18 July 2014
The Bookseller - Bookseller staff
Amazon appears to be testing an e-book and audiobook subscription programme in the US called “Kindle Unlimited”.
Test pages which have now been taken down earlier appeared on Amazon.com under “KU”, offering “unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks on any device for $9.99 a month”, according to Gigaom . The pages, reportedly taken down on Wednesday (16th July), still appear through Google Cache.
The test pages were first noticed by users who discussed it on Amazon’s customer messaging board.
Bloomsbury is one of the five publishers which appears to be taking part in the trial in the US. Other include American publishers Algonquin, Harvard University Press, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Open Road Media, W W Norton and Workman. Titles coming from Amazon’s own publishing arm also feature.
A promotional video was also released by Amazon, although is now only available on Gigaom’s YouTube channel.
It shows paper boats – made out of the covers of books – travelling down a waterway before joining thousands of other “book boats” in the sea.
A voiceover says: “There is a moment in every good book as a story unfolds or a hero rises, an adventure begins or an idea takes hold when you are reminded once more this is why you love to read.
“Introducing Kindle Unlimited – the freedom to explore over 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks in the palm of your hand. Enjoy unlimited reading and unlimited listening on any device for just $9.99 a month. Your library just got a whole lot bigger.”
The video also offers a free 30-day trial to users.
Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, told the Financial Times: "It's been a question around the industry for about three or four years: when is book publishing going to have its Spotify moment?"
The newspaper continued: "But he added that it was far from clear that the publishing industry needed a rental option because books can take days or weeks to read and sell to a far smaller audience than popular music tracks."
The service would compete with e-book subscription companies Scribd and Oyster, which HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster both allow their e-books to be lent through.
Scribd co-founder and c.e.o., Trip Adler, said: "The apparent entrance of Amazon into the subscription market is exciting for the industry as a whole... Successful companies don't fear competition, but rather embrace it, learn from it and use it to continue to fuel their own innovation, which is exactly what we intend to continue doing."
If it launches, Kindle Unlimited would be an extension of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which allows Amazon Prime members to borrow one e-book a month.
Amazon already has a subscription service for children aged 3-8 years, launched in 2012, called Kindle FreeTime Unlimited. It brings together children's content including books, games, films, apps and television programmes. Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, which costs $4.99 a month for one child or $9.99 a month for up to four children with cheaper rates for Kindle Prime members, is an extension to Kindle FreeTime, a free feature on Kindle Fire devices offering parents the opportunity to manage what their child is looking at on the device.