Amazon's content offensive continues - Bezos & gang have just officially announced a new service - Amazon Kindle Unlimited. There's no need for long descriptions: AKU is pretty much Netflix equivalent for books.

In theory, it's plainly awesome - I pay a monthly fee and in exchange I have access to tons of books (about 1 million, which is still quite far from all Kindle titles offered in Amazon TBH). Well, it's just a theory, because for now AKU is available only in US, but let's assume I can use it in Europe as well.

The key point is, that it won't work (at least) for me.

The consumption model is different

Movies & music are different to books. The way they are consumed as products is totally different. Let's get to music first:

  • consuming a song or even whole LP takes minutes
  • even if you like LP, there are very few ones you can just loop and listen indefinitely (consume as the only one, without the need for other ones to be consumed in the meantime)
  • you don't need full focus to consume music - it can be a background activity, something you don't pay too much attention to
  • exploration, variety, wide breadth of choice - these matter most
  • trying music is a normal thing -> you check a song or even a minute-long sample to make your own opinion and you move to next artist without remorse (if you don't like it)
  • trying music is easy & fast -> checking 30-second long samples of 3 or 4 songs in LP is usually more than enough to find out whether you like it or there's no point in listening to whole LP

Movies are a bit different:

  • consumption takes around 2h (which is still quite short)
  • but you very rarely get back to the movie you've seen - you need more & more new content to enjoy watching movies
  • people try movies by watching trailers (max. 2 mins) - which is usually just enough to find out whether you'll like this movie or not really

Books differ a lot:

  • consuming books takes much more time - usually several hours; that means that you rarely do that in one continuous session, so you have to split it between different days: if something takes more time, we're usually more fussy about what we spend time on -> we don't explore (or rather - majority doesn't), but go for safe picks (authors we know or someone has recommended to us)
  • consuming books takes much more time (again) - that's why we don't need to consume as many books as LPs. And book is usually about the same price LP is. IMHO it means the AKU should be cheaper than music streaming. It isn't.
  • I don't need exploration of content. Well, browsing ToCs / reading excerpts is awesome, but I won't be crawling between books like I do between music of similar artists - it would simply take too much time.
  • Trialing a book means reading at least 50-100 pages, which still may not give you a clear picture
  • Maybe it's just me ... but in 99% of cases I read whole book - from the beginning to the end. I never stop in the middle, because I usually pick my next read very, very carefully -> just to make sure I won't be wasting time.

Nice try, Amazon

I wonder who this new service is aimed for:

  • housewives, reading tons of pulp?
  • academics / scholars, who need access to narrow sections of content, but scattered between a lot of books?
  • hard-core readers who read extremely much? (hey, I thought I'm such an extremist! :>)

Maybe Amazon dares to actually change the way we consume books? Seriously - if we're given freedom of reading whatever we can, maybe Amazon would like to see books published in short installments that can be consumed much faster & market's demand will make authors decided on whether further seasons make sense or not?

We'll see quite soon, I believe.