KINDLE UNLIMITED QUESTIONS ANSWERED
I researched the answers to two common questions about Kindle Unlimited. I obtained my data directly from Amazon.com, as I will show.
- Is Kindle Unlimited being flooded with short books?
- Are KDP Select authors dropping out now that the KOLL payment had dropped to about $1.40?
I hear a lot of speculation about these two points. Most of the answers are based on guesswork and emotions such as fear.
So I decided to find out for myself. I didn’t know the answer for sure. I researched the data and let the numbers speak for themselves.
DATA STRAIGHT FROM AMAZON
I gathered my data directly from Amazon. No, I didn’t ask them for it. I didn’t need to; you don’t either.
Rather, I simply browsed the Amazon.com website as follows:
- I visited Amazon.com. I browsed the Kindle Store. The left-hand column tallies numbers of books in various categories.
- On February 17, 2015 I did my first search. I recorded data for books in Kindle Unlimited, new releases, new releases in Kindle Unlimited, Kindle short reads, Kindle short reads in Kindle Unlimited, Kindle short read new releases in Kindle Unlimited, and many other numbers.
- I repeated my search on March 17, 2015, one month later.
- I compared the numbers. For specifics, see below.
(1) Are Short Books Flooding Kindle Unlimited?
In the Kindle store at Amazon.com, the left-hand column actually displays the number of books in Kindle short reads. If you click on the Kindle short reads link, it further breaks these down by page count. Kindle short reads have 1 to 100 pages.
Here is what I found:
- On February 17, there were 301,747 Kindle short reads in Kindle Unlimited out of 864,164 Kindle Unlimited books. That’s 34.9%.
- On March 17, there were 314,020 Kindle short reads in Kindle Unlimited out of 894,423 Kindle Unlimited books. That’s 35.1%.
This percentage is up slightly: 0.2%. But don’t panic yet.
Let’s look at another pair of numbers:
- There were 42,638 books added to Kindle Unlimited in the last 30 days.
- There were 12,273 more Kindle Unlimited books in Kindle short reads on March 17 than on February 17.
Only 29% of the books added to Kindle Unlimited in the last 30 days are short reads. 71% of books published and added to Kindle Unlimited in the past month have 101 pages or more. That’s definitely not flooding the market with short reads. (In fact, this 71% exceeds the 65% of books in Kindle Unlimited presently that are full-length books. Imagine that!)
However, 12,379 books were removed from Kindle Unlimited. If you account for this, there were 30,259 more books in Kindle Unlimited on March 17 compared to February 17.
Of those, 30,259 books, 40.6% were Kindle short reads.
(Furthermore, 23% of the books in Kindle short reads are 65-100 pages in length. Many of the short reads books aren’t all that short.)
What does this mean?
If 40% of the books added to Kindle Unlimited each month are short reads (100 pages or less), then the ratio of short reads to full-length Kindle e-books will approach 40%.
That means at least 60% of the books in Kindle Unlimited will be full-length books in the future, based on the current rate. That’s a majority that are full-length.
That’s certainly not flooding the market with short reads. There are currently 35% of Kindle Unlimited books classified as short reads, and this is approaching 40%.
Based on the current rate of growth (0.2% per month), that’s not too different from how things were back in July before Kindle Unlimited was introduced. It was nearly 35% then, too. If Kindle Unlimited changes the ratio of short books to full-length books from 35% to 40%, that’s not significant in the grand scheme of things.
You don’t have to worry about it exceeding 40% until the ratio of books added to Kindle Unlimited per month begins to exceed this. That’s not happening now. I’ll keep an eye on this number, but I’m not worried about it at this point; it hasn’t changed much in the past six months.
On the related question, “Are full-length books dropping out of KDP Select?” let’s look at the next question. It turns out that very few books are dropping out.
How about those really short books?
Only 4% of the books in Kindle Unlimited have 11 pages or less (and this number isn’t going anywhere either). Of these, many are short stories (and not “scamphlets”).
If you hear all the rumors about people trying to game the system with very short books in Kindle Unlimited, or the stories of websites encouraging people to do this, just discard it unless and until this percentage starts to climb. It’s just 4% and Kindle Unlimited was introduced way back in July; it hasn’t changed noticeably in all that time. We’ll keep an eye on it, but there is presently no reason to worry about it.
(2) How many books are dropping out of KDP Select?
