Amazon to pay authors only by the page

Amazon officially announced yesterday that as of 1 July 2015 the Kindle Select Fund will only pay out based on the number of pages in your ebook the consumer reads. Amazon refer to their standard page as the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC) based “on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.).” The rationale behind the change was that Select was weighted too heavily in favour of short works: Kindle Owners’ Lending Library paid authors by the download regardless of the length of the book, while Kindle Unlimited paid after the first 10% of the book was read. Paying by the page is intended to rectify that.

A quick look at the math reveals that Amazon are expecting to pay $0.10 per page; however, Amazon have been notorious in the past for exaggerating potential payouts, so whether authors will actually be paid $0.10 per page when the final tally is in is anybody’s guess. And Amazon have also been notorious for paying fairly at the start of a program then steadily decreasing the amount paid over time.

In May 2015, Amazon paid $1.348 per KOLL borrow. A quick look at a colleague’s account shows he has had 15 pages read so far this month under the new system, earning him $1.50 if Amazon’s promises hold out. But the system gives him no information whatsoever about how many people downloaded the book and, therefore, how far they read. Amazon also do not tell the author how many pages his ebook is using KENPC. Thus, he has no way to know if he is being paid more or less for his ebook under the new Select program than he was under the old. All that he can do is wait for the month to pass and see if, on average, he’s doing better or worse.

While the system is intended to address inequities in ebook length and bring authors with longer works into, or back into, the Select fold, the problem inherent in the system is that it essentially allows Amazon to get a refund on titles consumers borrow or stream but decide they do not like. If you eat only half of your McDonald’s hamburger, McDonald’s doesn’t get to pay their suppliers only half their invoices. Yet this is exactly what Amazon are doing to authors.

I can understand this system for Kindle Unlimited, but I really do not understand it for the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Under KOLL, the consumer is allowed only one borrow per month regardless of whether they read the ebook or not, yet the author will now only be paid if the ebook is read. So if the ebook goes unread, the consumer still uses up their free pass but the author is paid nothing.

How is that fair?


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