Is Kindle Unlimited Pay Per Page Read Fair For Authors?

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Is Kindle Unlimited fair for authors

Kindle Unlimited Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC) pays between $0.004 and $0.005 per page, but is this a viable return for authors?

If you are an author, your answer is probably going to be a resounding, no.

However, the reality is that Kindle Unlimited (KU) is proving to be very popular with Kindle ebook readers. So in all likelihood,  ebook subscription services and cheap reading are now very much here to stay, fair or not.

The days of reading one book and then reading another are finished.


As many books per month that you can read for $9.99, after a one-month free trial.

In fact, a KU subscription can cost even less. The price is only $3.00 per month for Indian Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

It is a bargain for avid readers who want to save money. But will it mean that authors are starved of an income as a result?

There is little point trying to calculate pay per page read against copies sold, as there is no way of knowing if a KU reader read the whole Kindle book.

The only basis to use is that Amazon calculates a page to be about 187 words. For every 1,000 pages read; authors get between $4.00 and $5.00. On average Amazon pays around $4.78 per 1,000 pages.

With KENPC, it doesn’t matter if the 1,000 pages were read by a couple of readers who finished the book, or by 500 readers who only read a couple of pages. It’s all about page reads per 30 days and not about books read per month.

In the end, it is all boils down to the number of 187-word pages and not the number of fully read books.

Quite simply, this means that getting more readers to read more pages is the only way to increase an author’s income from readers with a Kindle Unlimited membership subscription.

Then you can add Amazon Prime Reading to the menu, where Prime members can read an ebook for free every month.

Are the days of simply selling an ebook finished?


How can you make your ebooks more attractive to KU readers?

Everyone loves a bargain. For readers with Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscriptions with an Amazon Kindle device or using the free Kindle app, getting to read Kindle ebooks with a cover price of $5.99 is going to be far more tempting than those at $0.99.

Your ebook price in the Kindle store needs to be tempting for Kindle owners and KU users. But at the same time, setting the price too high will dissuade ebook buyers and have a detrimental effect on your per copy ebook sales.

Alternatively, for ebooks that don’t generally sell many copies, increasing the price may, in fact, lead to a better return from KU than from unit sales.

Another factor is naturally that the higher the ranking an ebook has, the more interest and attention it will attract. But with over a million titles available in KU, that’s a hard task.


KENPC counts towards an ebook’s sales rank. So while the return might be less than the sale of a copy, every page read helps lift your book ranking. Again, it doesn’t matter if a reader finishes the book, or if 100 readers only read a few pages.

Because of this fact, it may be worth reconsidering your free ebook promotions.

Gaining 1,000-page reads will do far more for an ebook’s ranking than giving away a few hundred free copies of your ebook.

So instead of putting a lot of marketing and promotional effort into a KDP Select free ebook period, perhaps putting the same effort into promotion aimed at Kindle Unlimted readers might be more beneficial.

When it comes to maintaining an income, authors who have their ebooks available on Kindle Unlimited will have to make smart decisions about finding a balance between the two reading markets – buyers and subscribers.


Is Kindle Unlimited fair for authors?

It doesn’t really matter if it’s fair or not for hard-working authors. It is the new reality in ebook publishing even for big publishers such as Random House and Simon & Schuster.

With some big publishing houses starting to add their titles to Kindle Unlimited, including the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games and Wool, the writing is on the wall.

The only way ahead is to have your books included in KU and accept the fact and adapt.

Or, remove your ebooks from KDP Select and rely on old-fashioned ebook sales by going wide with as many ebook retailers as possible.

There is no doubt that readers find Kindle Unlimited a very attractive deal.

Why wouldn’t they with over a million books to choose from for their modest monthly subscription cost? It’s very close to as many ebooks as you can read for free.

But for authors? Even when KU can’t seem to be able to count words read accurately?

Well, you will have to make your own decision about whether it is fair and if it works for you or not.



Derek Haines

Webmaster and Writer at Just Publishing Advice
A Cambridge qualified CELTA English teacher and author of 18 books with a life long passion for publishing in all forms.
I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business.
Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.
Derek Haines

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Derek Haines

A Cambridge qualified CELTA English teacher and author of 18 books with a life long passion for publishing in all forms. I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business. Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.

26 thoughts on “Is Kindle Unlimited Pay Per Page Read Fair For Authors?

