I’m a regular reader. I go through periods where I’m polishing off a book a week, and periods where I stroll through the words of an enjoyable read over the course of a month. So it got my attention when Amazon recently Amazon announced a new subscription plan that allows you to read “unlimited” books for $9.99.
On the surface, it sounds like a good enough deal. Download and read as much as you want from over 600,000 titles, I mean, what’s not to love?
The answer, unfortunately, is: everything.
I own a Kindle, and I’m an Amazon Prime member but I don’t buy a ton of content. I’d say, in an average year, I buy one or two e-books and maybe a hardcover from time to time. But it just doesn’t make a lot of sense to pay $9.59 for a copy of Kafka on the Shore when there are about 20 copies circulating in my local library system.
Most Books You Want Aren’t Available
Don’t get too excited, the “Big Five” publishing houses aren’t on board with this deal. Of the current available Kindle Unlimited library, half a million of them are from Amazon’s self-published library. So, if you’re expecting to get unfettered access to the hottest bestsellers, prepare to be surprised. You’re still going to have to plunk down the cash to buy the e-book from Amazon.
You Don’t Need To Spend Money on Books
Some flashy titles Amazon is pushing to sell Kindle Unlimited: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings. Uh, not for nothing, but I can read every single one of those books for free. I have access to millions of titles through my local library. Even the hot new titles become available eventually. If you can’t find something interesting to read from the near-unlimited selection of books available at the library, then you’re probably not enough of a reader to justify paying a subscription fee for Kindle Unlimited, anyway.
Instead, why not try…the FREE Kindle Reading App… which works on most devices.
But Even if You Do Spend Money on Books
Okay, so let’s fast-forward to a future where the Big Five agree to allow their titles on Kindle Unlimited (doubtful, but let’s pretend), just how many of those hot bestsellers do you read in a given year? If you buy and read every bestseller on the shelf, then I guess Kindle Unlimited saves you some money in this scenario. But realistically, it’s probably the occasional new title that interests you. So, in a single year, you’d have to buy eight new books at $14.99 a piece to match the cost of a year of Kindle Unlimited. $120 is your break even point.
I understand buying the occasional book. I have some that I like to have perched on my shelf on a permanent basis. But if you’re spending a lot on books that you can check out at the library for free, you’re just wasting money.
All Hail the Public Library
Going to the Beaverton City Library to browse the aisles on a cold and rainy winter day is one of my favorite things to do. Impulsively checking out six books costs absolutely nothing. I can bring home a miniature personal library of my own and rotate books based on whatever mood I happen to be in.
The library is grossly underused, and the idea that Kindle Unlimited is somehow a value add to the public library is asinine. Huffington Post ranted that Amazon is trying to convince you into paying $120 for a glorified (and crappier) library card, and, yeah. That’s about how I see it.
The library is amazing. You can read almost any book you’ve ever wanted to read. You can probably track down that obscure movie or TV show that’s readily available for streaming (like a personal favorite of mine: Seasons 2-11 of Survivor). They even have music and, yes, even e-books.
Look, you already pay for the library whether you use it or not. Just save the $120 and get yourself a subscription to Netflix or Hulu, instead. Way better values. Way better products.