Kindle Unlimited Is Not Netflix for Books

Another reason why authors should embrace Amazon, not run from it: Kindle Unlimited is every book, within reach, at all times.

Not yet of course.

Now, it’s only 600,000 titles, but with well over a million new titles published each year, and over 129 million books in existence, this number will skyrocket.

But the price won’t.

Spotify and iTunes and Hulu and Netflix show that licensing for media can work with a subscription model in this price range. It will work for books, too. There will be significant hitches resolving royalties and copyrights and playing nice with big publishing houses, but at some point the pull from consumers becomes so compelling that a business model follows. And the pull is coming.

Every Book

Amazon plays a very long game, and its long game is every book. Every book ever written, available to you, within reach, at all times.

Amazon’s long game is every book.

The whole of the New York Public Library is just a start. Multiply by the Library of Congress. Add enough independent, industry, and self-published works to create a modern and impossibly rich Library of Alexandria.

A virtual window into every book: Textbooks. Cookbooks. Auto Manuals. Bedtime Stories. Mysteries. Biographies. Science Fiction. History. Not Netflix for books, but all the books.

They are all coming.

Playing Catch-Up

Subscription services Oyster and Scribd have a momentary head start. But Amazon has shown, with its acquisitions of CreateSpace, Audible, and Goodreads, that it’s not afraid to open its wallet when needed. Scribd and Oyster can’t survive long as competitors to Kindle Unlimited: Amazon will out-compete on selection, price, service, or all three. Best for these two companies is to be valuable enough to buy; but in no case will both exist independently within three years

Amazon doesn’t play catch-up for long. If you are too far ahead, Amazon buys you. If you aren’t, it crushes you as it passes. But it does those things only in support of supplying what consumers want.

It’s not Amazon dictating terms; it’s Amazon acknowledging them.

Instead of a Shelf

Books have charm and heft. People love books. But the promise of Kindle Unlimited is not Netflix for books. The promise of Kindle Unlimited is more.

Kindle Unlimited is to books what Google search is to a card catalog.

Browsing at Barnes & Noble, you know that your budget and backpack fit perhaps half a dozen books. At home, shelves overflow with hundreds, and those books don’t accompany you to classroom or to the garage, much less the beach or train.

Your favorite shelf at the public library? You’ve been sharing it with thousands of others, in an archaic Nash equilibrium that has you making third- and fourth-best selections.

Instead, don’t share. Just have them all. Have all the books.


Amazon’s sights are set no lower than that.


  1. I agree. Amazon is the future in e-books and hard copy. I have just put my first book on Kindle and as I wanted to produce a paperback I then found Create Space, which will produce a ‘publish on demand’ book for around $3.50 that would cost over $20 if self published and also require a minimum number of copies for such a price. Preparing a book in either format is well within the skills of the average computer user– an added bonus.

  2. Laura DiSilverio

    Insightful and realistic post. The times they are a-changing . . . whether authors or publishers are on board or not.

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