Last week Amazon unveiled its newest service, Kindle Unlimited, and since CEO Jeff Bezos’s announcement it has been receiving a lot of attention because of its potential impact to the publishing world.
What is it?
Kindle Unlimited is basically Netflix for books. For $9.99 a month Amazon customers can rent as many books as they can read from Amazon. When an Amazon customer is logged into their account they have the option to rent a book instead of purchasing it. Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos stated that Kindle Unlimited users currently have access to over 600,000 digital and audio books. The only thing you need is a Kindle device or the Kindle reading app and an Amazon account.
As a voracious reader, I love the idea of only paying $10 a month to have access to most of Amazon’s catalog. I received my first Kindle six years ago after I ran out of shelf space for my 200 paperbacks. My parents were tired of tripping over books and spending hundreds of dollars at Borders. Let’s face it, print books can be very expensive and when you enjoy reading, a couple of books at $10 a pop can add up. The last print book I bought was Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices, and I bought a hard copy so I could lend it to my mom. It was $25, which is about how much it takes to fill up my gas tank, and my wallet wept for days. As a college student, digital books make my expensive reading habit a little less painful.
How do you use it?
Using Kindle Unlimited is easy; the only difference being that instead of purchasing a book from Amazon, you select “Read for Free” and select where you would like the book delivered to. Once the book is downloaded you can keep it in your Kindle Unlimited library for as long as you want. When you are ready to return it, it is as simple as logging into your account, selecting the book you wish to return, and clicking on the “Return This Book” option.
There are a couple drawbacks to subscribing to Kindle Unlimited. Understandably, you can only keep 10 books at a time in your Kindle Unlimited library, although you can keep those 10 books indefinitely. Also while you have access to about 600,000 digital and audiobooks, a lot of new or bestsellers are not available. When I first started my free 30-day trial, I was excited because I have been wanting to read “The Fault in Our Stars,” and the final Divergent book and not have to pay for them, but found that they are not available. Kindle Unlimited is limited by Amazon’s agreements with publishers and it makes sense that best sellers and popular books with movies attached to them would not be available to rent. After all, why provide a book for free when you know that millions will be more than happy to pay full price to buy it?
Additionally, some critics state, and rightly so, that Kindle Unlimited is the equivalent of the public library, but now you will be paying for both the public library (taxes, anyone?) and a private library. Other critics of Amazon’s new service worry that this could bring about the end of the public library. Also, as one of my old English teachers pointed out, many public libraries offer a large selection of e-books that you can download and read on any e-reader.
Is it worth it?
In the week that I have been using my free month of Kindle Unlimited, I have read three books: “Upstairs at the White House,” a memoir by J.B. West, “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien and “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. All three of these books are available to purchase for $9.99 each, so I saved $20.00 by renting them via Kindle Unlimited. During the summer I can go through about three to four books a week, and $9.99 is the average price for an e-book. So I save roughly $130 per month. Now during the school year that slows to about one book a week, but I would still be saving about $30 a month.
Kindle Unlimited is definitely convenient; I can rent and return books without having to put on clothes and brush my teeth, and I am not lugging my giant hardcover copy of The Lord of the Rings in my purse. The biggest draw for me is that I can rent books I have thought looked interesting, but I was not willing to purchase for fear they would suck and I would be out $10. If I had the money I would buy print copies of all the books, but alas, I am poor college student with a serious reading habit. I can definitely afford $10 a month to try out books before I commit to them. So for right now, I think I will be keeping my Kindle Unlimited subscription.
If you are interested in subscribing to Kindle Unlimited, you can get more information and sign up here.