“Please, sir, can I have some more?” KU borrow rate super suckin’ this month!

Yeah, $1.33 for March, tying for the lowest it’s ever been.  Good thing that, with my history of magical thinking, I always forecast my earnings at the SPR (that’s a very high finance term I just made up, which stands for Shittiest Possible Rate).

Here’s a chart someone made up that, like Mr. Peabody, explains it all for you (the colors are a little lurid but I wasn’t gonna retype it):


This also explains why I’m not an All Star again for March – just a few months ago, 7,000 units (sales and borrows) was enough to put you in the top 100.  But it looks as if it must take at least 10,000 to do that now, and I was at about 8,000 for March.

So, in a nutshell.  In The Beginning, It Was Glorious because the total fund (Amazon’s monthly Pot O’ Gold) was $2 million, split over 1 million-ish borrows, so the payout was $1.81 for each borrow.  MAKE IT RAIN!

But.  Since then the fund has gone up (um hold on need calculator) 465%…but the number of borrows has gone up 628%.  Thus Scrabbleth the Scribblers for a Perpetually Perishing Piece of Pie.

$1.33 was the number that got a lot of authors outraged back in October, and it looked like the ‘zon was testing the bottom of the market – what was the very least they could pay and still keep authors in the program?  That was it.  Honestly, I’m surprised to see it so low again.  As I’ve written before, Lord Bezos has so many reasons to keep the program successful, that have nothing to do with making money on books.  So I’m at a loss as to why he is letting the oxygen out of the program with such a crappy borrow rate again.

I mean…in one quarter of 2014, Amazon spent $943,000,000 on marketing.  You heard me.  Nearly one billion dollars.  In three months.  $9,000,000?  A mere bag of shells to them.  Keeping authors fat and happy with KU is a propaganda bonanza for Lord B. (“Look at all the small businesses we’re supporting!”), if nothing else.

If I were to practice some Kremlinology on this declining interest on Amazon’s part in making the program profitable for authors, I’d suspect a couple of things.

  1. The majority of KU subscribers may be “universal lifeline” subscribers.  That is, they can’t afford to buy books in volume, but they read a lot, and so the $10 a month for KU is a deal for them.
  2. But.  That means that they’re not fulfilling Amazon’s hopes that the KU program will make them buy more shit at Amazon, because they don’t have money, which is why they got KU in the first place.
  3. So it’s not giving them the rate of return they hoped for, so, you know, fuck it.
  4. And, Lord B. has enough of us committed to the program now that it’s one of those Lando/Vader “pray I don’t alter it again” deals.  What am I gonna do, honestly – pull all my books from KU and repost them at AllRomance, Nook, etc., and reflog all those links?  My income is still waaaaay more at Amazon exclusively with KU than it was before KU over all retailers.  So how many of us are really going to leave?

But I do think it’s dumb.  The borrow rate should just be set at $1.40, PERMANENTLY.  No more of this hankie-clenching waiting for the 15th to discover what my pay rate was for the month past.  Why?  Why fuck with the people you’re in business with, every month?  Why this random variance in the amount each month?  What is the business purpose behind leaving us all guessing what our income will be every single month?

Fuck if I know.

4 Comments on “Please, sir, can I have some more?” KU borrow rate super suckin’ this month!

  1. Sadly, I think Amazon is kind of doing what the oil/gas industry seems to do. They try to figure out how little they can get away with per borrow before authors complain or start ditching the program like oil/gas tries to figure out where the breaking point of what people are willing to pay per gallon before there’s some kind of big backlash. Amazon doesn’t ever seem to learn their own lesson. They created Prime to try to get people to buy more stuff with the carrot of free shipping. Then they had to change the program because they were losing so much money at it. Does free shipping with Prime encourage me to go to Amazon over other online places. Probably not. Does it help that because I’m a grad student I got Prime at a reduced rate and I can get my books shipped for free (when I can’t get them for Kindle) – mostly. Of course, I would rather get my books from Amazon than have to drive 1.5 hours to campus to buy books when I’m only on campus once a week after the bookstore closes and would have to leave work extra early to get there or go on Saturday to spend 5 minutes at the store for my 3 hour roundtrip. What do you think my real motivation for buying my books through Amazon is? Do I buy more stuff because of Prime – no. Getting me to Amazon to buy stuff – especially non-books with KU as the carrot – not really the best motivator.

    • Yeah it’ll be interesting to see how it shakes out I just don’t think they can keep doing it this way forever. Sooner or later they’re going to have to commit to a solid rate, or decide to just check the whole program.

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