So, I am a Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscriber. I think its a brilliant idea. I love when some of my favorite authors add books to the program. I also have found so many new authors because trying them via KU is low risk. If I hate it, no harm. I just return the book like a library loan. It has helped me branch out and give some books a chance that I might not have attempted to read otherwise.
Here is the problem though. KU pays out authors by how many pages are read. Ok, I am not necessarily opposed to that. Except, it lends its self to all kinds of fraud. Here are a few examples:
- An author loads a book up to KU. Its crap. Its not edited, its not in any way something someone would pay money for. There is not a real story or anything. Then, they hire a click farm to download the book via KU, and just flip through the pages, racking up ‘page reads’ and money. This is the most obvious type of fraud on KU and it happens all the time! There are so many books on KU that are ranking in the top 100 books on amazon simply because the author hired a click farm. Hiring the click farm is peanuts compared to the payday they get from being so well read in KU.
- Authors publish books that are maybe 80 pages, then fill the rest of the book up with 1000’s of pages of ‘other stories’ or other content. I just finished Doctor’s Fake Fiancee and only 6% of the book was that actual story. After that, the entire book was collections and samples of other stories! Are you kidding me? Now, I am not opposed to have a ‘bonus’ story or some additional content included in a book. But if 94% of your book is stuff OTHER than what you market the book as, thats deceptive. You can believe that I returned that book with only 6% of it read. (side note: I totally called out this book in my amazon review. You can check it out HERE)Now, if a book is MARKETED as an anthology or collection, thats different. I enjoy those types of reads. I enjoy knowing before I open the book that I will be reading 12 different stories by 12 different authors. But, if I had purchased a book that wasn’t marketed as an anthology but mentioned ‘bonus’ content, then found out that I paid for what ended up being only 6% of a said book, I would be furious! So, that isn’t necessarily a KU problem, but something I feel is worth mentioning.
- The volume of BAD books had increased. Oh my gosh….seriously, some of the books that are published in KU are terrible. Listen, I always wanted to be a figure skater. But, you know what? I’m overweight, have balance issues, and can’t skate forward to save my life. So, as much as I would want to be a professional figure skater, I cannot. Just because you can write in the English language doesn’t mean you have the talent to write a book. Professional authors are BETTER writers than the average person. Thats why they become professional. Slapping words on a page, creating a short 50 page ‘book’ and putting it KU to grab some page reads because people are more willing to take a chance on an unknown author doesn’t make you an author. I am appalled at some of the terrible books in the KU program. I mean….YIKES. You could spend forever just checking out the thousands of books that are so BAD. But then all you are doing is giving that ‘author’ page views.
Now, there is also the issue of these fake ‘authors’ basically ripping off another authors book by simply changing the names of the characters, then publishing the book and collecting the money. While this isn’t a specific KU problem, KU does make it easier to lure in potential readers. Like I said, if a book is in KU, I am much more willing to take a chance on it.
So, what can be done? Well….not a lot…
- The biggest correction needs to come from Amazon. They have to either find a better way to pay authors or a way to weed out the abuse of the pay per page system. So far, they haven’t done either. Actually, they give bonuses to the authors who have the most page views, only encouraging more click farming.
- Readers can leave the program and go back to only buying books they feel confident about reading. This is why book reviews and book blogs still exist. It gives people the opportunity to find out about books and get some information to make a decision as to whether or not it would be worth spending the money. Then, the author gets paid and there is no ‘sharing’ of the pot of money. However, it does make things tougher for new authors trying to make a name for themselves and to get their books out there. People are less likely to take a chance.
- Real authors can leave the program so that the only books left in KU are the fake books or the bad books. Eventually people will cancel their memberships when the realize it isn’t worth it.
I don’t know that Amazon would change anything. Right now, they get paid either way-whether the books are actually read or click farmed, Amazon got their money from the KU subscriber. Frankly, they don’t seem to care who it gets paid out to. Many authors I have heard from have mentioned that they have contacted Amazon about these issues. Nothing has been done to date.
So, it seems that the only real way to make a change is for readers to stop using KU. But, then I think about those crazy gas boycotts that used to be all the rage years ago. You know the “No one go to the gas station on July 18th so we hurt their profits”. First, there is no way every single person is going to participate. Second, its one day. It doesn’t hurt their profits much because everyone still gets gas. They just get it on the 17th or the 19th. Its the same problem with readers and KU. Every single person isn’t going to leave the program no matter how much we complain. And amazon isn’t going to even notice a handful of users leaving the program. There are a million more out there for them to get money from.
If the good authors all pulled their books, thus leaving only the fake books and the poorly written ones, I do think lots of readers would eventually leave. But, like my gas boycott metaphor, not all the authors will leave (and I don’t blame them! Even with the scamming, some authors are finding a lot of success with KU). And, the click farms all have KU accounts, so again, Amazon isn’t losing any money…
Bottom line? I’m not sure! I am frustrated with Amazon’s policy. I feel for the genuine authors who have had to leave KU because it wasn’t profitable for them. I hate scammers. I will continue to support authors in getting changes to the KU program because I think the idea of KU is great. Outside of that, I don’t know what can be done.
Tell me: Are you a KU subscriber? Have you heard about the issues with the program? What do you think should be done?
PS: I owe KU for introducing me to Alexa Riley. Seriously, I would have never tried her books otherwise. Now, I buy every single one of them. So, for that alone, thank you KU.