A few days ago, Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited, a service that gives subscribers unlimited access to over 600,000 ebooks for $9.99 per month.
David Gaughran, one of the smartest people in indie publishing, has a nice breakdown of what the service might mean for writers, but I’ve been a reader much longer than I’ve been a writer. I’m interested in how the service meets my reading needs, too.
I’ve been a satisfied subscriber to Oyster’s similar subscription service Â for the last nine months (I wrote about it here). I signed up for a thirty-day free trial of Kindle Unlimited and I’ve been taking it for a test drive this weekend. Here are my early thoughts on how the two services compare in a few key areas.
Kindle Unlimited claimsÂ over 600,000 titles. Oyster claims over 500,000. Seems like an easy choice, right?
Not so fast.
While both services boast a wide selection of indie titles (KU through the KDP Select program and Oyster through Smashwords), Oyster also featuresÂ Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. While KU does have the Amazon imprints and a few select big names (Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, etc), none of the Big Five publishers have signed on to KU with their full backlist (yet).
I love my indie books, but I also like to dig into Stephen King and Elmore Leonard from time to time.
Never let it be said that Oyster doesn’t have a beautiful app. It is truly a pleasant way to view books. I love the elegant design and the visual layout. That said, Amazon made their name on their powerful and scary-accurate recommendation engine.
If you are looking to find something to read, Oyster gives you a lovely way to browse through your options, but Amazon puts the books you are most likely to enjoy right in front of you.
Advantage:Â Kindle Unlimited
First, let me say that I read on an iPad. Your experience on a native Kindle device might be completely different. But between the iPad versions of the Kindle app and the Oyster app, there is really no comparison. The Oyster app feels like it was more thoughtfully designed. The reading experience flows better.
There is also something to be said for being able to download titles from within the app and jump right to reading them. In the Kindle app, you have to head to your Internet browser to download a new title. (I know, I sound pathetically lazy right now.) I realize this is because of the Apple vs. Amazon thing and that their is nothing Amazon can do about in app purchases. But, as a reader, I don’t care. I like being able to dip in and out of titles right in the app.
Oyster also allows you to set up a reading queue. When you’re a nerd like me, setting up your reading queue months in advance is all sorts of fun.
I will say that the Kindle app has gotten MUCH better withÂ the last few updates, and I do about 40% Â of my digital reading in it now. Still…
Here’s the kicker: KU includes audiobook versions of their titles (where available). This is huge.
I’ve always had two problems with audiobooks.
- I’m cheap, and audiobooks are expensive.
- Once I really get into the book and I can’t wait to see what happens next, the narration tends to slow me down. The last audiobook I listened to (before this weekend) was DOCTOR SLEEP by Stephen King. The narration was top notch. However, when I was about halfway through, I went to the library and picked up the hardcover. I can read a lot faster than the narrator can talk, and I was dying to see what happened next.
KU solves both these problems.
The audiobooks are included in my subscription, so they are no longer cost prohibitive. And with their Whisper Sync feature, the audio and the text are always in sync. This means I can start reading the ebook in tne morning, listen to the audio on my way to work, and then read more of the ebook over my lunch hour. The Kindle app syncs my location between both versions. This might not seem like a big deal, but once you try it you will realize how wonderful this feature is.
My podcast listening is going to take a serious hit.
Advantage:Â Kindle Unlimited
Honestly, it depends on what you are looking for in your reading experience. The beauty is that both services offer a free 30-day trial. So give them both a shot. See if the visually stunning Oyster wins you over or if you prefer the audio-savvy Kindle Unlimited.
Full disclosure: My own book, REGULATIONÂ 19, is available on Kindle Unlimited. If you are looking for something to read during your KU free trial, give it a shot!