Friday , July 25, 2014 - 9:22 AM
Amazon launched an e-book lending service that could make it far less costly to read — and listen to — thousands of books. For about $10 a month, subscribers can borrow books from the company's library of more than 600,000 titles, including about 2,000 audiobooks. Kindle Unlimited, as the service is called, lives up to its name in certain respects, but it has a few limitations as well. Read on to decide whether the program is right for you.
Amazon touts its service as one that provides unlimited reading. Indeed, access to over 600,000 books including bestsellers like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, Water for Elephants, Oh Myyy! – There Goes The Internet, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People look tantalizing to avid readers. Further, the library includes many children's favorites such as The Giver (a must-read before the movie is released on Aug. 15) and the Sesame Street series, as well as reference books like Lonely Planet travel guides.
However, you won't find titles from the Big Five publishers – Penguin, Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster – or any of the top five current New York Times fiction bestsellers. The gaps in titles are likely due to Amazon's long-running disagreement with publishers over the price of e-books, which has reached a peak with the bookseller's dispute with publisher Hachette that represents popular authors such as James Patterson, David Foster Wallace, David Sedaris, Malcolm Gladwell, Mitch Albom and David Baldacci.
While neither Amazon or Hachette has disclosed details about the dispute, it is known that the release of some Hachette titles have been artificially delayed by as much as five weeks, pre-orders are no longer available and these titles don't appear in search results. It's really not surprising these titles have not been included in Kindle Unlimited.
Are there enough titles for you? The answer will vary based on your reading preferences. You can get an idea by browsing through the Kindle Unlimited pages, which are arranged by popular titles, authors and genres. Amazon is offering a free 30-day trial, but you will have to have a current Amazon account and a credit card on file to start the trial. You will be automatically billed at the end of the 30-day period unless you cancel your subscription.
As a subscriber you are allowed to keep up to 10 books at a time, meaning there are no due dates, and of course, no late fees. If you were a Netflix DVD subscriber, you understand the process: no new DVD or book until you have returned the one you borrowed. Unlimited? No, but it is a reasonable system.
Kindle Unlimited can be used on any device with the free Kindle reading app installed on it. That means you can read your borrowed ebooks on an iPhone, Android phone, tablet or computer, as well as on a Kindle e-book reader.
Kindle Unlimited includes a free Audible membership for three months, which is a benefit for those who prefer to listen rather than read e-books. Audible is owned by Amazon and has a library of about 150,000 titles. For $14.95 per month, you get one audiobook and can purchase additional titles at a 30 percent discount. Audible books are read by the authors themselves and actors like Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman and Samuel L. Jackson. Prices range from $10 to $28.
If $15 a month sounds a bit steep, Amazon includes around 2,000 titles with its WhisperSync technology in the $10 Kindle Unlimited membership. You can toggle between read-only mode and read-aloud mode. Adding the voice component will run about $4 per book and often costs less than an Audible copy.
Leslie Meredith has been writing about and reviewing personal technology for the past six years. She has designed and manages several international websites. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at email@example.com.
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