Back in July, I wrote about Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program. In a nutshell, for $10 a month, you have access to borrow from a library of Kindle eBooks and audio books (up to 10 can be borrowed simultaneously).
I've been on the program for nearly a year now. What are my thoughts?
In the last year, I have read/listened to more than 30 books that have been borrowed from Kindle Unlimited. While it's true that many of the most popular authors aren't part of Kindle Unlimited, there's still a lot to choose from.
As I suspected, I am seeing the best value from the audio books. Nearly all of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct series is available on audio. I listen to 2-4 of these in a typical month. The price of many of the audio books in this series exceed the monthly cost of Kindle Unlimited, so I'm already ahead. So before we go any further, I can declared Kindle Unlimited as a financial success.
When you borrow an audio book, you also get the eBook version. You can flip between the two - listening when you want to and then picking up at that exact spot when you want to read.
I've also been a lot more willing to branch out and explore the work of authors I haven't read before. I listened to a book in the Alix London series by Aaron Elkins and before I knew it, I had read a half dozen books by Elkins.
My seven year old daughter loves elephants. One day I downloaded a half dozen elephants books and handed her the Kindle Fire. She read quietly for hours. My son is five and also loves to read. We may be able to save a small fortune in children's books in the coming years. Many of the books in Gertrude Chandler Warner's excellent Boxcar Children series are included and I'm trying to get them hooked (my son loves the movie).
I was hoping the size of the Kindle Unlimited catalog would grow over time, and it has. It began with 600,000 eBooks and 2000 audio books. I has grown to 800,000 eBooks and 4000 audio books. Many of these are books by independent authors, but there are also books like Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Water for Elephants, The Hunger Games, Twelve Years a Slave, and many more.
Since I'm listening to audio books and podcast so much, I finally bit the bullet and bought Bluetooth headsets in order to cut the cord. I have a nice pair at home (the $44.99 Air Fi Runaway) and a cheaper pair (SoundBot 220, $13.99) to keep at work. The more expensive pair definitely feels better on my head (and they were $59.99 when I bought them about a month ago - it might be a good idea to snap them up at $45), but the Soundbot isn't too bad either - a nice pair for someone on a tight budget. Neither of them has a visible microphone, which was a key factor for me (since I wouldn't be using it anyway) and both have good battery life. I also use the Runaway to listen to watch baseball games via the MLB.TV app, and I can listen to several games before the battery gets low.
I do have one pet peeve with Kindle Unlimited. If you already own a book, you can't borrow it from Kindle Unlimited. This becomes a problem if you own the eBook and want to borrow the audio book, as Amazon somehow has the two linked together (because audio book downloads also include the eBook version) and doesn't allow this. The solution that Amazon's tech support suggests is to return the book that you've purchased. Personally, that doesn't seem very fair to the author and publisher, since I bought the book previously in a good faith sale, so I didn't pursue that solution. Amazon should be sophisticated enough to handle this situation without taking money out of the pocket of the author and publisher. I suppose I could return the book, listen to the audio, and then re-purchase the book, but that's a bit awkward.
Elsewhere in the Amazonverse
Somehow, there is a way to get free books that managed to elude me until recently. A friend pointed out the Kindle First program while simultaneously doing a happy dance to celebrate the fact that she was able to tell me something I didn't know about Amazon. Every month, Amazon Prime members can choose from one of four books to receive for free. None of the authors have been household names at this point, but free books are always good (especially when they're digital - nobody will know that you're a hoarder).
Amazon Prime also now includes free unlimited photo storage. I currently have several other options for online storage, so I haven't checked this out - yet.
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