We’ve been offering Clarkesworld Magazine for subscription on the Amazon Kindle since 2011 via their Kindle Publishing for Periodicals (KPP) program. If I recall correct, we were the third genre magazine on the platform, right after Analog and Asimov’s.
A recent article in Publisher’s Weekly stated:
PW has learned that the company is ending its print textbook rental program, which was established about a decade ago, and will phase out print and digital magazine and newspaper subscriptions as well.
And quoted an Amazon representative saying:
Following an assessment of our print textbook rentals and our magazine and newspaper subscriptions and single-issue sales, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue these services. We don’t take these decisions lightly, and are winding down these offerings in a phased manner over several months. We will continue to support customers, sellers, and publishers during that time.
We’ve since received an email confirming this. It went on to detail some information about additional plan to invest in magazine and newspaper content in Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Prime Reading before expressing a timetable for ending KPP in September 2023.
What Does This Mean
Amazon is effectively ending its print and digital subscription business. If you have a monthly or annual subscription to a magazine on their platform (among which you will find Clarkesworld, Forever, Asimov’s, Analog, F&SF, Lightspeed, Fantasy Magazine, Nightmare Magazine, The Dark, Apex, Galaxy’s Edge, and Uncanny) your subscription will end in September.
Earnings from Amazon subscriptions provide a varying and sometimes significant portion of the revenue that these publications require to stay in business. If you don’t already know, genre magazines are subscription-driven, meaning that subscriptions make up the bulk of their income. Some people think advertising is a major source, but it actually represents a tiny fraction for us. (Advertising tends to be a leading source of revenue for glossy magazines, so it’s easy to see where they could get that impression.)
None of these magazines are entirely reliant on Amazon, but as the largest ebook retailer in the field, the cancelation of this program will hurt and in some cases, hurt badly. Badly enough to shutter a magazine? Maybe. It’s too soon to tell and there are a lot of variables, including you.
What Was That About KU?
It turns out that some (not all) publishers are being offered an opportunity to offer subscriptions in KU Magazines. If you are already familiar with KU from the author’s side, this version is a little different. Unlike books in KU, magazines will not be required to be exclusive to Amazon or paid by pages read. Readers that have a paid subscription to KU can get a subscription to those magazines at no additional charge, but if you don’t have a KU subscription, you won’t have an option to subscribe to those magazines from Amazon.
Clarkesworld has been offered entry into this program, so I had a phone meeting with them today. I should receive an estimate and contract next week. Some of the information in this post comes from that conversation, which they indicated was fine to share. (Receiving this news the week before Christmas was terrible planning on Amazon’s part, but not the fault of the person I spoke to. They were quite helpful and I worked hard to keep from inflicting my distress on them.)
Several of my colleagues have informed me that they received letters without an invite. During my meeting, I inquired if this meant they were not selected. This was confirmed, but it was indicated there might be room for reconsideration for a few.
What Happens Next?
Amazon plans to inform subscribers via email in March. I asked if there would be an opportunity for the publishers to be involved in the framing of that language and it was received positively. (Publishers don’t have access to subscriber contact information.) I should have additional information sometime in mid-January on how that will work, but first impression was that it would be some direction towards the publisher’s website for information on how to continue subscribing somewhere else (or even KU should the publisher be willing and able to go that route).
I would rate the likelihood of Amazon changing their mind as very slim. I don’t know precisely why they are doing this, but they are doing so with full knowledge of how many customers it will impact and potentially upset by the change. That doesn’t mean you should refrain from letting them know how you feel about this, particularly if you are a current subscriber.
Each of us has 8-9 months to try to figure out how to work around and adjust to these changes. It’s no small task. Some of us have thousands of subscribers on their platform and even with some cooperation from Amazon to get the word out, migrating subscribers to a new platform (even their own) will be extremely challenging.
I’m hoping for patience from our readers and followers. I’m going to be pushing subscriptions quite loudly for a while. Because I have to. We’ve also been talking about the need to increase our subscription price. (I’m not sure why magazines are locked at a price from ten years ago, but all other literary content has increased in that time.) This situation may make it a necessity and not just for us.
And finally, if you are an Amazon subscriber, please don’t forget about us. Your subscription will continue well into 2023, but at some point we hope you’ll transition to a new subscription from one of the many places that offer them. Look for information in our January issue or come back here around then. You can also check out our current subscription options, but we’re hoping to add to that. If you have suggestions, please don’t hesitate to ask about them. No matter what, thank you. Your support over the years has been crucial and we hope it can continue.