Is Kindle Unlimited worth it?
April 23, 2015 7:10 AM   Subscribe

Mostly what it says on the tin. I read a lot, and I read almost everything on my kindle - I'm missing the part of my brain that makes people attached to print books. I'm curious if anyone has tried Kindle Unlimited, and if you liked it or felt it was worthwhile. Let's bracket for now any concerns about Amazon as a company and its effect on publishing/writing. I'm familiar with those arguments, and they'll factor separately into whether or not I decide to sign up. Thanks!
posted by Ragged Richard to Shopping (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I did the 30 day trial because we were going on a multi-country southeast asia backpacking trip but didn't want to carry lots of heavy travel books. To our delight we found that huge amount of fodor's and lonely planet guides were available on Kindle Unlimited.

The 30 day trial is a fantastic way for you to decide if it's suitable to you. I signed up for the trial, downloaded travel guides to my heart's content as well as a couple other books to read while I was traveling. You click the books you want and tell it to send to your iPad/kindle and it syncs up pretty seamlessly.

For the voracious reader I think it's a good value, considering that a hardback can cost over 20 dollars, although not every new book is available. Still, they have a pretty impressive library. I didn't use it past the 30 day trial because I still prefer to read books in print, but I can see how it would be good for someone in your situation.
posted by Karaage at 7:15 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I looked into it and there were not many books I wanted to read. Oyster has a much better catalog for the same price - I actually went through my Amazon wish list and added all the Oyster books that were available via their monthly subscription plan and my queue is a good 100 books long. Kindle Unlimited only had a handful of those available.
posted by something something at 7:24 AM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My impression of Kindle Unlimited is that it's sort of like Netflix in that its catalog mostly consists of media that can't be monetized in any other way. Like you will rarely (if ever) see Harry Potter movies on Netflix because people like those movies enough to buy them on DVD. They put a few "loss leaders" in too, to sweeten the pot. Some people like the quantity and find the quality satisfactory, too. It just depends on your tastes.
posted by gentian at 7:35 AM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I use it now and then when I happen to run across something I was interested in anyway, but I'm realizing I'm probably not using it $10/mo worth.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:39 AM on April 23, 2015

I had it for a few months and quickly exhausted things I wanted to read. Unless you are super into either self-published erotic romance or self-published self help, it's probably not worth it. That plus the inability to easily sort the wheat from the chaff with Amazon's very limited search function just made it frustrating and difficult to find anything worth reading.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:49 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

It depends on what you read. I read a lot of historical fiction, and Kindle Unlimited had a good run of those. For $10 a month, I'd be ahead if I read two books a month, and I was definitely doing that.
posted by joyceanmachine at 7:50 AM on April 23, 2015

I keep it only because if you also have an Audible subscription, you get access to the audiobook for any books you have out with Kindle unlimited, which has been an amazing thing for me.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 7:51 AM on April 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I haven't tried Kindle Unlimited. Have you had a look at the Kindle Lending Library? Also, I get a lot of books through my local library's Overdrive program (right to my Kindle).
posted by getawaysticks at 8:08 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It's a hard question to answer because it really depends on whether you are interested in reading the books that are available on Kindle Unlimited.

If one of these two things is true, it's probably a good deal:
  1. You're not really specific about which book you read, but just want to read something, perhaps in a particular genre, and are cool with browsing through a list and picking something off of it.
  2. The stuff you want to read happens, by dint of good luck, to be on Amazon's Unlimited list.
My recommendation is to do the trial and see how you like it, particularly if you are trying to see if #2 is the case.

I do almost all my reading on Kindles, but I've not found the Unlimited program to be worth it, because I'm pretty specific about what I want to read; I have a list of books and I want to read those books, full stop. Very few of them were on the free list. However, I have friends who seem to really like the Unlimited program and use it to keep them supplied with reading material at very low cost. They enjoy the 'browsing' aspect of it, which is sort of library-esque in that you aren't necessarily sure what you want only that you want to read something, and you can probably find something in the neighborhood even if it's not the exact author and title.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:18 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Check your local library--mine lends through 3M cloud and Overdrive services and those have hit a lot more desirable books for me than kindle unlimited did.
posted by rabidsegue at 8:24 AM on April 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Yeah, get the trial. I didn't find much I wanted on Kindle Unlimited. YMMV.
posted by mskyle at 8:52 AM on April 23, 2015

I did not initially find too much overlap between my to-read list and the Unlimited list, but there was enough that I thought I'd do it for a few months and read through those things, saving money over buying them. Since then, I have not gone out of my way to seek out other Unlimited books, but I find semi-regularly, probably at least twice a month, that something I was thinking about buying happens to be on Unlimited that is not available as a library ebook for me, so it's still quite handily paying for itself.

