Thomas Piketty
© Charles Platiau / Reuters—REUTERS
By Claire Groden / Fortune
June 22, 2015

Last year, Thomas Piketty’s 700-page tome Capital in the Twenty-First Century made it to the top of the Amazon best-seller list, becoming so popular that the site temporary ran out of books. Piketty was rewarded for each sale. But if he had waited an extra year to publish, he might be out of luck: Amazon is rolling out a new sort of author compensation model, where authors are compensated for each page read. It seems like few readers got past page 26 of the dense read.

The change, effective July 1, will only affect self-published authors whose books are available on Amazon’s lending services. By paying authors by how much their books are read rather than bought, the site aims to address author complaints that authors of short books were compensated as well as those who wrote doorstoppers. But the payment model is likely to come with its own haul of complaints, since authors are already concerned that the pay-per-page system will reward cliff-hangers over more complex reads. Images also count toward the page-count, so Amazon books might get a lot more colorful as authors think of new ways to hold eyeballs for as many pages as possible.

That means, for Amazon, an author’s work is only as good as its ability to keep the readers’ attention.

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