There appears to be a 98.6% renewal rate in KDP Select, as I’ll demonstrate below.
- There were 864,164 books in Kindle Unlimited on February 17, 2015.
- There were 894,423 books in Kindle Unlimited on March 17, 2015.
- 42,638 books were added to Kindle Unlimited in the last 30 days.
I subtract 42,638 books from 894,423 to get 851,785. That removes the new releases since February 17. (Actually, this number should be somewhat higher than 851,785 if you adjust for the fact that February only has 28 days. It will just make the renewal rate even higher.)
Comparing 851,785 to 864,164, there is a 98.6% renewal rate for KDP Select books staying in KDP Select. (The percentage is higher if you adjust for February’s short calendar.)
Only 1.4% are opting out, and more new books were added than opted out, which means the overall number of Kindle Unlimited books is climbing. (42,638 new books were added, compared to 12,379 that opted out.)
Amazon KDP has publicly advertised a KDP Select renewal rate in excess of 95% since July, 2014, and my data easily backs this up. Very few books are dropping out.
Note that some of the books that have dropped out are Kindle short reads! It’s not just the full-length books that are dropping out. 15,539 books were added to Kindle Unlimited short reads in the last 30 days, yet there are only 12,273 more books in Kindle Unlimited short reads compared to one month ago. The difference opted out of Kindle Unlimited. (So if you wish to claim that only full-length books are opting out of Select, it won’t be true.)
Two myths frequently rumored are absolutely BUSTED:
- Myth 1: Soon, there won’t be any good books left in Kindle Unlimited. With 98.6% of Kindle Unlimited books renewing their enrollment, and with many more books being added each month than are dropping out, this is an unfounded concern.
- Myth 2: Soon, the vast majority of Kindle Unlimited books will be short reads. Actually, 65% of the books in Kindle Unlimited have 101 or more pages, and 60% of those added in the last 30 days have 101 or more pages. More authors are adding full-length books to Kindle Unlimited than are adding short reads, so this concern is also unfounded.
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Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
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Thanks for running actual numbers, Chris. It doesn’t seem time to panic, does it?
Good to know when you’re about to start making these decisions – everything is changing fast in the digital world, but not THAT fast. And writers are not abandoning Amazon in droves, nor are they changing their patterns – which means, among other things, that readers get a fairly stable environment in which to search for books they like – which is good for all of us.
The reader’s perspective: Yes, it’s good to consider this from that side. It does appear very stable presently.
Readers don’t like too much change once they’ve figured out a system – and they’ve had to figure out several since the Digital Revolution in Books began – they would probably like things to settle down.
New is good – but bouncy is not.
My system of finding books to read has changed a few times in the past 10 years. I have Kindle Unlimited and hope to keep my current reading system for a long while. So I can relate. 🙂
Reblogged this on THE IMPOSSIBILITIES CAN BE MADE POSSIBLE .
Thank you for the reblog. 🙂
Remember wondering about that first one. A reason for that is because I met people who said they would do that. Which might be the reason for these rumors. I see authors swearing that they’ll leave KDP all the time. Vocal minority? Since the other side never talks about it and uses auto-renewal, you only hear the departing side. So your average author and reader who isn’t watching numbers gets the sense that those myths are reality. It is strange that every month tends to have the same people wearing to leave. Think they’d be gone by now.
That does seem to account for how these myths originate. Those with complaints do tend to be quite vocal, in general; not just with Kindle Unlimited.
Also the timing. Within a day or two of a Kindle Unlimited fun email going out, you see people screaming about how it’s ruining everything. Then many of the go back to promoting their books and erupt when the next one turns up. There are some people who make good on their leaving threat though. Wonder how they’re doing.
I know one author who has done quite well after leaving, but she didn’t leave with such strong vocal opinions. Most others I know of have either struggled or have done roughly the same (some of those have since returned). In general, it probably takes a great marketing plan to make it work and reach that new audience.
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
AUTHORS – Chris McMullen did the research so YOU didn’t have to 😀
Thank you for the reblog. 🙂
Welcome Chris 😀
Reblogged this on Mary Blowers, Author and commented:
Contrary to popular belief . . .
Thank you for the reblog. 🙂
It’s entirely possible that I’m just dense, but I feel like I’m missing the point, somewhere. Not the point of all your statistics and math, but the point of the argument that led to it.
