Did you ever have a reality check? You know the one…
EoM, the MasterCard statement arrives with page after page of charges, many (and I do mean many) of them shoring up the juggernaut we lovingly call The Zon (not to be confused with The Donald, God… no, just no).
Are you a Power Reader? Do you read 5 or more books a month? Ten, twenty? Novellas, shortie crapola rip-off serial cliffhanger PoCs (pieces of crap for the uninitiated), novels in the 50K word count range, longish novels, truly epic novels…
Welcome to my world. And the increasingly desperate effort to create economies around choosing meds vs cat food in order to feed a reading addiction. Enter the era of subscription services, beginning with Scribd. Since I was using Smashwords at the time, I had a free subscription to Scribd so I gave it a trial run. It was pretty much a non-starter as it pushed (virtually speaking) bestsellers and far too much of the formulaic content currently lubing the promotional arms/hands of the Big Five.
Truth is, I do virtually all of my buying via Amazon, be it books or food processors, because with Prime membership I get free/expedited shipping and customer service that beats most any other on offer, hands down.
Trust me, that free shipping is HUGE. I bought a bathroom mat from JC Penney—something you could stuff in a largish padded envelope—and shipping/handling cost $12.95! I kid you not. (And before you go all why not just drive 15 miles to the mall and back and pick it up at the store, you don’t have rte 22, the highway of death to negotiate, parking, gas, aggravation, time… fuggedaboutit.)
I was also painfully aware that the vast number of the books I purchased were really not up to snuff, including (YES!) books from major and second tier publishing houses: poor-to-nonexistent editing, wonky formatting, continuity issues, dreadful research, even more dreadful geographic knowledge (no, you can’t effing get from Red Hook to Spanish Harlem in 10 minutes, dammit!), plot, we don’ need no stinkin’ plot…
Well, ahem… anyway, if I didn’t want to lose my mind and the pittance I live on as a retired person, yet still needing to feed my habit, Kindle Unlimited was/is right up my alley. For one low price per month ($9.99) I have access to about 1M books with 10 selections allowed at any one time. I can return and refresh with another selection, I can manage my account to see what’s on tap, decide if I’m still in the mood for a certain tome or decide to move on if something more enticing catches my fancy.
I no longer have in residence on my Kindles, or in the Cloud, books of questionable value, books I never want to ever, ever, ever read again in this or any other lifetime, books that offend with sloppy editing and careless attention to the craft of writing, books that out-formula even the most formulaic of the Big Five offerings. I’ll stop here, I think you get my drift.
Prior to KU, I had to sift through my own digital collection, deleting the most obnoxious and wishing the Zon would get a clue and develop an app that would allow me to shelve titles in a way that makes sense to me, right on the Kindle Fire (gasp, what a revolutionary thought!). Whether I’d spent 99c or $5.99 (top of my price point for digital, period – it’s a lease fer crying out loud), that was dollars wasted, especially if the title was so poorly written I heaved it against the wall in a virtual outrage and never finished the damn thing.
Trust me, when you need to bring up the concept of disposable income and the competition for those fleeting pennies, wasting money (and time) on dreck just isn’t the fun many folks would have you believe.
And in case you were wondering, I don’t do the “read the whole thing, wasn’t to my taste so I’m returning it for a full refund” routine. You shouldn’t either. That’s not nice. And it’s stealing.
I needed a new way to find new authors, to explore the ever-emerging classes of mash-up genres, to try out outre/transgressive efforts… all without breaking the piggy bank. I can afford $9.99/month to do all that. Better yet, what it allows is for me to get far enough into a book to decide if it’s worth continuing. If I decide it’s not for me, then no harm, no foul. I delete it and move on. I can do that any number of times within the 10-books-on-the-KU-list at any one time limit.
Now, I hear the naysayers complaining I have the Inside the Book option, and yes I do. That pulls up the first few pages using Zon’s new algorithm. I just grabbed one, and I’m looking at it on the Fire: it begins at the blurb (I already saw that on the Amazon page), next is Praise for XXX, dedication, then chapter 1, etc for 527 kB. Not bad, and certainly enough to make a judgment call.
BUT, what if I don’t want the hassle of the download, opening the Kindle Fire, pawing through the pages on offer, then closing it all down, going back to Amazon and selecting or rejecting the One-click option?
Merciful heavens, if I did that with every single book I might be interested in? Gack, I’d never get anything else done.
I like grabbing a KU offering, “shelving” it in my manage your Kindle content space and then browsing directly on the Kindle Fire and deciding to continue when and if it suits. If I like it, I read it, sometimes to the point where I don’t like it anymore, sometimes all the way through. Delete, grab another one. Easy peasy.
As for discoverability, I’m not just a power reader, I’m also a power search engine in my own right. I know and understand tagging. Whether I’m in the mood for if I liked this I’ll like that, or for a story to challenge my preconceptions and take me new places, a few keystrokes will call up a selection of a hundred or so for my edification and enjoyment.
No longer am I punished in the wallet with substandard content. For the price of a paperback, I have access to (for me) an unlimited buffet of potentially new favorite books and new favorite authors. KU is the ideal screening tool, because when (not if) I do find that diamond in the gravel, then I make it permanent and purchase that book in print (if available) to add to my real shelves.
In some ways, I’m a subscription service’s worst nightmare. Scribd already discovered just how voracious romance readers are and have had to adjust their content offerings accordingly. So far Amazon hasn’t taken that drastic step.
Aside from Horror, I will read anything. If Amazon offered back-of-cereal-boxes as KU content, I’d probably read that, along with lit fic (I do love me those run-on sentences and esoteric word plays), SF, romance, suspense, thrillers, paras, and anything else you care to name.
As a reader, Kindle Unlimited has given me the opportunity to sample authors and genres without breaking the piggybank. And because there’s a wee bit more cash at the end of the month (sometimes, not always), I will frequently select another title from an author I discovered and liked, even if it isn’t in KU.
Do I care that (most of) the Big Five aren’t available in KU? Not really. I care more that they are price gouging on what is nothing more than a rental, often charging as much as or more than digital for their hardback formats. But that’s a rant for anutha day.
Screening. It’s the new word of mouth.