What I Love about the New Kindle Unlimited Policy

Background image from ShutterStock.

Background image from ShutterStock.


I’m not saying that the new Kindle Unlimited policy is perfect.

I realize that it works better for some books than for others.

And it doesn’t seem to particularly favor my books.

But overall, there is much that I like about the new Kindle Unlimited policy.

I think it’s a nice improvement, a good step in the right direction.


In case you don’t already know, Kindle Unlimited now pays authors royalties for borrows based on the number of pages read.

  • Click the advertise and promote button on your bookshelf to discover your Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC). That’s the official number of pages of your book, which is likely quite different than what you see on your product page.
  • You now see KENP read on your reports, which is the Kindle Edition Normalized Pages read. It no longer shows the number of borrows, but instead shows the total number of pages read.
  • Amazon announced that 1.9B KENP were read in June, 2015. If the same number of KENP are read in July, 2015, with the announced $11M Global Select Fund for July, this would mean that authors would receive $0.0058 for each KENP read.


There are several things that I like about the new Kindle Unlimited policy:

  • The reports give me some information about my customers’ reading habits. Last night, it appears that a customer read one of my science books from cover to cover. That’s pretty cool. I had a book that was started, but the page count is sitting there: It makes me wonder why. It’s more information about our customers than we’ve had before.
  • Although the new payout isn’t perfect, and seems to disfavor a few types of books like illustrated children’s books (perhaps), overall I feel that the new payout is fairer than it was before. There are exceptions, of course, but overall, it seems fair that the more words you type that actually get read, the more you should earn for your effort. Maybe not perfect, but I feel that it’s fairer than it was.
  • The new payout seems more sustainable for Amazon. That’s important, because if it wasn’t sustainable, in the long run the program wouldn’t have been good for readers or for authors. In the original program, a customer could easily read dozens of very short books per month, in which case Amazon was paying out $30, $40, even $50+ in royalties for a single customer that paid a mere $9.99 subscription fee. Now Amazon is taking the $11M payout and dividing by the number of pages read, so customers can read to their heart’s content without Amazon losing money as a result.
  • It doesn’t seem nearly as easy for authors to game the new system. Padding the book seems flat-out stupid: If the content isn’t engaging, extra pages will hurt, not help. Changing the font size has no impact. Breaking up paragraphs and other formatting nonsense that’s more likely to frustrate customers won’t get more pages read. Throwing in pictures where they don’t fit will frustrate customers. The new system rewards books that engages customers, not those that frustrate them. Building a robot to tap 1000’s of pages per day is likely to trigger the monitoring system.
  • I don’t hear authors complaining loudly and frequently about scamphlets. It was never good marketing for Amazon, or for any of the authors who publish Kindle e-books, to advertise about poor quality books. The new system won’t reward such nonsense (I’m not talking about engaging stories or useful nonfiction content that happens to be very short, I’m talking about shorts designed to game the system), and so it won’t encourage more of it.
  • The new policy doesn’t favor longer books, it favors engaging reads of any length. If you want to write 90,000 words, whether you write one 90,000-word book, three 30,000-word books, or nine 10,000-word books, if a customer reads all of it, you earn the same royalty for the same number of words written. But you should choose the option that’s most likely to get your pages read. Engaging reads, whether short or long, are favored in the new program. (If you compare short works in the new program to the old program, that’s different. But that’s a sunk cost. The old program is out the door.)
  • We finally earn money when customers read less than 10% of a book. Now if a customer tries your book out and decides it isn’t for them, you at least get paid something.
  • No customer should be worried about reading too much and abusing the system. As a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, I was reluctant to let my daughter read 3-4 children’s stories too many times during the month, thinking how much that would cost Amazon. Now, I have no reservations about using Kindle Unlimited to our heart’s content.
  • The new terms reward successful books (depending on how you would like to define success, of course). From the sense that successful books result in more pages read, that aspect is rewarded. Imagine very short books that were being opened thousands of times, but almost no customer was reading more than 20% of the story (and being very short, that might just have been a page or two). Was that a success or a failure? Now they will still get paid, but based on the pages read. If those authors can find ways to get their customers to read 100% of their stories, they will make more money from the improved success.
  • The new model seems to fit better for what is essentially an e-library. One goal of a library is for people to read the books. The books that get read more provide a good service to the library, and the new system rewards that. (Of course, any real library has valuable books that don’t get read much, but show their value in other ways. As I said, the system isn’t perfect, but I feel that it’s better than it was.)
  • Authors who wish to utilize KDP Select should be focused on how to write engaging content. That’s a great incentive, isn’t it? More engaging content will surely attract more customers, making Kindle Unlimited better than ever. (Again, while I can think of a few exceptions, overall, this seems like an improvement.)


Obviously, the change to Kindle Unlimited won’t be good for all books.

What it really does is redistribute the $11M payout based on pages read instead of the number of borrows.

About half the books, on average, should do better (at least a little, if not a lot), and about half the books, on average, should do worse to some degree.

Overall, it seems fairer, and there are several qualities which I like, but it’s not perfect. It may be a good step in the right direction.

There are a few kinds of books that are losing out.

You can’t feel much pity about the short works which were intentionally designed to abuse the system.

But the well-thought out short stories, illustrated children’s books, graphic novels, and informative reference works likely to be read only in part, well, these may be a few examples of books that are disfavored by the new system, but which provide good value to Kindle Unlimited.

Engaging short reads, while they will likely earn much less than before, should make up for that somewhat by getting read to 100% more often.

Illustrated children’s books suffer from the KENPC, which counts fixed layout books literally, whereas reflowable books tend to have more pages than their print counterparts. Even worse, some children’s layouts show as two-pages per screen, which cuts the page count in half.

It’s an important issue for children’s authors and for parents who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited (since if the books pull out of Select, it may make the subscription less appealing).

It’s also a difficult issue to address. Some children’s books have much more involved, time-consuming illustrations, while others have pictures that were made with much less effort or time (sometimes, it’s also because the artist can produce high quality in less time, but other times it’s the nature of images that made the work easier). Some children’s authors also invest heavily in professional illustrators.

I don’t know what the solution is, if there is a good one. Maybe Amazon will address it in some way.

But if you’re wondering whether or not there is a mass exodus of certain kinds of books from Kindle Unlimited, I’ve been tracking the numbers and don’t see any significant movement yet.

No need to panic yet.

Amazon is surely monitoring the numbers, too, and is in a position to act if at some point there is any cause for concern. Based on the enrollment numbers, there isn’t cause to worry at this stage.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
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  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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7 comments on “What I Love about the New Kindle Unlimited Policy

  1. I feel like the policy change is a step in the right direction because it seems to focus heavily on the quality of writing. Good, high quality writing holds the reader’s attention and keep them reading where poor writing doesn’t. Now, instead of making money by marketing and getting downloads, it’s the quality of work that makes the money. As you point out, it’s by no means the perfect formula for payouts across the board, but I love how the focus is shifting to quality writing.

  2. Did you mean 90,000 words? 🙂
    Honestly, mine just isn’t well enough written to be selling, but I’ve been studying a lot and have higher hopes for the next one. I believe as long as a book is well written and a page-turner, the new scheme can’t do any harm to a good writer. It’s mainly the people whose books don’t compel readers to read them that will suffer. And the picture books, of course.

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