Long time readers of this blog probably know that I am a big supporter of Amazon. I always link to their site when doing book reviews and I tend to purchase over 90% of the books I buy for myself through Kindle. So let me say right off that while this is a stunningly negative and unusual piece. I will say that I STILL plan on doing business with Amazon and buying books from their site. But, that being said, Kindle Unlimited; through my investigation today seems to be aimed at a tiny portion of their audience and you, as an avid reader of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror should save your money. But let me tell you why…
I did not, sign up for Kindle Unlimited because I knew that what I wanted it to would, would be virtually impossible for Amazon to create without going out of business. But what THEY DID create was an unlimited Indies service that allows you to read a few classics and major authors along the way. Indie books are great, at least some of them are; but the idea is certainly great and I support folks who don’t want to go through traditional publishing. That being said, however, this service leans heavily on books that normally would cost the reader anywhere from $.99-$5 to read without the service. Which means that for the price of the service you could read anywhere from 2-10 books a month. There are also some classics. Which is great, except that classics on Amazon usually range from $.99-$3. Which means that for the price of this service you could read anywhere from 3-9 classics a month.
There ARE some major author offers such as the entire Harry Potter series and the Hunger Games series. These books have been on the Amazon Prime service as free checkouts for a while, as well as Hugh Howey’s books. I thought it was rather amusing that as soon as Mockingjay Part 1 the movie was announced that the book was removed from the Prime service. But here it is again, if you didn’t get around to reading back then. They HAVE added a few more books to mix like some Octavia Butler collections and the Lord of the Rings books. Which were never, and are not at a classics price in the store. I also spotted some books that are in the most recent Humble Sci fi Bundle. Such as Timothy Zahn’s Blackcollar. I’m guessing these were cheap ebooks to get the rights for as they are already practically giving it away over on the Humble Bundle site.
The Kindle Unlimited service, seems to be mostly limited to Indie authors, Kindle Exclusives, Classics, and a few cheap ebook titles that could be found elsewhere for practically the price of free. Their flagship titles, Life of Pi, Water for Elephants, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and the Lord of the Rings. Have all been out for QUITE A WHILE and you can probably grab them from your local library. Also if you have a used book store around your house, you will probably be able to get any of these for around $1-$5 each. Being as most had extremely high circulations and when people turn in their books, those are the books they turn in. Which drives down the price.
There is also an audiobook component to all this. But the books on offer are the same books as those offered in the ebooks section. I didn’t exhaustively look through them, but they appear to be the same featured titles, etc… So if you want audiobooks for a good deal, just jump on audible.com a service also owned by Amazon. For $14.95 a month you get to buy AND KEEP, a book of your CHOICE. Also, they run nice sales and with the Whispersync feature of your kindle or kindle app. You can usually pick up additional books at an EXTREMELY low cost. And KEEP THESE BOOKS FOREVER! You can cancel your subscription any time and still keep your audiobooks that you got from the service. Pretty awesome. I got all my Mary Robinette Kowal books from there and loved the experience!
As far as other categories than Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. There are some interesting book offers for Nonfiction Book Bestsellers and some other classic books from those genres. Unfortunately, most of these books ALSO appear to be mainly Kindle Exclusives and books that generally range from $3-$5. There ARE some outliers thrown in for good measure, more so than in the genre examples I gave above and perhaps if you were not an avid reader of a particular discipline of History, Science, or Business this would be a good and cheap way to start. Also assuming you couldn’t find these books at your local library for free. The Nonfiction area of Kindle Unlimited is the ONLY place that to me feels like anything more than an abysmal failure.
So who is Kindle Unlimited for? People who love indie authors and read incredibly fast! Also perhaps the college student who needs to be able research a bunch of different areas of Nonfiction quickly and can’t, for some reason find a local library that doesn’t suck. But that is about it. Perhaps in the future this service will get better. But for right now, it IS NOT WORTH your $9.99. If you don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating go over to Amazon and take a look at the titles on offer. They will, AT LEAST show you everything they have to offer before you sign up. Unlike Netflix, don’t get me started…