But I read a fair amount - something like 200 books a year, give or take - so my to-read list is long and I'm interested in a lot of different kinds of books. I suspect Unlimited would not be worth it if I did not plow through books at such an alarming and expensive rate, or had a more focused set of reading interests.
posted by Stacey at 9:05 AM on April 23, 2015

I tried it out for the free trial, and compared my to-read list with what was available there vs. what I could get from my library (physical and online):

Non-Fiction: 213 books on my wish-list.
•Library: 88 of those books available
•Kindle Unlimited: 13 of those books available
•Neither: 115 books

Fiction: 61 books on my wish-list.
•Library: 57 of those books available
•Kindle Unlimited: 5 of those books available, all of which were also carried by the libraries.
•Neither: 4 books

My library has a collection of ~70,000 ebooks, and carries as ebooks 54 of the 274 books on my list. Kindle Unlimited, with its 600,000 books, has 18 of the 274 books on my list. 600,000 sounds like a lot of books, but on browsing it looks like those numbers are bulked up by a lot of books that are public domain (already free!), or self-published junk (I’m sure there are some gems, but they’re sure hard to find amidst the ones that aren’t worth the $2.99 price tag). For books worth your time, take a look at your library online book system–don't know about NY, but you can get a card for any CA public library if you are a CA resident, no matter what city. The online selections are getting better all the time, and it’s hard to beat free books!
posted by lemonade at 9:06 AM on April 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Definitely do get a trial of Oyster to evaluate. It has a legitimately good selection. They have, for instance, "Lord of the Rings", all the Harry Potter books, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead", "Prey" by Michael Crichton, "The Emperor of All Maladies", everything by Italo Calvino, "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth, plus lots of random pop-sci/cocktail-party books from a couple years ago. That's just what I found browsing for like two minutes on the subscription plan.

They recently added a much wider selection of books that you can "buy" (like Kindle non-unlimited), but it's possible to filter so that you only see the ones available on subscription.

There are articles introducing different authors and genres, so they at least care about appearing to like books. I have the feeling that publishers are a little more willing to get behind them, in an attempt to break the Amazon monopoly.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:09 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I asked a previous question about accessing ebooks on a Kindle outside of the Amazon ecosystem, which you might find interesting.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:33 AM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Scribd is the greatest. I've had it for 4 months and it is the best. Plus has super selection of audiobooks. Plus almost any pdf article you are looking for.
posted by madstop1 at 4:24 PM on April 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

It really depends on what you like to read. For me, a couple of library accounts plus overdrive was a better solution. (I read around 150 books a year, mostly 'literary' fiction, mysteries, and classics.)
posted by betweenthebars at 10:02 PM on April 23, 2015

Forgot to say, I do almost all of my reading on a kindle. The library connects to amazon, which sends it to the kindle and saves notes & highlights.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:06 PM on April 23, 2015

Oyster probably has the better library but until/unless they become compatible with an e-ink reader they're a non starter for me. I can tolerate reading on my phone or tablet occasionally, but not heavily enough to make a subscription worthwhile. I happily read on my paperwhite but I'd be up for getting a different reader in the future if a decent device with a compelling ecosystem came out.
posted by Pryde at 6:53 PM on May 5, 2015

Just a random data point for others who may stumble on this since I used this for my own edification. While there weren't a ton of best sellers, I had enough $1-$3 books on my wishlist that the trial was more than worth it - and I had enough time to read $21 of KU books due to reading time.

I likely won't keep it year round-and hope it eventually is inclued within Prime-but will use it on a monthly/as needed basis when I have sufficient reading time. I'm too tied into the Kindle ecosystem to try the others.
posted by TravellingCari at 11:26 AM on June 10, 2015

« Older covering buyer's closing costs   |   Cheap, easily obtainable full-spectrum fluorescent... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.