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How Amazon’s Kindle Select Borrowing Program Cheats Authors and How They Should Fix It

by | Jul 2, 2015 | Writing & Publishing

I love(d) KDP. Recently, however, Amazon changed how it computes author payments for Kindle Select borrows. Although the letter Amazon sent out describing the program sounded great (the example it gave was 100 borrows x 100 pages read = $1,000 if the total pages read by users in the program were 100 million), the reality is much different. Amazon’s letter also mentioned that the total pages read last month was 1.9 billion, and the July payout would be $11 million. We therefore see that the amount an author gets paid is $11 million/1.9 billion = 0.0057 cents per page. Using the example in the email, 100 borrows x 100 pages read x 0.0057 cents = $57 total for the month. That comes to $0.57 per borrow (if the whole book is read). If your book is 500 pages, you’ll get $2.85. Whether that amount is more or less than you royalty depends on how your book is priced.

The problem is that a reader has to read your whole book in order for you to get paid that amount. If they read less, you only get paid based on the percentage they actually read (e.g. 50% of the 100 page book would result in a $0.29 payment for that borrow). That’s true of no other product. If you rent a movie from Amazon and then don’t watch it, they still charge you. If you buy an item of clothes you never wear, you still have to pay. If you subscribe to a newspaper you never get a chance to read, the newspaper doesn’t stop paying its columnists. To charge an author based on what a reader actually has time to read defeats the whole point of marketing. A reader buys (or through KU borrows) a product. It’s no one’s concern but theirs whether they have time to actually sit down and read it.

To stop authors from leaving the program in droves, Amazon’s going to have to do something even more drastic than their recent change…and something a little more thought through. I recommend merging their two ideas: the old and the new. Pay authors for each borrow (not pages read), but have a set scale for payment based on how many pages (according to their new KENP standard) are in the book. This scale should be stable and not change from month to month. E.g. A 500 page book might earn $2, a 250 page book might earn $1, a 100 page book might earn $0.50, etc.

Pro: This would prevent short novellas from flooding the market

Pro: Authors would be happy that they are getting paid enough to make Kindle Select’s exclusivity and loss of Amazon royalties for that borrow (rather than sale) a fair trade

Pro: Authors would get paid even if a borrower doesn’t finish their book

If you agree that Kindle Select needs to fix this problem and fast, feel free to copy the text of this post and email it to Amazon!