Kindle Unlimited was launched in Germany today (7th October) ahead of the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair. For €9.99 per month users get unlimited access to more than 650,000 Kindle books, including over 40,000 titles in German. Amazon’s customers can test the flat rate on a 30-day free trial.
Self-publishing titles dominate the German-language range, but titles from a small group of independent publishers like Riva, MVG, Prospero and Dotbooks and religious publishing house Herder are also available. Among the major publishers only how-to specialist Gräfe und Unzer and Bastei Lübbe (including its self-publishing imprint BookRix) have signed up directly with Kindle Unlimited.
The latter’s involvement does not really come as a surprise, since it was announced on Monday that the Cologne-based German publisher of Ken Follett and Dan Brown, which went public in October 2013, has agreed new e-book terms with Amazon.
It will not all be plain sailing for the US online giant in one of the world’s largest book markets because the company will face fierce local competition in the German-speaking markets.
The Düsseldorf-based start-up Readfy beat Amazon to the post and successfully opened its e-book service to the public a few days ago amidst a whirlwind of mostly positive headlines in the German media.
The advertising-supported “Freemium” service started with a catalogue of 25,000 titles, among the approximately 6,000 self-published, which can be read in apps for iPad, iPhone and Android. While so far none of the major trade publishers have signed up to Readfy, co-founder Frank Großklaus has a full book of appointments in Frankfurt. His incentive: the advertising income will be split with the publishers.
Unlike Kindle Unlimited Readfy does not charge the user but is instead selling adverts which are inserted into the e-books and pop up mostly at the bottom or top of the screen. Readers who do not want to tolerate ads on the screen will be given a choice between a two-tiered subscription models in early 2015. One with reduced advertising for 4,95 Euro monthly, the advertising free premium offer will be available for 9,95 Euro.
Readfy was founded at the beginning of 2014 as a digital reading platform. In the spring it successfully launched 500,000 Euro through a crowdfunding campaign which was supported by 1363 investors. Another such campaign is planned for early 2015.
Of great interest is which publishers have teamed up with Amazon. The ongoing dispute with Bonnier’s German imprints has hurt Amazon’s image both in the industry and the public greatly and while the large trade houses refuse to comment publicly on the subject, it is no secret that most are strongly opposed to the company’s new subscription service.
Many authors, too, are loudly opposing Kindle Unlimited. “A low flat rate for e-books is on the face of it appealing but literature is not an all-inclusive-product”, said bestselling author Nina George who also fears that Amazon will use Kindle Unlimited to undermine German retail price maintenance.
George is among the founding members of “Fairer Buchmarkt” ("Fair book market"), an initiative set up to protest against Amazon's controversial business practices. More than 2,000 authors and 440 supporters, among them politicians, readers and prominent members of the creative/cultural industries, have now joined the initiative, which is planning a number of events during the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited in the UK late last month.
Publishers have expressed outrage that titles they publish have been included without their permission.