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Amazon Kindle Vella: what it is, how much it costs, how to use it and if it works on Kindle

Amazon Kindle Vella
(Image credit: Amazon)
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Amazon's Kindle Vella story service originally launched online and for iOS only, but with its rollout to Android devices, it's likely to see a surge in users.

Kindle Vella isn't a new ereader tablet, despite Kindles generally being Amazon's book gadgets, but a story subscription service that lets you read serialized works of fiction written specifically for the platform.

Serialization is the act of breaking a story into chunks, and releasing it in intervals, just like a TV show, and judging by the existence of Kindle Vella, Amazon clearly thinks there's an appetite for this format of reading again.

Some might find this a charming throwback to the origins of the novel - after all, classic writers like Charles Dickens, Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle all utilized the serialization format for their works of fiction. And now in 2021, prospective and up-and-coming writers can use Vella in the same way.

Before you dive right into a charming romance or gripping thriller, however, we've got to douse your excitement with a big bucket of ice-cold reality - there are lots of asterisks around Vella's availability.

It's only available in the US right now, and while Android availability is a new feature for the platform, you actually can't read Vella stories on Kindle ereaders... yet, at least.

So for a better idea of what Amazon's Kindle Vella story serialization software is, and whether you can use it, we've written this guide to answer all your burning questions.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? A digital story serialization service
  • When is it out? Now in the US, TBC elsewhere
  • How much does it cost? Roughly $2 per 20,000 words

Amazon Kindle Vella price

You need to buy tokens to read Vella serials. Each story is broken into chapters - we'll explore more about how this works later - and you need to spend tokens to buy each chapter as you read them.

Roughly, one token is worth 100 words - so a 600-word chapter will require about six tokens. Easy so far. However the price of a token varies by how many you buy.

Kindle Vella token prices and value
Number of tokensPricePrice of each tokenRough word count

The more tokens you purchase in one transaction, the cheaper each individual one is, with several bundles you can choose from. We've drawn up a graph above so you can see the bundles - the prices are all in US dollars since that's the only currency accepted currently.

If you're a keen author, you should probably know that you only get 50% of the money spent on your episode, as the other half goes to Amazon. Your cash also depends on the bundle the reader bought - if they opted for a better-value pack, that means you're getting less money per word than if they went for the cheaper options.

Check out the Kindle Direct Publishing website (opens in new tab) for a breakdown of how this works, with some examples of how much you'd make in certain situations. Suffice to say, you'll have to sell lots of chapters to make real money.

Amazon Kindle Vella availability

Amazon Kindle Vella

(Image credit: Amazon)

Right now, Kindle Vella can only be used in the US, whether you're a reader or author. That means you can't read with the service if you live outside the States, and you also can't submit a story through the platform as an author.

We're waiting on official information as to the possibility of Vella launching elsewhere, but it's very likely. Amazon frequently launches services in the US before rolling them out elsewhere, like Halo and Luna.

At launch, you could use Vella either through the official Kindle Vella website (opens in new tab), or via an iOS app, but after five months the Android Kindle app also allowed for access. Since Amazon's Fire tablets use Android, that also means they can use it too.

So, how does Kindle Vella actually work?

When using Kindle Vella, an author will break up a story into many, 600-5,000 word chapters, and unlike a standard book, you buy each chapter separately, rather than buying the whole story in one go. Amazon calls them 'episodes', but they're just chapters to you or I.

Amazon recommends authors write stories specifically in the serial format, which makes the chapters more engaging than if you just rip a standard book into arbitrary segments.

Authors will make the first three chapters of the serial free, to give readers a taste of the story, and then if you like what you read, you can pay for each new entry into the narrative.

These chapters won't be available all at once, though Amazon recommends each author publish a good few upfront. New entries could come daily, weekly or more sporadically, depending on the whims of the writer. You can follow a story or author to get notified when new entries are available.

You're able to Thumbs Up a story that you like, in order to give the author a dopamine rush of validation, and once a week you can also Fave a story you really like - frequently-Fave'd works get recommended to more readers on the website.

Writers can leave notes at the end of each entry, to thank readers or add their views on the progression of the story or the chapter - some might opt not to though, which would make Roland Barthes pleased.

Does Kindle Vella work on Kindle ereaders?

Amazon Kindle Oasis (2019)

(Image credit: Future)

For some reason Vella currently isn't available on Amazon's own Kindle ereaders, despite those devices being designed for reading.

There's no official reasoning why, but we'd guess it's because Kindles are designed to require infrequent connection to the internet, whereas Vella needs constant updates to check for new chapters and stories. The process of buying tokens to buy a chapter, rather than just purchasing a book via your Amazon account, could also add an extra step which, on slow-working Kindles, could prove fiddly.

Hopefully, one of two things will happen though. First, it's possible a software update will make Vella available on existing Kindles.

Otherwise, we'd like to see future Kindle ereaders come with the service available. It's been a while since Amazon last launched a book-substitute gadget and we're expecting a new Kindle, Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Oasis to all come out this year (or one of them, at the very least).

Either way, it's important that Vella comes to Kindles at some point, because reading stories on a computer screen or iPhone is nowhere near as nice as doing so on a lovely E Ink display.

Tom Bedford
Deputy Editor - Phones

Tom's role in the TechRadar team is to specialize in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working in TechRadar freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. Outside of TechRadar he works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.