  • August 4, 2019 at 5:15 am

    I’ve thought about this for a while now, and I’ve decided to stop enrolling my books in KU. There is no value in it, in any way, shape or form from what I can see, and KU subscribers are a fickle lot. They have no thoughts at all about the hard work the author puts in…it’s just a freebie (even though you pay for it, it is automatically deducted from your checking account each month so, ergo, it “feels” free) and if they don’t like the first couple of pages, they’ll just return it and shop for something else. I find that now I have some followers who are only too glad to pay $2.99, I want to tell KU to KMA. When the agreement on the ones having KU are up, there will be no more.

  • October 16, 2018 at 3:13 am

    Interesting thread. I searched this subject because I will probably remove my book from KU soon. KU is terrible for my category, children’s picture books. My book is less than two hundred words, as opposed to tens of thousands, but I spent several hundred hours illustrating and formatting it for Kindle.

    KU was introduced while I was working on the book. I knew the pay structure was bad for me, but I hoped the free reads would lead to paperback (CreateSpace ) sales. They haven’t.

    In paperback, my book is the standard 32 pages. Since the artwork is all done as two-page spreads, the kindle version is only 16 pages. I get less than a dime per read.

  • June 9, 2018 at 11:32 pm

    Amazon just sent me a message saying there was illegal “page count” on my book and that they are correcting it by removing this illegal activity. they also told me they could not give me details as it may compromise there security. I had over 16k pages read removed. I asked them for some clarification on this, with things that would not compromise their security but they have given me no response. Now I am wondering where they hacked or are they “stealing” pages read from authors as I am positive I am not only author who got this message.
    Only way someone can illegally influence their system is if they hacked amazon or if Amazon does not have a proper page counting system in place. One simple line of code stating the max amount of pages per that book lent would prevent ‘over counting”.
    I am a first time author and 16k pages is a lot for me. There message made little sense actually and left me wondering exactly how there program is working.

    • June 10, 2018 at 11:04 am

      I am sorry to hear of your problem with Amazon, Erinn.

      There have been many reports of issues with clickfarm scams on the KU Kindle Store. You can read about them in this article.

      While the article is nearly a year old, it clearly explains how the scam works.

      However, what the article doesn’t explain is that these clickfarms often use the books of innocent authors to cover what they are doing for their paying clients. In other words, spreading their activity wider to try to avoid detection by Amazon.

      I can’t say for sure, but this may have been a possible cause of your illegal page count. I can only suggest that you contact Amazon again and ask for more details.

  • June 6, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    Just adding a few factoids: My book is 60000 words. The paperback is 283 pages. The Kindle version is according to Amazon 311 pages and in KU it’s counted as 351 pages, or so my dashboard says. 170 words per page in KU. This makes me $1.58 per book if fully read. As it’s priced at $2.99 I earn $2.09 when I sell a copy. I assume that not everyone who borrowed the book would have bought it, so I think that allowing borrowing is a good idea. I’m a bit surprised that a couple of weeks after publishing, I have sold about 200 copies, but only 2000 pages have been read on KU, amounting to about 5 to 6 fully read books. Or maybe 56 borrowed books, but only 10% read. Who knows. Anyway, direct sells are much higher than borrows.

  • May 29, 2018 at 11:29 pm

    Even with Ben’s math, KU offering $1.92 for an 80K novel is less than selling it for $2.99 (an acceptable rate for a self pub full novel) and earning 70% off it as $2.09 (I hear Amazon keeps 30%)

    KU is a bad deal if your goal is strictly making money off books in it. I did hear a tip that if you are writing YA (or younger) books, KU is handy because kids don’t have credit cards but parents can set their Kindle Fire up and let them read “free” books.

  • May 29, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    The math doesn’t compute. You say Amazon calculates a page to be about 187 words. That means an 80 000 word novel is counted as 427 pages. At o.oo45 that’s $ 1.92 fully read. Or did I miss something?

    • May 29, 2018 at 10:38 pm

      Your arithmetic is perfect, Ben. That is what an author gets from KU page reads for 80,000 words. KU readers are only paying $9.99 per month, so that can only spread so far for authors.

    • September 17, 2018 at 9:39 pm

      My novels are about 110,000 words and work out to about 500+- KU pages. I get about $2.25 per full KU read through.

  • February 10, 2018 at 9:57 pm

    As a reader, I will say that kindle unlimited is a dream for book hoarders. I will read an entire book, even if I’m not particularly enjoying it, because I cannot stand a DNF. I just will be careful about selecting that author again. Because I do hoard books, and I can only have 10 books in my KU library, I will then purchase the book after reading if I enjoyed it. I’m sure I’m not the only reader to do so. In that way the author is paid more than once. I have also noticed that most of the authors now have taken a full length novel and chopped it into tiny ones for a “series”. 100 pages isn’t a novel.

  • December 17, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    You get nothing under KU if the minimum read of 10% is not achieved


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