How Kindle Unlimited Is Changing the Amazon Kindle Best-Seller List

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Kindle Unlimited is minting best-sellers.

According to Publishers Lunch, the number of ebooks on the Kindle best-seller list that are Kindle Unlimited titles has just about tripled since the launch of the all-you-can-read service from Amazon last week. Amazon is counting Kindle Unlimited reads as well as Kindle store sales in its best-seller rankings.

Last week at this time, there were 15 ebooks that would have been part of Kindle Unlimited that were top 100 best-sellers on Kindle; this week, that number has ballooned to 45.

kindle unlimited best-sellers

As the chart shows, Amazon Publishing titles (which are in Kindle Unlimited), titles by other publishers included in the service, and Kindle Direct Publishing Select titles (those by self-published authors who only sell on Amazon and not other platforms like Nook and iBooks, which are included on KU), seem to have all benefited greatly from being a part of Kindle Unlimited. Books by self-published authors who aren’t exclusive to Amazon and those from publishers not participating in Kindle Unlimited have suffered — at least when it comes to hitting top-100 Kindle best-sellers.

While Kindle Unlimited it still new, the reason for its big influence could be the clever way in which Amazon is marketing the service to readers.

For ebooks available in Kindle Unlimited, the title landing page has a call to read the ebook for “free” with the service:

kindle unlimited marketing

KU is offering a free 30-day trial, much like the other new ebook subscription services. Unlike the other services, however, Amazon also sells ebooks outright. For users presented with the prospect purchasing an ebook versus reading it for free, the choice is made easier. Perhaps the lift in “sales” for KU titles has to do with readers encountering the title page and being enticed to read the book for free. It’s fair to assume that once on the title page, some readers who may not have bought the book are enticed to read it for free with KU.

As many of you know, the Digital Book World Ebook Best-Seller list is based in part on what happens on the Amazon Kindle best-seller list. To that end, we’ve started working with Amazon to figure out how we can continue to faithfully represent the top 25 ebooks sold at retail while still including KU books, which of course also sell at retail, in addition to being read through KU. When Kindle First presented a similar problem, we dealt with it accordingly. We’ll keep you posted.

Amazon did not return request for comment on this post.

Related: See Amazon’s head of Kindle Russ Grandinetti speak at Digital Book World 2015!





7 thoughts on “How Kindle Unlimited Is Changing the Amazon Kindle Best-Seller List

  1. Michael J. Sullivan

    One thing to note, for a title in KU the ranking is adjusted when the book is “downloaded” even though no minimum reading requirement has been met. I’ve verified this with my own titles, and other authors such as Hugh Howey have also reported seeing this.

    What that means is while the books are rising in the ranks, authors (except for those who have titles in KU without publisher consent) may or may not see any income. The KDP sales reports are only updated once a KU download is read to 10%.

    In the past, experimentation provided a way to correlate ranking with income, this is not the case and will definitely cause problems with the Author’s Earning data. Not only won’t we know how much of a ranking actually produced “some” income…but for self-published authors we won’t know how much was at the KOLL unit price and how much was at a regular royalty rate.

  2. Ebook Bargains UK

    What’s not clear is whether Amazon are counting KU downloads or actual KU reads that (for the vast majority of participants) trigger a payment. We suspect it’s just downloads, as seems unlikely so many people would be downloading what are at this stage completely free ebooks and then reading them them the same day.

    In the past titles in Select using their five free days were fed into the free charts. At this stage no consumers are paying anything for KU titles so that’s where they all current KU downloads should be.

    We watch with interest from the backlash from authors being shunted into the wilderness by this tactic, being penalised for not joining, and from readers down the road who come to realisation that the choice in Kindle Unlimited is very sverely limited

  3. An author

    As I recall, when Microsoft first included a free browser in Windows it was regarded as anti competitive in that it was seen as being a move designed to drive the independent providers of services like Netscape out of business and reinforce Microsoft’s dominant position.

    As a result the competition authorities took action.

    I have to say as a self published author this seems like a similar move by Amazon designed to try and affect market choice. I have some of my books published on other e-reader platforms and I resent Amazon attempting to blackmail authors into delisting from other sites.

    Anyone fancy having a go at raising it with the regulators?:

    You can report your concerns to the European Commission by e-mail to Alternatively, you can write a letter to:

    European Commission
    Directorate-General for Competition
    Antitrust Registry
    B-1049 Brussels

    Please indicate your name and address, identify the firms and products concerned and describe clearly the practice you have observed. This will help the European Commission to detect problems in the market and can be the starting point for an investigation.

  4. Michael W. Perry

    Quote: \Amazon is counting Kindle Unlimited reads as well as Kindle store sales in its best-seller rankings.\

    Amazon, it seems, never passes up an opportunity to deceive the public if it’ll help its bottom line or, in this case, pressure authors and publishers to sign up for Kindle Unlimited.

    Note the deceptions involved:

    1. Other bestseller lists don’t include library checkouts, just sales. Amazon should, at the very least, come up with a new term for its rankings. \Most Read\ would be one option.

    2. Checking out is equated with reading (according to Michael Sullivan’s posting, apparently not even that ridiculously small 10% trigger for having read). That means \Most Read\ isn’t true either.

    3. Free is equated in importance with purchasing. Yes, that is ridiculous.

    4. Most important of all, \bestselling\ is applied to something that’s not sold, making this ranking little more than a bald-faced lie.

    Place this alongside Amazon’s long history of distorting or even not displaying less expensive items in search results, and the result illustrates, yet again, a pattern of deception aimed at Amazon’s customers.

    In the case of search results, Amazon employees are well aware of what their company is doing. An Amazon lawyer vehemently defended the practice over the phone with me and an Amazon software developer I met rather bluntly told me, \Never trust Amazon search results.\

    To that it appears that we must add, \Never trust Amazon bestseller rankings.\

  5. Scott Nicholson

    You really should look at how the popularity lists and algorithms function based on price as well. That’s at least half the story–it’s not as simplistic as “Hey, there’s a button for free, I’m ‘buying’ it.” There’s a fundamental aspect of store visibility that has changed (well, probably “amplified” would be the better word for it.)

  6. John Fullerton

    I have the free one month subscription to Kindle Unlimited. The main way that I’ve been using the system thus far is going to the Amazon home page, clicking the ad for Kindle Unlimited. At that point, the search box is limited to Kindle Unlimited and I can search for books that are included in the subscription. So, that’s a major way to find a book in Kindle Unlimited without having to see the option to read it for free. In other words, I’m not just happening upon a book in Kindle Unlimited; I’m specifically searching for books in Kindle Unlimited. That is not intended as a criticism of the article; just a point of information. I don’t know if there is a better way to search Kindle Unlimited (without basically clicking on the ad first).

  7. bookventure

    Each time an indie author hits a bestseller list, it inspires fellow writers to recognize that they, too, can self-publish with pride, professionalism, and success.



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