Thoughts on Amazon’s new royalties system

Amazon very recently introduced a new way of calculating royalties for books borrowed in the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library schemes. Whereas previously royalties were based on the number of times a book has been borrowed, they will now be based on the number of pages read. Amazon will define what a page is according to font size and other parameters, so authors can’t pull a fast one by making the font huge!

But is she reading all of it? Photo by goXunuReviews

It’s early days, and the scheme so far is being applied narrowly—only to borrowed books. But Amazon already knows how many pages of a book people have read, as you can infer from the fact that it synchronises your reading between devices. Therefore I believe it could, in theory, apply this principle right across the board. What might the effects of that be?

  • Authors of longer books will be paid more, if their books are read. That was the main reason for introducing this new scheme apparently.
  • Could it lead to better quality writing? It could do, if you think that cranking out a book every ten days of such awful quality that people read the first couple of pages and then give up would not result in huge royalty payments. Much better to turn out fewer books that people actually enjoy reading.
  • On the other hand, could it lead to less academic writing? I imagine that a light, chatty sort of writing style is more likely to be read by most people than dry-as-dust academic prose. But maybe that would be the case anyway, or maybe it won’t make any difference: if you have to read academic stuff, you have to read it, and that’s the end of the matter.

The bottom line is, I don’t know what effects, if any, this new approach will have on the sort of books that are published on Amazon, but it will be an interesting area to watch I think.

Details of Amazon’s scheme.