Kindle Unlimited on e-ink; Here’s how to get on it.

Could Amazon be trying something new with their Kindle e-ink products?


I was browsing through the Newsstand section of my Kindle when I noticed some new magazines – including a client of ours who I knew didn’t have a Kindle edition until recently. I dropped in a few enquiries to my contact there and discovered that yes, indeed, the program is open once more. Not only that, but I realised that Kindle Unlimited was being pushed harder and that people would now be able to receive some magazines for free as part of a subscription.

Good, right?

Well, maybe. That depends on an awful lot on what you think about the relationship you want to have with your customers and how they consume your content. Personally, I think it’s generally good for publishers, but not, perhaps, in exactly the way you might think! I’m going to explore this in this article. Hold on tight!

What does Kindle Unlimited mean for periodical publishers?

A periodical publisher, in case you’re not an industry regular, is one which publishes something periodically. That’s usually magazines, journals and newspapers. Kindle Unlimited doesn’t provide free and unconstrained content to your magazine for a tiny royalty, however, but may offer your magazine to Kindle Unlimited subscribers on an occasional basis as part of the service. Amazon will then share a proportion of revenue raised. With subscriptions to your product, the revenue share is in your publisher terms and conditions, but with Kindle Unlimited access it’s not entirely clear.

However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are hundreds of publications on Kindle’s Newsstand with more being added now. Being presented for free to a reader is no bad thing – it’s rather like the free copies of magazines and newspapers given away on planes or in hotels. It lets people sample your product who otherwise wouldn’t. If they want to keep reading regularly, they need to subscribe to the periodical.

It also gives them an awareness of your brand.

Which is nice.

Reading Kindle

But there’s a fear, isn’t there?

If your printed words become cheap, like with music on Spotify, then where is your profit? Well, it’s not so bad after all. The key is that a Kindle e-ink device is very handy for people who travel. Rather like my phone lets me take lots of music with me when travelling, so does my Kindle allow me to take lots of books and magazines with me. I like that. And if I was travelling as I did in my old consulting days I’d have killed for the service. So certain high-value customers will love you for it.

And one nice thing you have is that you can, so long as the customer approves, receive the email address of your customer on the Kindle Newsstand – something other app stores are reluctant to do. Amazon does this, so you at least have some connection with your customer. They do generally manage the whole relationship and then share the revenue with you, of course, but you have that extra upsell connection. You also receive their name and postal address so can send them further offers in the future, including other subscription offers. Your subs team will love this!

One thing worth remembering is that you can’t run adverts in the Kindle edition (I’m less sure about advertorials) so you lose a potential revenue stream. I don’t think it’s a big problem – in effect it gives a neat, easy platform for your customers to enjoy your content on.

And a little something for the future…

Amazon acquired a company last year, Liquavista, which makes a type of colour e-ink display. If this fulfils its potential, it could allow for full colour magazine reproduction on Kindle e-ink readers.

That could be revolutionary to the market. Of course, colour e-ink has been talked about since forever as a great future technology but it never quite makes it. See what you think of this one:

One thing worth noting as well, here, is that the Kindle ingester and our platform support colour in full. So it’s ready for the future of Kindles, whatever that may be!

So you’d like to try going for e-ink. How do you do it?

You can work with us. And we can handle the following steps, from start to finish:

  1. We can introduce you as publishers to the Amazon Newsstand team. They’re used to working with us.
  2. Once approved as a publisher, we work with you and Amazon to work out the details and dates.
  3. We supply the software that provides the Kindle compatible data feeds that create your editions.
  4. We train your production team in using the software.
  5. Your team then starts producing your editions for Kindle – typically taking an hour per issue, assuming content is syndicated via RSS.
  6. Each publishing period (usually daily, weekly or monthly) Amazon collects data from Standfirst for Kindle and we’re there in the event of a problem.

Interested? Simply fill in the form at the bottom of this page. You need to have a current print magazine at the moment, but it may be possible to get digital-only publications on the Kindle at some point soon. Once done, our Standfirst for Kindle web software product lets you easily collect syndicated or manually input content from your periodical. It then provides the very peculiarly formatted feed that the Kindle ingester then uses to build the e-ink edition. Our software supports all the Kindle features and makes your production team’s job nice and easy. And because it’s already in use by both The Spectator and New Statesman it’s in active development. And if you look at recent ratings for those two Kindle editions, you’ll see they’re some of the highest because the presentation and quality is about the best you can get on e-ink Kindles. We really put some time and effort into making it just so.

The production process is simple. We take your content via RSS, you tweak it, and we create the custom format Amazon needs to generate the Kindle edition.

We’d love to hear from you and give you an entirely free demo and trial. There are no setup costs, and the subscription cost is reasonable but varies based on your support, call out and handling needs, starting at £95+VAT per month for monthly publications.