Amazon’s New ‘Kindle Unlimited’ eBook Reading Service

Amazon's new Kindle Unlimited book reading service is interesting but not compelling.
Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited book reading service is interesting but not compelling.

Best thought of as a ‘Netflix for Books’ type product, Amazon today announced their ‘Kindle Unlimited’ service.

For $9.99 a month, you get unlimited access to as many ebooks as you wish, from a selection of about 600,000 in total, plus also access to a few thousand audio books too (the audio book access may only be free for three months).

If you read a lot of books each month, then maybe this seems to be a good deal.  Certainly, it makes sense to sign up for Amazon’s free one month trial.

But we’re not sure this is the very best strategy for low-cost book reading.  There are several other ways to get access to large inventories of free or nearly free ebooks to read.

First, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you already are allowed to read one free book every month, from a range of about 500,000 titles.

Second, there are several other services at present with similar types of ‘$10/month for unlimited ebook reading’, and it seems they may have a better range of titles you actually want to read – books from successful authors and published through major publishing houses.

We don’t know for sure, but it seems Amazon has only very few current ‘A list’ titles from major publishers, which makes us wonder if Amazon isn’t currently subsidizing the cost of those ‘loss leader’ titles to help encourage people into their service (much as it did when first launching its Kindle eBook program, when it would sell some titles at a loss so as to keep the cost of all eBooks to no more than $10).  If Amazon is indeed subsidizing some of the titles in this library, we wonder how long it will continue to do so.

Although Amazon’s 600,000 title range is the largest, many (most?) of these are titles that have been self-published direct to Amazon by their authors, and while some of them may be excellent, if you want to get best access to books that appear on national best seller lists, you may find the Amazon selection inferior to, eg, the Oyster or Scribd products.

Third, the chances are your local library may offer free eBooks.  If you’ve not been keeping up with all the changes and additions in services offered by regular libraries these days, you should do so (possibly even online).  You might be surprised at how useful their services are.

Fourth, there is the wonderful Book Bub service, that every day offers massive discounts on eBooks and even features some that are being given away for free.  Sure, most of these are from authors you’ve never heard of before, but you can quickly fill up any eBook reader with free and ultra-low price books, some of which prove to be enjoyable reads.

Fifth, Amazon itself has an extensive library of free eBooks.  These are sometimes promotional deals, and sometimes they are out of copyright titles that are now being given away.  Amazon also has plenty of $1 and $2 eBooks for sale, too.

Our point is simply this.  You can get a lot of reading for free, more if you’re already an Amazon Prime member, and you can get still more reading at $1 and $2 a book.  On the other hand, some (many?) of the best-selling books you might specifically want to read will probably not be available through Kindle Unlimited, just like many of the latest release ‘A list’ movies aren’t on Netflix.

So, should you sign up for Kindle Unlimited?  We’d hesitate to give this new service two thumbs up, but you know your own reading preferences.  If nothing else, maybe try out the free month just to see if you do get value from it or not, and the good news is that if you do extend the service, you can cancel at any time.

2 thoughts on “Amazon’s New ‘Kindle Unlimited’ eBook Reading Service”

  1. David,

    There are also options to obtain e-books from your local libraries on line. On my phone I use Overdrive’s application to access my local library’s books. My library loans books for three weeks at a time with renewal possible that will extend the time. Frequently popular novels have a waiting list, no problem if you are flexible. When I need a reference book they carry it has always been immediately available.

    Your library will require you to have a library card number to gain full access to books. Some library’s have a section of books available to the public and not just for people with library cards.

    Your library may be picking up popular e-books soon after publication, Mine does.

    Bill Cole

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