Amazon has just released the recently leaked service Kindle Unlimited. The excellent post How The Big 5 Publishers Hobbled The Amazon Unlimited Launch on Techcrunch does a great job of explaining initial problems with the service. The salient point made in his post is the following:
Amazon Unlimited was dubbed the Netflix of books. That is correct as long as you imagine a Netflix consisting of an endless array of low-budget indie releases and some major small-studio films. In truth, Amazon’s new $9.99 all-you-can-read service features no books by“big 5″ trade publishers, an issue on which Amazon has remained mum.
This is very true. If you get the service and are looking for the New York Times Best Seller List, you are apt to be disappointed. If you have a favorite popular author, your search results will also probably come back with nothing found.
It’s even sketchier with Audiobooks. The whole audiobook experience is interesting. You have to find a book that has Kindle unlimited with narration noted as shown below.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to conveniently list what books have audio functionality. Also, not every book that has an audiobook companion offers the feature as part of the subscription. One example is Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run. Notice that there is an Audible version of the book available (Audible is owned by Amazon), but it is not available as narration.
When a book is capable of narration, this is how it works on an iPhone.
First, get the book on the iPhone. It is best to find the book on the computer and click “Read for Free” with your device selected. On an iPhone as an example, you will see the start of the book when opened. When you click the headphones icon, you will see the screen on the right.
Tap the down arrow to download the audiobook. You will see a progress bar and then the cover picture will appear when it is complete.
Then it will play like a normal audiobook. If you leave the text in view, The pages will turn to match the narration.
As a runner, I am very disappointed that the audiobook selection seems to be very sparse, but I’m not willing to give up yet. When searching for books on running, Amazon returned a huge number of results. These results were not necessarily the books by the larger publishers, they were often independent titles like Running with Curves by Jill Angie.
This situation reminds me of years ago when I started listening to audiobooks. The number of available titles were very thin, so I had to dig deep and grab whatever I could out of desperation. This desperation force me to listen to audiobooks that I never would have chosen on my own. Some of these were among the best books I have ever read or heard.
I think this may be a boon for independent writers for a while. They can get some much needed exposure without being overshadowed by the bigger names. It can also be wonderful for readers by forcing them to take a chance on titles that they might not have before.
But Amazon, please more audiobooks. Pretty please…
UPDATE: @ReadEatWriteRun on Twitter pointed out that readers are limited to 10 books at a time. But you can return one to get another.