Will Kindle Unlimited Save You Money?

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Because I’m usually too busy to read more than one book a month and rarely pay full price for any Kindle book, I was never very interested in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) program, which offers unlimited access to a selection of Kindle books for $9.99/month (as of this writing, on 12/3/15).



But now that KU includes Audible audiobooks, I decided to take another look. I’m already spending more than $9.99 per month on my Audible subscription, which offers me one audiobook credit per month. What if I could be getting the same audiobooks I want under KU for just $9.99? In that case, I think it would be smart to switch: cancel my Audible subscription and sign up for KU.

After my investigation I decided against making the switch, but I can still see where KU could be a great value for others. Read on for the factors to consider when making your own decision about KU.


You Don’t Own KU Books, You Borrow Them
KU is similar to subscription-based streaming music and podcast services, in that you only get access to the content for so long as your subscription is active. You can download KU books while you’re a subscriber, but if you ever cancel that subscription you will no longer have free access to any KU books.

If you’re not the type of person who likes to re-read books or listen to audiobooks more than once, this will be a non-issue. In my case, I do sometimes like to revisit the stuff I’ve read or listened to before.

Another wrinkle here is your book buying vs. reading habits and schedule. If you typically read a given book soon after buying or borrowing it, KU will work just fine for you. As for me, I typically have an eye out for books on my wish list and buy them when they go on sale at a good discount, but it may be months or even years before I actually get around to reading them. I’d have to keep my KU subscription current indefinitely to ensure I’d maintain access to the books I’ve selected.



Only Some Books In The Kindle Store Are Included In KU
Over on Ebook Friendly, in October of this year Piotr Kowalczyk reported that while the KU catalog includes 1 million Kindle titles…

the total number of books in the Kindle Store is now over 3.7 million. Therefore, Kindle Unlimited constitutes 27% [of the total Kindle Store catalog]

True enough, but all that really matters is whether or not the specific books you are interested in are part of that 27%. That probably depends on whether your tastes lean more toward current bestsellers from one of the “Big 5” publishers, or toward books from mid-range to smaller publishers, or indie authors. For example, Open Road Media books (like the bestseller pictured above) are included in the KU catalog, but only a select few are available from household-name publishers like Houghton-Mifflin, and those are typically only included for a limited time.

In the same article quoted above, Kowalczyk adds:

When you dig deeper in comparing the numbers you’ll find out, that only about 40,000 Kindle Unlimited books are not exclusive to the Kindle Store.

In other words, only about 40k of the 1 million KU titles are from major publishers, and are books you could get from any ebook retailer. This means that as of this writing at least, the majority of KU titles are either from Amazon’s own imprints, or from smaller publishers and indie authors who’ve elected to offer their ebooks exclusively through Amazon.

Again, this may not matter to you if you typically read books from the Amazon imprints, smaller publishers and indie authors whose books are included in the KU catalog. You can easily get a feel for what’s included and what isn’t by viewing the current KU listings in the Kindle Store:



Getting Back To Audiobooks…
Not all Kindle books are also available in Audible format, but since Amazon owns Audible it should come as no surprise that many of their own imprints do offer their titles in both formats. However, not all KU books with an available Audible version include the Audible version in the KU catalog. Only the KU titles whose product pages carry the label “Kindle Unlimited With Narration” make the Audible version of the book available as part of your KU subscription.

For example, current bestseller The Midwife’s Revolt is included in the KU catalog, is published by an Amazon imprint (Lake Union) and has an Audible version available, but this title does not carry the “Kindle Unlimited With Narration” legend. For this title, if you want to listen to the Audible version or switch back and forth between Kindle and Audible versions with Immersion Reading, as of this writing you’re going to have to buy the Audible version.

I did a quick check of all the Audible titles I’ve gotten over the past six months or so, and found that none of them are included in the KU program. So for me, as of this writing at least, KU could not substitute for my Audible subscription.


Again, every reader is different and many have found the KU program meets their needs and saves them money. If it still sounds like KU could work for you, click here to view Amazon’s detailed information pages about the Kindle Unlimited program.


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