A polite objection to Kindle Unlimited

Well, I say polite. The original article has the ambiguous title of “Seriously, Fuck You, ‘Kindle Unlimited’:

Last week, Amazon informed us that for ten dollars per month, Kindle users can have unlimited access to over six hundred thousand books in its library. But it shouldn’t cost a thing to borrow a book, Amazon, you foul, horrible, profiteering enemies of civilisation.

Seriously, Fuck You ‘Kindle Unlimited’ – Maria Bustillos, The Awl (21 July 2014)

Now don’t mince words, what do you really mean?

For a monthly cost of zero dollars, it is possible to read six million e-texts at the Open Library, right now. On a Kindle, or any other tablet or screen thing. You can borrow up to five titles for two weeks at no cost, and read them in-browser or in any of several other formats (not all titles are supported in all formats, but most offer at least a couple): PDF, .mobi, Kindle or ePub (you’ll need to download the Bluefire Reader—for free—in order to read ePub format on Kindle.) I currently have on loan Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Original Sin by P.D. James, and The Dead Zone by Stephen King.

That’s nice. Here’s the thing, I want King, James and Moore (they sound like attorneys at law) to get paid. So I would in theory have no problem with Amazon charging a fee that included at least some money going to them.

But Amazon doesn’t go for details in its announcements. That’s why we always hear that the Kindle Fire has sold out but we never know whether they only made one of them. In this case, Kindle Unlimited definitely lets you borrow books but it’s tough to know which ones. Broadly speaking, right now the rule of thumb is that if you want to borrow it, it’s not available. Right now the selection is limited and must surely include books that are already out of copyright and available in all these other ways.

So right now, nuts to Kindle Unlimited. But it’s worth keeping an eye on.

And so is this Open Library of which Bustillos speaks. I’ve just followed her link to the Open Library site and signed up to check it out before hopefully checking out some books. There doesn’t appear to be any regional blocking yet; I was allowed through without any US address confirmation.

In these first few moments trying it out, I haven’t got very far, though. I tried searching for a particular author and got a list of her books, most of which had “Checked out” next them. I tried one that wasn’t and got options to buy from the usual suspects (Amazon, Abebooks and so on) or borrow it from a real-world library.

I like that library option, I like it very much: I expected that it would be some US-only service as Open Library is American but nope. Apparently my own local library, the Library of Birmingham here in the UK has a copy of the book I fancy.

So who needs or wants Kindle Unlimited? Do read Bustillos’ full article for more ranting and a little more detail.

Subscription reading not coming to Amazon UK yet

The US version of Amazon has today announced Kindle Unlimited: for about ten dollars a month, you become a subscriber. It says here that you can rent as many books as you like but people are already discovering that not all authors are available.

That will change and at some point presumably the Kindle Unlimited service will come to the UK. But until it does, take a look at a video on the Amazon US site that explains how it all works.