What does Amazon's New ‘pay-per-page’ Policy Mean for Authors?

I’ve seen a lot of stories pop up on my Facebook Newsfeed recently.  There seems to be some outrage and I wasn’t a hundred percent sure why.  All I knew was that Amazon have done something and this could have a massive impact.

Here’s the initial impression at first glance:

  • Authors will be paid depending on how many pages are read
  • If a reader only gets half way through a book and finds it boring, the author will only be paid for the pages read.

The reality is very different. So this is what it means:

  • Amazon has launched Kindle Unlimited.
  • This means that for a subscription fee, readers can have access to an unlimited number of books
  • Self-published authors can opt in via the KDP Select programme and this will give them a cut of the fee that is calculated on a monthly basis
  • This automatically caps the Author’s earning potentially and will be competing with other author’s directly as they can never earn more than the funds allow. For example, June’s estimated amount was £1.9m which will be divided accordingly between the authors that have their books borrowed from the Kindle Unlimited store.
  • This new method will charge per page that is read – a specified meaning of ‘page’ already predetermined so that the changing of font sizes won’t affect this.
  • The system will also monitor how long an individual is on a page, in order to count it was being read

The general consensus to this method has not been a positive one. Concerns have been raised by authors, journalists and those with a love for books in terms of how this will affect the way books are written.

Digital self-publishing has already opened the word up to a plethora of fan-fiction and general poor writing but this new method of payment could see authors writing longer books for the sake of it, that is assuming the pay-per-page is the same across all books.

In the past, authors have not been penalised, nor rewarded for writing shorter books.  For example

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater: 416 pages and £7.99*

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: 1440 pages and £7.49**

There is not much difference in price but a considerable difference in page length, and this example even shows the shorter novel costing more.  So does this then mean the books in e-format will be penalised for being shorter?

This has brought considerable debate amongst many authors and is now providing a rocky ledge in which to stand. Samantha Shannon at The Guardian discusses some of the concerns further by examining how effective this method is and whether it’s even fair.

She talks about the right of a paying customer to get rid of a book if you don’t like it, to walk out of the cinema if you’re enjoying the film or even to throw away a cake that you don’t like. This is fair but none of these circumstances will give you a refund, or even a partial one, if your personal preferences are different to others. And I believe she has a valid point.

What we’re seeing here is the devaluing of books as a whole.  The eBook has already provided a cheaper and more cost effective way for people to purchase books but now it will be taking things one step further.  And how will this impact on the publishing houses? After all, there are teams of people that all contribute the effort of a single publication.

Some people are viewing this change as a positive.  Authors that were writing chapters rather than novels, were publishing them in the same way and still receiving nearly full price of an eBook.  The idea behind the Amazon change will hopefully rectify this and unless that one chapter is read by a whole load of people, they’ll be earning their royalties, rather than the system working in their favour.

*based on the pricing on the book

**based on Amazon’s current price

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