A new subscription service has launched. Kobo Plus is available in the Netherlands and Belgium. From the reader’s side, it works similarly to other subscription programs. Readers pay a monthly subscription fee and can read as many books in the program as they like.
From the author’s side, there are differences between Kobo Plus and its largest competitor, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.
First Difference: The payout formula is different. Amazon pays based on page reads, and from a monthly pot with a value that it determines. There’s no set relationship between the pot amount and the number of subscribers or total page reads for a given month.
The Kobo Plus payout model takes the number of paying subscribers into account. This seems sensible. Subscription services like Scribd and Oyster ran into problems because they paid out based on the list price of books, regardless of how many subscribers they had and the average number of books a subscriber read per month.
Authors will be paid based on the amount of reads their books get. A read is triggered when a reader passes the 20% mark in a book. When Amazon used a similar definition of a read, scammers cheated the system by uploading tons of small books, where turning two pages would trigger a read.
Kobo checks the content of uploaded books. Amazon doesn’t check content to the same degree. So perhaps Kobo can avoid the problem that led to Amazon changing the Kindle Unlimited payout model. We’ll see.
Second difference: your book doesn’t have to be exclusive to Kobo to put it into the program, which is great.
Third difference, and I doubt you’ll see this highlighted in any of the announcements about the program: Authors fund the 30-day trial period. They do not receive any payment for books read by trial subscribers. Apple Music tried that but quickly changed its policy when Taylor Swift protested (Apple caves to Taylor Swift and decides to pay artists during its 3-month Apple Music customer trial period).
It means a reader can sign up for a trial and read an entire author’s catalogue of books, and the author won’t see a dime. Kobo should do its part, rather than expect authors to bear the brunt of bringing new readers into the program. Perhaps it could pay a reduced rate for trial reads. Right now, authors don’t seem to be complaining, but that might change.
Fourth difference: there’s a six month commitment to having a book in the program. Amazon only asks for three months.
I do like that Kobo isn’t demanding exclusivity, and that once the trial period is over, it will be fair to its authors with a payment model that’s sustainable.
Of course, we’ll have to see whether the program catches on with readers.
I’m still mulling over whether I’ll add any of my books, or wait a few months and see how satisfied authors are with the program. Given that it’s currently only available in two countries, I don’t feel pressed to make a decision right now.
You can see the official announcement at the Kobo Writing Life blog.