Amazon Launches Kindle Unlimited, a Netflix for eBooks

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Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited today, a service that allows you to pay a flat $9.99 per month in exchange for unlimited eBook downloads.  

So what's the catch? Mainly just that the selection doesn't seem to be great so far. Amazon says there's over 600,000 titles in the service, and the video trailer for the service highlights what some prominent ones -- Harry Potter, the new Michael Lewis book, Lord of the Rings. But I'm a fairly avid eBook person, and when I plugged in the last six eBook novels I read, none of them were a part of Kindle Unlimited. My tastes aren't especially obscure, either -- pretty mainstream literary fiction and detective novels. Judging by my (unbelievably non-scientific) test, Kindle Unlimited's selection of books I'd actually want to read is about on par with an airport bookstore.They've got some of the bestsellers, plus a lot of stuff you never wanted to read but might pick up because it's there. Although at 10 bucks a month, maybe that's good enough for people to try it anyway. 

The other catch is the perennial Big Catch when it comes to anything Amazon-related: is the convenience worth the longterm damage the service might do to publishing? Their 50-second launch video is all hopeful chimey music and folded up books sailing on a paper ocean. I love a good paper ocean, and I love anything that makes it easier for me to read more things. But Amazon's long brawl with publishers makes me worry that using their new service could hurt the books I like in the long term. I wish, as part of the announcement, Amazon had been more explicit about how the service will profit writers and their publishers. Maybe that's a hopelessly wonky curiousity, but I doubt I'm the only person who's wondering.