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The race to give as much content away for as little money as possible is on: a post on GigaOm today reports that Amazon is in the process of creating a new service for its customers called “Kindle Unlimited.” The service would provide an unlimited number of ebook and audiobook downloads to customers who pay a monthly subscription fee of $9.99, and it could be right around the corner.

According to the post, Kindle Unlimited test pages were discovered today, with some having been removed, but others living on via Google Cache. Those pages revealed that the service would – in its current incarnation – offer up 638,416 total titles available for download, though none of the books are from the “Big Five” publishers that include Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster. The GigaOm post points out that of those, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster do offer books through Oyster and Scribd, two subscription-based ebook services.

A post on TechCrunch about Kindle Unlimited speculates that one of the reasons Kindle Unlimited hasn’t yet launched is that Amazon may be looking to secure a better licensing deal to get publishers signed up. And with a company that’s become as huge and influential as Amazon, the duel between Jeff Bezos and publishers is a real one. Similar issues seem to have been one of the reasons we didn’t hear about Prime Music until just a few weeks ago, as Amazon was looking to negotiate a better deal with music publishers.


At this point, it seems clear that the question of Kindle Unlimited’s launch isn’t “if,” but rather “when.” When Amazon sets its mind to a task, it gets it done. If the Big Five publishers don’t wind up falling in line soon, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before they’re shown why Amazon has become the biggest and baddest player in this game.

As to whether or not that’s a good thing for the book market, well, that’s a whole different question. Constantly driving the cost of content down similarly drives it’s value down, and we’re left with creators getting pennies, or nothing, for their work. It’s why you can’t make a living as someone who makes content that’s easily spread and copied on the web. The book market hasn’t been immune from that problem, but it hasn’t been hurt as much as the music and movie industries have, mainly because downloading and watching a new movie or listening to a new album is way more immediately gratifying by more people than pirating the latest John Grisham novel.

But offering this much content at such a small price? It makes one wonder what the deal will be for authors when Kindle Unlimited launches. And when will that be? Don’t be surprised if you sign up for Kindle Unlimited before the end of the year.

[Sources: GigaOm, TechCrunch]

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