Online news outlets, bloggers, and social media have been bubbling over Amazon’s announcement of Kindle Unlimited, a new service offering a buffet of 600,000 e-books and 2,000 audiobooks for $9.99 per month. Those in the business of selling college textbooks might be concerned over the potential impact of Kindle Unlimited.
At first glance, according to The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch, the service has a number of features that might lure college and university students. Although Kindle Unlimited is strictly a loaner system, subscribers can access as many titles as they want—there’s no cap and, unlike with many public and academic libraries, no waiting until someone else finishes the only e-copy the library has licensed. You don’t even need to own a Kindle, as long as your device can accommodate the Kindle app.
Amazon automatically bills your account each month for the service, but it doesn’t require a minimum subscription so you can quit any time. Presumably, that means a student could hop on and off the service as needed.
The list of titles covers many academic subjects (including history, politics and social sciences, science and math, literature and fiction, foreign languages, and business and money) as well as reference works and technical topics.
However, almost all of those titles are trade books geared to the layperson, not true textbooks written specifically for pedagogical use. It’s possible some of those books might be adopted for courses, but not all that many.
The literary fiction does include a few contemporary stars, such as Pat Conroy and Jonathan Safran Foer, although numerous big-name authors are missing because the five largest trade publishers aren’t participating (not yet, anyway). The classics on the list are mostly in the public domain and already available free online.
As is, Kindle Unlimited isn’t likely to be much help for college students and may only be a good deal for certain avid readers, in the view of Huffington Post.