By Hannah Johnson
Yesterday, GigaOM’s Laura Hazard Owen uncovered Amazon’s plans to launch an ebook and audiobook subscription plan, Kindle Unlimited, that would give subscribers access to more than 600,000 titles for $9.99 per month. According to Owen, a webpage announcing the plan was discovered by Kindle Boards users before being taken down by Amazon. Thanks to Google Cache, however, a version of the page is still available online:
Owen also located a page that was still active yesterday, which listed over 600,000 titles that would apparently be included in Kindle Unlimited. On initial inspection, she reported that there were no titles from the USA’s “Big Five” publishers. It is possible that this subscription program has been discussed during Amazon’s negotiations with Hachette and Simon & Schuster.
As early as 2011, the publishing industry has been talking about subscription-based business models and hoping to create the elusive “Netflix for ebooks” that would actually take hold with consumers. From Scribd and Oyster in the USA to Bookmate in Russia, Nubico in Spain, and now Manuvo in Mexico, companies around the world believe that ebook subscription could be the next success in the publishing business. When Scribd first announced its ebook subscription service, the company believed that its existing 80 million users would propel its subscriber base forward. So far, however, the race for subscribers appears to be neck-and-neck, with no clear front-runner.
How will Kindle Unlimited affect the race? As Joshua Brustein writes in Businessweek, “Amazon will be a tough competitor for its smaller rivals.” Amazon has the bigger market share, huge customer base and the Kindle ecosystem all working in its favor. But given Amazon’s history of strong-arming publishers over pricing and contract terms, publishers might get a better deal with one of the other ebook subscription players.