Amazon Launches ‘Netflix for Books’ Service

Amazon officially unveiled Kindle Unlimited Friday, edging the ecommerce giant further into the world of book publishing.
Amazon officially unveiled Kindle Unlimited Friday, edging the ecommerce giant further into the world of book publishing.
Amazon/AP

Amazon officially unveiled Kindle Unlimited Friday, edging the ecommerce giant further into the world of book publishing.

Kindle Unlimited—christened “Netflix for books” by the media—lets subscribers read unlimited content from a smorgasbord of 400,000 featured titles, including The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Life of Pi, and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Although the online library does include some prominent books, the rest are often niche content.

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The service therefore somewhat resembles Amazon Prime Video, the unlimited streaming service that includes a few blockbuster films, listed alongside more obscure titles, such as antiquated television programs and independent films.

Kindle Unlimited carries numerous classic novels by authors such as Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde.

It also provides many books that are unique to Amazon.

The rise of authors paid and vetted by Amazon—and published exclusively on the Amazon site—has upended the dominance of traditional publishing houses that once wielded the power to make or break burgeoning writers.

That development has added to the list of grievances that publishing houses have voiced about the ecommerce giant. Amazon has made headlines lately regarding its prolonged standoff against the French publishing company Hachette over e-book prices.

There are already services that resemble Kindle Unlimited on the Internet. Oyster, for example, gives users access to 500,000 books for $9.95 a month.

Kindle Unlimited, however, differentiates itself from the competition by featuring Whispersync, a program that converts books to audio form. Users can switch between reading and listening as they make their way through a book.

It is likely that Oyster may fall by the wayside as Kindle Unlimited makes its mark on the Internet, culling subscribers from its competitor.

Kindle Unlimited can be obtained for free for the first month, a move presumably intended to lure Kindle users into the fold. It then costs $9.99 to continue the service every month.