Great News for Readers
Kobo Plus is now available in the UK & the US
It’s been a long time coming, but there’s finally an alternative to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited programme for readers in the UK and US. Kobo Plus has been available in its native Canada since 2020, when it was also made available to readers in the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal. The programme was expanded to Australia and New Zealand the following year, but I’ve been waiting somewhat impatiently for it over here in the UK.
So, why do we need an alternative to Kindle Unlimited?
Well, that’s down to personal preference. For me, it’s a number of things, the first being Amazon’s stranglehold on the ebook and audiobook market (through Audible). You can read about Audiblegate here. The reason I sell my books widely in the first place is because I want readers to be able to access my books wherever they shop as well as from libraries.
Kindle Unlimited’s requirement for exclusivity would put my books out of the reach of libraries, international readers that KU/Amazon doesn’t serve, my own subscription platform, my own website, and all other ebook retailers. I’m not prepared to do that. Not when among the perks of going exclusive with the world’s largest ebook retailer are having your books removed from sale because the Amazon bots found them on a pirate site, having your page reads stripped* for unspecified and alleged suspicious reading activity that they don’t have to explain, having your rank stripped**, and having your publishing account shut down without warning, explanation or recourse, while they “withhold” your royalties. Let’s just call that what it is, shall we? It’s theft. Imagine being the sort of company that behaves like this in 2023.
*Page reads are how KU authors get paid. If someone reads your 100-page book, you get about 40p. If Amazon decides the reader didn’t actually read the book, they can, without providing proof, claim there was “fraudulent page read activity” and just… not pay you. Fun, right?
**Rank stripping is where Amazon makes your rank in the store, or in your categories, invisible to readers. This behaviour tends to coincide with author promotions. For example, an author has just paid a huge amount of money to promote their free/99c book with a Bookbub Featured Deal. This is the holy grail of promotions, costing anywhere between $100 and almost $4,000 USD, depending on your genre and how much you’re selling the book for. The advert for the book goes out to Bookbub’s mailing list, who click and buy. The book goes flying up the charts, where more readers can see it and buy it. That’s what promotions do for authors. It’s why we use them. Amazon notices a lot more movement on the book than usual. But instead of assuming an author has a promotion running (something authors do all the time), Amazon thinks something shady must be going on, so they strip the rank, making the book invisible, and crippling the promotion. This lowers the return on investment on the promotion itself and stops it from catching the wave that makes promotions worth it in the long run. In short, this behaviour costs authors money instead of giving them the boost they paid for. For the sake of transparency, Amazon does this to indie authors in general, not specifically KU authors. And I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Amazon wants us to pay for ads on its own ad platform. Nothing at all.
Obviously, Kobo Plus isn’t available everywhere either, but because there is no requirement for exclusivity, this is just another channel through which our books can be made available.
Another perk from my side is that I get paid every time someone reads my books, so if you go through my entire series a second or third time, I’ll get paid for each read through. Kindle Unlimited only pays authors for the first read, so if you spend an entire month going through an author’s back catalogue for a second time, the only one who gets paid is Amazon. With Kobo Plus you can support your favourite authors even more.
What’s in it for readers?
Kobo Plus’ ebook subscription is cheaper than KU in both the UK and the US, since Amazon recently raised its UK price. And in fact, readers in the US will get a particularly good deal. For the current price of KU’s ebook subscription, you can get a combined ebook and audiobook subscription at Kobo Plus. That’s $9.99 a month for all the books you can read or listen to.
In the UK, it’s £8.99 for ebook OR audio and £11.99 a month for the combo deal. Is that a bargain, or what?
There are fewer books in Kobo Plus right now than there are in Amazon, but it’s only three years old. There are still over a million books in there, and you can expect it to grow as more authors take their books wide.
With Kobo Plus, you can support authors, knowing that they’re not getting shafted behind the scenes. You can support them over and over again with re-reads. Everybody wins.
There’s also a free 30-day trial, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a go.
The first three books* in my Not the Same River series and the first book of Tales from the Noctuary are available to read in Kobo Plus.
*book 3 is in preorder, but will be available in Kobo Plus on its release.