With the Kindle Fire hitting stores in less than two weeks, Amazon made another decisive move in the media-consumption wars on Wednesday — unveiling its long-rumored digital book library. Those who have an Amazon Prime subscription, which costs $79 a year for free 2-day shipping and video streaming, will now also be able to borrow one Kindle book per month from the library at no cost. Some say the new perk makes Prime "the greatest deal in tech." Really?
Yes, and Netflix and iTunes better watch out: Once a side project, Prime is now a "great deal," says Sam Biddle at Gizmodo. Not only does it get you free two-day delivery on everything from pliers to speakers, plus instant streaming access to a growing library of TV shows and movies, but now you also get a free book every month. Netflix may have a better selection of streaming content, but that's all it has. Amazon Prime offers so much more. It may even challenge iTunes soon. "All signs point to Amazon using Prime as its warm media spigot in perpetuity, feeding hungry devices like the Kindle Fire, and wrapping you into... its own ecosystem."
"Game over: Amazon Prime is officially the greatest deal in tech"
Yes, if you use it for more than the lending library: "If you were only going to subscribe to Amazon Prime to borrow books, it's not a great deal," says Tim Carmody at Wired. While Amazon is hyping all the best sellers available, there are far more "former" best sellers than current ones. The annual price of $79 works out to roughly $6.50 per month, and many of the available titles could be purchased outright for less. The selection, and the digital publishing industry as a whole, is still too limited at this point to call this a "real digital library," but it certainly is a "solid... fringe benefit to Prime."
"Kindle Lending Library takes a chance with borrowing books"
But the local library still has a better selection: Just 5,000 books will be available in the library at launch, and none of the six biggest U.S. publishers are participating, says Jacqui Cheng at ARS Technica. More caveats: You can only take out one book at a time — though for as long as you like — and books can only be accessed on Kindles, not on Kindle apps for, say, the iPad. This "bold" move gives Prime even more value, but users looking for a better selection of Kindle books to borrow should go to their local library (gasp!), where a recent partnership with Amazon made thousands of ebooks available for lending.
"Amazon bypasses library, lends Kindle books directly to Prime users"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How U.S. special forces are preparing for the worst-case scenario in North Korea
- Why you shouldn't eat dog. Not even once.
- Why Israel can no longer let the Palestinian Authority be responsible for security in the West Bank
- Why you should really take a nap this afternoon, according to science
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- How social conservatives became a minority in need of protection
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Grammar quiz: Do you know the passive voice?
- Why charity can't solve society's deepest problems
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
Subscribe to the Week