By Michelle King

(via Macgasm)

You: I’ve been hearing a lot about Kindle Unlimited. Care to explain?

Us: Sure. Launched last Friday by Amazon (you may have heard of them), Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service that gives users unlimited access to 600,000 e-books and 2,000 audiobooks via Kindle or the Kindle app. It’s been called the Netflix of publishing.

Do I have to choose between listening to a book or reading it? Because sometimes I’m in a reading kind of mood and sometimes I’m in a listening kind of mood, you know?

I know. Audiobooks are enabled with Whispersync for Voice, a tool that allows users to switch between reading and listening to a title without losing their place. Welcome to the future. (Still can’t read on a hoverboard, though.)

How much does Kindle Unlimited cost?

$9.99 per month, which means that for about $120 you can read unlimited books for a year.If that’s still too steep for you to commit, you can try out Kindle Unlimited free for 30-days.

Can I really read an unlimited amount of books?

Sort of? Amazon allows Kindle Unlimited users to download 10 titles per account at one time. You have to “return” a book in order to get another book.

It kind of sounds like an online library card.

It does. In fact, Dino Gradoni pointed that out over at Huffington Post, writing, “Library systems from New York to Los Angeles actually do lend e-books for free over the Internet.” Maria Bustillos of The Awl shared a similar, though notably more fervent, sentiment, writing, “It shouldn't cost a thing to borrow a book, Amazon, you foul, horrible, profiteering enemies of civilization.”

Are there any other ebook subscriptions I should know about?

There sure are: Oyster and Scribd are both priced slightly lower ($9.95 per month and $8.99 per month, respectively). Like Kindle Unlimited, both Oyster and Scribd offer the first month for free.

What do Oyster and Scribd think about Kindle Unlimited?

Oyster’s CEO and co-founder Eric Stromberg released a statement through a PR rep regarding his response to Kindle Unlimited: “We’re not surprised. [Amazon] have pivoted from transactional to subscription-based in other media, and have had limited success. They really paved the way in ebooks, and it’s exciting to see them embrace the market we created as the future of books.”

I heard something about how the “Big Five” are absent from Kindle Unlimited? What does that mean? The Big Five sounds like a league of super heroes.

The Big Five does sound like a league of super heroes, and in a way it is … if you consider publishing books a superpower.

I don’t.

Oh. Okay. Well, the Big Five is how the publishing industry refers to the five largest publishers — Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster. And, yes, you’re right, they do not appear to be participating in Kindle Unlimited.

Why not?

None of the publishers have released an official statement, so it’s difficult to say exactly why, though it’s likely it has to do with an on-going dispute with Amazon.

So if the Big Five isn’t on Kindle Unlimited, who is?

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, W.W. Norton and Scholastic are all offering their titles to Kindle Unlimited. You can find the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games series and Life of Pi, to name a few. There are also all the titles that Amazon self-publishes.

Truth be told, most of the books on your summer reading list probably are not available. For instance, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, is not on Kindle Unlimited.

What about Gone Girl? I promised my roommate I would read it before the movie comes out.

Not on Kindle Unlimited you won’t.

Do Oyster and Scribd offer titles from the Big Five?

They do, though it’s worth noting that they don’t carry Gone Girl either. Though Oyster and Scribd do have titles from the Big Five, they don’t always have best-sellers. For free access to Gone Girl (and other best-sellers), I suggest the library.

Michelle King grew up in South Florida and now lives in Brooklyn. Her contributions have appeared on BULLETT, Refinery29 and The Topaz Review. Harriet M. Welsch is still her role model and probably always will be.

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