Company claims the change is in response to feedback from authors — but could punish those who write books that nobody finishes

Amazon will start paying some of its authors based on how far people get through their books, rather than how many people download them.

Books that are made available through Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library — the company’s e-reader library platform where people can borrow books if they’re members of Amazon Prime —will be part of the new payment system. To pay authors in those programmes, Amazon decides a fund amount, and splits that between all authors — but it will now do so according to how many pages of theirs have been read, rather than how many of their books have been borrowed.

Using the example of two authors who had written books that were 100 and 200 pages long, Amazon said that the latter would be paid twice the former if a reader got all the way through both books. But if readers made it half-way through the longer book, both would be paid the same — meaning that the system is likely to penalise short and boring books and reward longer, more engrossing ones.

Amazon has had to work out a new way of ensuring that pages are equal, and that authors whose books have bigger line breaks or text size don’t get paid more money, but that it can count non-text elements like images and charts. It has done that by creating a new standard that self-published authors will be able to track, it said, and ensuring that reading starts on chapter one.