to game the system. Some theories about what they might do include preventing links of any kind in eBooks on Amazon (which would destroy the user experience completely and would probably be impossible) to getting rid of boxed sets.
Do you have any ideas about what Amazon should be doing to combat the trouble that has besieged their Kindle Unlimited program without doing significant harm to legitimate authors and their books? If so, I’d love to hear about them!