Amazon announced Friday a new service that will give unlimited access to more than 600,000 e-books and thousands of digital audiobooks for a price of $9.99 a month.
The service is called Kindle Unlimited, though Amazon says it will be available on any device that can download the Kindle reading app. Users will receive unlimited reading and listening on whatever device they use, allowing them to switch between audio and e-books for the same price. A 30-day free trial is available for users to test the service.
News of this service broke earlier this week when a promotional video for Kindle Unlimited was obtained by the technology blog Gigaom. In that animated video, a fleet of what appear to be paper boats featuring titles available through Kindle Unlimited sail together into the horizon.
Popular titles that are available include Yann Martel's novel "Life of Pi," Michael Lewis's nonfiction book "Flash Boys," and Jeff Kinney's children's book "Diary of a Wimpy Kid."
In offering this service, Amazon joins competitors like Oyster, which also gives users access to more than 500,000 e-books for $9.95 per month.
But Amazon's combining of e-books with its vast array of audiobooks may give this service an edge.
"You can easily switch between reading and listening to a book, allowing the story to continue even when your eyes are busy," said Russ Grandinetti, a Kindle senior vice president, in a statement, adding that Kindle Unlimited is "by far the most cost-effective way to enjoy audiobooks and eBooks together."
This feature may draw many readers and listeners eager for the ability to hop between media. Using Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice technology, readers can “can switch seamlessly between reading and listening without ever losing” their place, Amazon states on its website for Kindle Unlimited.
According to a June report from the Association of American Publishers, the number of downloaded e-books and audiobooks hit record highs in 2013. The report stated that publishers' net revenue from digital books and print books sold online "is now ahead of revenue from brick-and-mortar retail."
This comes at a time when Amazon is locked in a standoff with the publishing industry, made most public through its conflict with the publisher Hachette. While the exact terms of the conflict have not been made public, it is understood that Amazon sought concessions from Hachette, but the publisher was unwilling to budge. This caused Amazon to flex its muscle as the world's largest book retailer; delaying shipments of Hachette titles to customers, removing pre-order buttons from Hachette books, and recommending different titles when customers search for Hachette books.
In another recent example of Amazon's dominance in the book market – and, specifically, the e-book market – Apple earlier this week settled a lawsuit filed two years ago by the US Department of Justice against Apple and five publishing companies. The lawsuit alleged that Apple and the publishers had worked together to keep the prices of e-books high in an effort to obstruct e-book competitors like Amazon, a clear sign of the weight Amazon wields in the still relatively new market of e-books.