Kindle Unlimited: Is it worth it?

This blog has often talked about the advantages of ebooks and ebook devices, like Amazon’s Kindle, and highlighted the disadvantages of such devices, and publishing for such devices, as well.

I’m torn. I love books – all books, including ebooks, because I love to read. Reading a physical copy of a book, for me, is just as good as reading an ebook. But I do see a distinct advantage in ebooks, and that comes in the form of volume. I can carry around a device that gives me access to the 300+ books in my elibrary without having to lug the physical weight around of those 300+ books. I know, I don’t READ 300 books at once, but I like reading multiple books at once and having a Kindle allows me to do that in an easier format than, say, just carrying around 5 books with me everyplace I go.

Image from Amazon.Com

Amazon.Com is offering a services for fans of ebooks called Kindled Unlimited. This service has been available for a few months now, and I thought it was about time to try it out and review it. Here are some of the basics Amazon boasts, if you’re unsure of what the service offers:

* Over 800,00 books for subscribers to choose from.
* Unlimited listening to thousands of audiobooks.
* The ability to read and access these books from any device with the Kindle app installed.
* All for the low, low price of $9.99 a month.

After having Kindle Unlimited for two months, I have to say that some of these claims, outside of the prices, are more true than others.

First, while Amazon claims to have over 800,000 books for readers to choose from as part of this service, they leave out the information that a lot of these books are free anyway. When flipping through the offerings on literature, for example, many of the ebooks are not just free to borrow through the service, but listed as free. When Amazon measures the amount of books offered for free through this service, they do not take out the books that are offered for free normally.

Here's an example from Amazon's free selection of literature.
Here’s an example from Amazon’s free selection of literature.

Continuing on the first point, many of those 800,000 books are self-published books that aren’t that appealing or engaging to read. That’s not to say that there aren’t self-published books that are worth reading on there, just that you’ll have to wade through a lot of spelling errors and poor editing to find them.

But, leaving out the books you could get for free and the self-published books that look unappealing, there are still a ton of books available to read through the service, albeit not 800,000 worth.

And while you do have access to as many of these books as you want to read, you can only have 10 of them in your library at a time. 10 is a lot, so I can see how that doesn’t seem like an issue right away – like, who has time to read more than 10 free books at a time, right? But the downside is that once you return a book to the Kindle Unlimited library, you lose any bookmarks or notes that you’ve made. So if you were studying a text and wanted to keep those notes, you’d either have to buy it and keep it on your device, or never return it and subscribe to the service for forever.

But if you’re purely downloading books for pleasure and not for study, this isn’t such a bad thing.

I have yet to take advantage of the audiobooks offered through this service, mainly because I like to read my books rather than listen to them. If you’re an audiobook fan, though, you can get a ton of free recordings from Librivox.Org.

I think, if you know what you’re getting, Kindle Unlimited isn’t bad. But I don’t know if it’s a service I’d subscribe to if I didn’t have a lot of time to read or the desire to read a lot. Amazon offers a lot of ebooks at a discount anyway, and they often go on sale, so if you’re not reading at least 10 books a month, it might just be cheaper to buy the books you do want to read and not subscribe to a monthly service.

A lot of libraries now also offer ebooks for Kindle and Nook devices through their websites. You just have to go to your local library and ask a librarian how they’ve set it up, and you’ll have access to a whole lot of books for free.

My overall evaluation of the service is that it’s not bad, but it’s not unique, and there are a lot of other alternatives, such as your local library, ebook sales, and Librivox.Org, that do about the same thing for less.

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