July 18, 2014 Last Updated 8:21 am

Amazon officially launches Kindle Unlimited, its subscription eBook service

The subscription eBook service from Amazon, Kindle Unlimited, leaked this week by The Digital Reader and GigaOM, was officially unveiled this morning. The launch was likely a few days early, as one might assume that Amazon would have preferred unveiling the service as part of its earnings report next week (or maybe not, maybe they have other announcements to make).

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The service, priced at $9.99 a month, will compete with Oyster and Scribd, and anyone else that would like to enter this space (Apple and Google, for instance), because there is no barrier to entry for this kind of service except whether the market has matured – and one knows the market for a service is maturing when the big guys start to own their own services.

“With Kindle Unlimited, you won’t have to think twice before you try a new author or genre—you can just start reading and listening,” said Russ Grandinetti, Senior Vice President, Kindle. “In addition to offering over 600,000 eBooks, Kindle Unlimited is also by far the most cost-effective way to enjoy audiobooks and eBooks together. With thousands of Whispersync for Voice-enabled audiobooks to choose from, you can easily switch between reading and listening to a book, allowing the story to continue even when your eyes are busy. We hope you take advantage of the 30-day free trial and try it for yourself.”

While Amazon’s new eBook subscription service may lack the participation of many publishers, I really don’t think it will matter. Unlike music, where a listener can listen to many different artists, from many different labels, all within an hour’s time, books can not be consumed in the kind of volume where infinite selection is necessary. Additionally, Amazon already has thousands of customer accounts already established, making attracting readers to the service a snap.

For indy authors and publishers, in order to have their eBooks included in Kindle Unlimited, they must be part of KDP Select (KDP = Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon’s Kindle publishing arm). They will limit the kinds of books available to non-interactive books as anyone publishing via Apple, for instance, would not have their book eligible for Kindle Unlimited. That actually puts independent authors at a disadvantage as this requirement will not apply to any big publishers Amazon signs up for Kindle Unlimited. In other words, big publishers can distribute anywhere, self-publishers and small publishers who use Amazon’s services have a choice – limit their distribution to only Amazon so they can be included in Kindle Unlimited, or distribute through Apple, Google, B&N (etc.) but be excluded from Kindle Unlimited. (Did they really think this through?)

One point few media observers mentioned this week, is the thought that Amazon might see Kindle Unlimited as a defensive move. What if Apple were to launch their own subscription eBook service, for instance (Beats Books? Probably not.)

Kindle Unlimited features include (from the press release):

  • Unlimited reading: Access over 600,000 books including best sellers like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, Water for Elephants, Oh Myyy! – There Goes The Internet, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, All the King’s Men, Wonder Boys, Ask for It, The Princess Bride, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, The Atlantis Gene, Kitchen Confidential, The Sisterhood, Crazy Little Thing, The Blind Side, and The Giver, plus thousands of classics such as Animal Farm, To the Lighthouse, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Cat’s Cradle, and The Good Earth, as well as books featuring beloved children’s characters from Sesame Street, and useful reference titles including books from the For Dummies series and Lonely Planet travel guides.
  • Unlimited listening: Keep the story going with unlimited access to more than 2,000 audiobooks from Audible with Whispersync for Voice, and switch seamlessly between reading and listening to customer favorites like the Hunger Games trilogy, Life of Pi, The Handmaid’s Tale, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, The Great Santini, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Winter’s Tale, Boardwalk Empire, El Narco, Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies, Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog, The Finisher, Johnny Carson, The Stranger I Married, and Life Code.
  • Kindle exclusives: Choose from hundreds of thousands of books only found on Kindle, including Brilliance by Marcus Sakey, The Hangman’s Daughter series by Oliver Pötzsch, War Brides by Helen Bryan, Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct and Matthew Hope books, When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde, Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath, Chasing Shadows by CJ Lyons, and Sick by Brett Battles.
  • Short Reads: For a quick escape, select from thousands of books that are 100 pages or less, including Kindle Singles from Stephen King, Andy Borowitz, and Nelson DeMille, and short fiction from Amazon Publishing’s StoryFront imprint.
  • Free three-month Audible membership: In addition to the thousands of professionally narrated audiobooks from Audible included in Kindle Unlimited, subscribers get a complimentary three-month Audible membership, with access to more than 150,000 titles.
  • Popular Kindle features: Enjoy all the great Kindle features customers love such as Whispersync, Popular Highlights, X-Ray, customer reviews, and Goodreads integration.
  • Read and listen everywhere: Access across Kindle devices and free Kindle reading apps for iPhone, iPad, Android tablets and phones, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, PC, Mac and Windows 8—so you always have your library with you and never lose your place.

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