Amazon has just announced a new service, Kindle Unlimited. For $10 per month, you get access to 600,000 books and 2000 audio books. Is this a good deal?
Well, first of all, in classic Amazon style, there’s a free 30 day trial. Give it a spin and if you don’t like it, just cancel.
What’s included in Kindle Unlimited? The “Big 5” publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Simon and Schuster) are not included. That eliminates a lot of best sellers … but the smaller publishers also publish a lot of good books. According to Laura Hazard Owen, the following publishers are included: Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Harvard University Press, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Open Road Media, W.W. Norton, and Workman, among others.
Are any good series included? Yep – Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct are a few that immediately jump out. There are even 46 books and stories by my favorite author, Lawrence Block .
Let’s flip through a few more shelves. Water for Elephants (if you haven’t read it, I strongly urge you to read it), The Life of Pi, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Hangman’s Daughter, Lawrence Sanders’s Archy McNally series (which continues to grow, in spite of his death), Jim Bouton’s seminal baseball book Ball Four, The Boxcar Children series for children … suffice it to say, there’s a lot to choose from. A couple of other books that I had been intending to buy were displayed in Amazon’s recommendations for me.
OK, I know what you’re thinking. “So what, Kosmo? Scribd and Oyster have similar offerings at similar prices. This isn’t a game changer. You’re just being a shill for Amazon.”
Audio books. BAM.
I spend a lot of time in a car, and fill most of it with either podcasts or audio books, because most radio programming drives me nuts. I recently moved to a smaller town, and I’ll have access to a much smaller audio book collection in Overdrive.
The collection of audio books is much smaller – 2000 as opposed to 600,000 – but there are still some winners. 39 books in McBain’s 87th precinct series! That should fill a lot of commuting hours. Unlike the library, there are no wait lists.
Is Kindle Unlimited worth it? If you enjoy audio books and have a limited selection at your library, I think it’s a pretty obvious slam dunk, considering the cost of audio books. If you’re a voracious reader, it could also make a lot of sense. As mentioned earlier, it’s not a comprehensive collection, but I found a lot of gems in the short time I spent poking around. I signed first thing this morning and I suspect I’ll waste a lot of time in the next few days just perusing the collection.
Amazon Prime Update – Amazon Prime has also seen some recent changes. First, the price jumped from $79 to $99 per year. Then Amazon added access to the Prime Music catalog of roughly one million songs. You can listen in the cloud or download for offline listening. Again, not comprehensive, but it’s a pretty strong collection. I had tried Prime once before and had canceled after the trial offer. This time around, I think they have me hooked for good.[Editor’s Thoughts: The audio books are certainly tempting. I have a collection of regular books that I’d love to read, but never have the time to. I’ve gotten into podcasts recently, especially the awesome ones on Microblogger because I can listen to them while walking the dog or while doing some types of work (not writing). The audio books would be an extension of that. Unfortunately, it looks like the audio book collection is small. Since there are almost limitless podcasts that I’m now interested in might as well go the free route.
I’m surprised the pricing doesn’t have a tie-in for Amazon Prime subscribers. It seems like a no-brainer to price it at $11 for non-Prime subscribers and $9 for Prime members. The idea would be use the non-Prime price to subsidize the Prime members a bit. It would be another thing to hook the Prime members in a little more… as Kosmo alluded to here. It also shows them a little love for being loyal Amazon customers.]
Reply to Editor’s thought:
Yes, I’m a bit surprised they they didn’t give a discount for Prime members. Seems like a good way to set the hook deeper.
2000 audio books is considerably smaller than the 600K Kindle books, but 2000 is still a pretty decent size. I’d be surprised if a reader with relatively broad interests could wade in and find fewer than 25-50 that appeal to them, and I assume the selection with change over time (and probably grow somewhat). I’ve probably spent less than a half hour in the audio section and have probably found about 60. (Admittedly, I have pretty broad interests, at least within the fiction genre).
I know that you’re much more interested in non-fiction, though, would probably makes it a somewhat worse fit for you, since it’s hard to compete with podcasts on price of availability. However, for fiction fans, there’s not a good substitute for a favorite’s author’s book.
If anyone is wondering about file size of the audio books, it seems to be abut 250-400K per minute of audio.
I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the audio books, this Amazon probably considers this to be the tail of the Kindle Unlimited dog. There are people who someone manage to read 100 or more books a year (I’d love to, but with kids, it’s not possible for me). For those folks, access to a 600,000 book buffet at a set price is a tremendous deal – they could end up paying $1 or less per book they read.