Just to put it on the record, here is where I think Amazon is headed over the next three years, and the effect its actions will have on the publishing industry over the next decade. I could well be wrong. I very much hope that I will be wrong, but as it stands, please note that I wasn’t pessimistic enough about the long-term effects of Kindle Unlimited when it was introduced in 2014.
2024: Audible Unlimited. Like Kindle Unlimited, but for audio. Authors get paid by the listened hour from a collective pot that is funded by Amazon’s additional $7.99 charge on top of the $11.99 paid by KU subscribers.
2025: Paperbacks Unlimited. Subscribers can pay $19.99 per month and receive any three KDP paperbacks of their choice. Authors are paid $0.99 per paperback shipped. A hardcover option will follow the next year, which will be available at a lower price point, but the subscriber will only receive one book per month, with the ability to pay more to get two or three. Hardcover compensation pays authors $2 per book shipped. It’s essentially the old book club model, writ very, very large.
The introduction of Virtua Voice makes the former viable. The purchase of print-on-demand facilities in the USA and the UK make the latter viable. And most of the bestselling KAP Unlimited authors will either be a) AI-assisted independents cranking out a new series book every month or b) fake authors created by Amazon.
If you’re an author or a publisher, you had better prepare accordingly. Because these programs are coming, and they will have the same effect on audiobook and print sales as KU has had on ebook revenues. I estimate that KAP Unlimited will have the potential to shrink total US consumer books sales from $17.4 billion to under $5 billion by 2035.
UPDATE: Apparently Audible Unlimited already exists, in the form of Audible Plus. What has changed is the ability of Amazon to inexpensively convert all of its KDP ebooks to Audible Plus audiobooks using Virtua Voice.