Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited: Game Changer or Come-On!

Dear Commons Community,

Amazon earlier this week announced an All-You-Can-Read service: Unlimited Kindle. It offers a collection of over 600,000 eBook titles for a low price of $9.99 per month. If this truly includes all Kindle books—it is a game changer. However, if it only means access to a limited number of “less popular” books, it is not much of an offer. Brian Mathews, Associate Dean for Learning & Outreach at Virginia Tech,  raised this issue in yesterday’s online edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. He raised a number of interesting possibilities regarding the cost of textbooks, the collections of college libraries, and how university trustees might encourage administrators to adopt policies favoring Kindle Unlimited books. For example:

“Amazon will get a lot of publicity from this service and the message that sticks will be “all the books in the world for the low price of $9.99.” Even if it’s not true — that’s the likely perception that will prevail.

Librarians need to be prepared to talk about this. I can imagine the defense that will arise:

  • Not everything will be available online.
  • It doesn’t include journals and other mediums.
  • It’s a propriety / closed format.
  • Do we really want one company controlling the distribution of knowledge?
  • What if they raise the price to $99.99 a month?
  • You are forced into a licensing deal—if you stop payment everything vanishes, instantly.
  • Authors and publishers will be forced to negotiate with Amazon, which won’t be in their best (financial) interests.
  • There is no guarantee about the long-term preservation of knowledge.
  • What happens when Amazon is surpassed by someone else?”

Mathews’ conclusion:

“Amazon is going to have to provide access to major publishers, like Random House, Wiley, Springer, and Elsevier, and some university presses like MIT and UC in order for this to have any impact on academic libraries. I can see Kindle Unlimited creating an appetite (and expectation for everything) but we have to see if Amazon can actually deliver on the licensing.”

I just did a check on five textbooks I have use in my classes and none of them were available in the Kindle Unlimited collection.


Comments are closed.