I’m probably going to be tarred and feathered for asking stupid questions, but why exactly would it be a bad thing for there to be more short pieces up? (Discounting quick 5-10 page splats on trending topics to make a quick buck, which is what I’m guessing you mean by “scamphlets,” and I really enjoy that word…) I’m not seeing how that hurts (or even really impacts) the authors of longer pieces, or the readers who prefer reading material with some meat on it.
I suppose a swarm of shorts might ultimately be cutting into what the folks with the bigger books might be thinking of as “their pie,” but I’m scratching my head and saying “um… at least you’re getting a piece of pie, and realistically there’s probably still a boatload of people who are giving you that pie that wouldn’t give it to you directly – by buying your material outright – for all sorts of reasons, so better something than nothing… right?”
Again, I’m expecting backlash and outcry that I’m an idiot, but… I don’t get it. (Amusing that the numbers run counter to the myth, though; like others have noted, I suspect it has more to do with the dissatisfied individuals being more vocal than the ones that glance at the auto-renew e-mail once in a while, shrug, and go about their business.)
That’s a valid point. There is a little controversy between authors of shorter and longer works, but there are also many authors who write both. Personally, I feel that there are markets for short works (obviously those with quality content). It’s not easy to sell short books, but there are some authors who thrive on shorter works, there are customers who appreciate them (commuter fiction, lunchtime fiction, those who feel intimidated by longer books, etc.), and Amazon is happy to sell them (more content is delivered more frequently, customers return to Amazon more frequently). I write longer books myself, and read longer books, too, but I don’t have a problem with shorter books.
The controversy comes more with the even KOLL payout to both short 99-cent books and long $9.99 books (though short books can be priced higher and long books are sometimes 99 cents). But we all knew KOLL paid evenly going into it.
But obviously the people who are spreading myths about Kindle Unlimited attracting more short works are doing this in a way that paints short books in a negative light. They’re more likely to emphasize those so-called “scamphlets,” as opposed to a masterful short story.
Even if short works do become a much more significant share of the market, there is a So What? aspect to it. Short works have their own merit. I rather ignored this aspect in my post. I was just focusing on whether or not short works were taking up more room in Kindle Unlimited, ignoring whether or not it matters. Thank you for daring to bring that up. 🙂
Well, I don’t know if it’s so much being “daring” as just being my usual dumb, derpy self for not understanding what the hubbub is about. XD
So far as the rub of the matter, I guess I hadn’t considered that part about the short piece that’s normally .99 cents technically just netted the author a 140% royalty rate, but then again I go back to “and this is hurting who, exactly?” As noted, it’s stated pretty clearly that everyone gets the same piece of pie, whatever size it may be, and if someone is going to be butthurt that a shorter, “inferior” piece is getting more per word than their longer cousins, I guess that’s their prerogative… though I stand by the idea that at least some of those deposits are coming from people who would have been unlikely to buy the book in the first place, and thus are “bonus” income that one should happily accept rather than grousing about it.
I’m just one of those silly people who says “Go bang on the keys, write what you want, price it what you want, be happy that anyone is willing to pay you for doing so, and read what you want.” XD But thanks for the data, at least, because now at least someone is pointing out that perception != reality, in this case. XD
I’m with you here. There are other things it would be easier to get frustrated over. And when we attract readers, much to be grateful for. And better yet is to focus our thoughts and energy writing more books. 🙂
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Thanks for this Chris, makes interesting reading. I write short stories and full length novels (as PP Corcoran) and all my books are in KDP select. I always found it ironic that every borrow on my short story was more profit than a direct sale, but I never complained!
It seems, though, that Amazon has listened to the vocal dissenters and will ‘pay by page read’ from 1 July 2015, rather than give all books an equal slice of pie. Clearly it did matter to people!
Amazon have outlined their proposal here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A156OS90J7RDN.
I wonder, purely from a selfish point of view, whether my royalties for KU/KOLL will go up or down with this change of approach from Amazon?
And what effect, if any, will short stories have?
Perhaps it will lead to more ‘long novels’ in KU/KOLL?
I guess we must wait to see!
This change is fascinating. (I added a new article about it yesterday.) With full-length novels in the program, it seems that you have some security. The new question is how royalties for borrows of 99 cent short stories will compare with 34 cents for sales. It certainly changes the dynamic.