Kindle Unlimited Edition Normalized Page Count (KENP) pays between $0.004 and $0.005 per page. But does Kindle Unlimited pay-per-page give 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 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.
Why buy an ebook?
The days of reading one book and buying and reading another are over.
Now it is as many books per month that you can read for $9.99 after a one-month free trial. (Update: The subscription price has increased to $11.99 as of May 2023.)
In fact, a KU subscription can cost even less.
The price is only $3.00 per month for Indian Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
It is an excellent bargain for avid readers who want to save money.
But will it mean that authors starve for an income as a result?
It’s not easy to compare pay-per-page reading income against selling a copy of an ebook.
This is because there is no way to know if a KU reader reads the whole Kindle book.
So income for authors can come from only a few pages of an ebook that are read.
But how is that calculated?
Pay per page read of 187 words
The only basis to use is that Amazon calculates an ebook page to be about 187 words.
This number was stated by Amazon a few years ago.
But any reference to it has now disappeared from its site.
The only way to calculate reasonably accurately now is to divide the total word count of a book by the number of pages Amazon shows on the Kindle ebook details page.
I just did a quick check on two of my ebooks.
The results were 174 and 188, so this number can vary slightly.
For every 1,000 pages read, authors get between $4.00 and $5.00, which equates to $0.004 and $0.005 per page.
On average, Amazon pays around $4.78 per 1,000 pages. (Update: KU royalty rates are falling well below this level now for many authors.)
With KENP, 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 few pages.
It’s all about page reads per 30 days and not about books read per month.
Ultimately, it all boils down to the number of 187-word pages, 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?
Comparison of KENP earnings to ebook sales
It’s a choice for authors to enroll their ebooks in Kindle Unlimited.
However, your royalty earnings will usually be less than you would earn for an ebook sale.
In particular, if you sell a short ebook for $0.99, the KENP return will be much less.
Here are two charts to give you an idea of the differences in earnings.
The calculation of the earnings in the chart above is based on an ebook word count divided by 187.
Then it is multiplied by $0.005 per KENP page.
Quite clearly, the higher the word count, the better the return.
The chart above shows why lower-priced ebooks earn much more from sales than KENP page reads.
Higher-priced ebooks usually have a much bigger word count, so the difference is not quite so profound.
For new self-publishing authors, it’s your decision to make.
But it’s worth adding that when you enroll your ebook in Kindle Unlimited pay-per-page, you can still earn per-copy sales.
If you are happy with that, then you can take advantage of both options.
Making 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 will 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 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 way over a million titles available in KU, that’s a tough task.
KENP 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 with their ebooks available on Kindle Unlimited will have to make smart decisions about finding a balance between the two reading markets – buyers and subscribers.
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 like 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, accept the fact, and adapt.
Or, remove your ebooks from Kindle Unlimited and 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 Kindle Unlimited pay-per-page is fair and if it works for you or not.
Related reading: Can You Opt Out Of KENP Kindle Unlimited With KDP Select?