Tuesday 27 August 2019

There's no such thing as "free on Kindle Unlimited"

(or when does Kindle Unlimited become worthwhile)

Lets be a little silly today. I see lots of authors advertising their books as being 'FREE on Kindle Unlimited'

It's a LIE!

Readers pay a monthly fee to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. £7.99 per month if you live in the UK. ($9.99 in the US)

So how much does that work out per book? Let's make some assumptions and I'll do some math/s for you. 


  • You are a super-fast reader who reads at 400 words per minute. That's about twice normal speed.
  • You read non-stop for 12 hours per day, 30 days per month. That leaves you 12 hours a day to sleep, eat and do anything else you need to do.
  • We'll take an average book as being 305 pages and about 61,000 words. I actually measured 50 Kindle Unlimited books and got an average length of 400.7 pages - we will take the mean which is 305 though.
  • We'll assume an average page has 200 words. (it actually varies between 200 and 250 words)
Based on that you would take 162.5 minutes to read a book. lets round that down to 2.5 hours.
Each day you would read 4.8 books. Each month that's 144 books.

So each book will cost you £7.99 / 144 or a little more than five pence per book (about $0.07 US) That may be a very small amount but it's NOT free.

Of course would you really read 144 books a month? How much time do you actually spend reading each day? Are you a much faster reader than normal?

Now I read quite a lot. The last time I checked I read 55 books in a year. A little more than one book a week on average. If it's a really good book I might read more (I read all three of the Angriest Angel books at one book a day, 1589 pages) but would it be worthwhile for me to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited? The table at the right tells me that if you, as an individual, read less than four books a month then it's not worth it.

However if your family reads a lot and you share an Amazon Kindle account then yes - subscribe to it.

Of course there is one time when Kindle Unlimited is free. When you take up their offer of a 30 day free trial.

Asto all those 'FREE on Kindle Unlimited'  posts - What you really mean is 'Available on Kindle Unlimited.'


  1. I agree with this on a technical level... but from a marketing perspective, most KU readers view KU books as free. I don't feel like I'm misleading anyone by saying "Free on KU."

    And to judge if it's worth it, it's not as simple as "4 books = worth it." From just a cost perspective, it depends on how much those books are sold for. Currently, "Batman: The Long Halloween" is $14.14 to buy, Charlie Donlea's "Summit Lake" is $8.02, Ellery Adams's "The Secret, Book, & Scone Society" is $8.14. Reading the 3 of those in 3 months would save you money.

    It also means that you, as a reader, can take a chance on something you're not sure you're going to like. If you read the first 30 pages and it doesn't suit your fancy, return it without feeling like you've wasted money. (Yes, you have wasted money based on how long it takes you to read it, but that's a weird calculation.)

    It also means I can read a bunch of the 99¢ or $1.99 short reads that I normally wouldn't spend money on. I've gone through 6 or 7 of them in a week, and read a few $2.99 or $4.99 books in the balance of the month.

    It's absolutely true that some months I don't read enough to make KU worth it as a reader, but it's also true that I try out a LOT more books because I'm a KU subscriber. And because of that, I don't feel misled with the "Free on KU" pitch.

  2. Thank you for pointing this out to me. I'll watch out for monthly fees, who are only good for the "rich kids."