Change is a constant in life, and with Amazon and e-books, especially so. The e-retailer’s business terms for publishers and authors lurch from point to point like pinballs.
Last summer, Amazon launched its Kindle Unlimited e-book subscription service, featuring all-you-can-eat access to hundreds of thousands of books and audiobooks. This week, word came from Seattle that calculations for royalties paid to authors and publishers will soon change dramatically. Bottom line: royalties will flow via a complicated computation of pages read. Many authors said they expect the change will mean smaller payments, though it may help coax publishers into the subscription pool.
“The subscription model still has a ways to go, but more and more publishers are trying it out,” Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer, tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “Publishers are reporting positive results so far for deep backlist books. The aggregate sales for subscription is modest, but in many cases, it’s money that wasn’t going to be captured otherwise.”
Indeed, Albanese reports that the Association of American Publishers recently estimated e-book sales through the subscription channel at about $20 million, based on reports from about 20 publishers. Importantly, the Big 5 and other leading publishers have so far resisted working with Amazon’s subscription service, which today is largely a catalog of self-published books and other Amazon titles.
“Now that Amazon has aligned their payment terms with what publishers are getting from other providers, will that change?” Albanese wonders. “At some point, I think Amazon will start to pressure publishers to participate—and we all know what pressure from Amazon can look like!”
Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.