Unlimited reading through Kindle: $9.99 per month

July 18, 2014 • 7:46 am

This sounds too good to be true given that e-books cost about ten bucks each, but I’m calling it to your attention. Amazon has announced a “kindleunlimited” plan in which, for $9.99 per month, you get unlimited reading (go here for the information).

I haven’t investigated it thoroughly to see if there’s a catch (I don’t read e-books since I must have dead trees in my paws), but readers who use e-books will want to have a look.  They claim that there are 600,000 titles available.

nb:  Some commenters below say the offer isn’t all it’s cracked up to be:

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h/t: JB, Steve

98 thoughts on “Unlimited reading through Kindle: $9.99 per month

    1. Yeah sounds that way to me too. Many libraries have e-book borrowing though I have no idea how it works.

      1. I’ve read a few library e-books on my Kindle and it’s a complicated, frustrating process. You need to get the DRM-locked epub books from the library (could be easy, I found it tricky & frustrating), break the lock (probably illegal, definitely not for grandma), convert it to .mobi, then transfer that file to your Kindle via USB. I don’t have the patience to do that very often. It’s no wonder pirated ebooks are flourishing – it’s not the price (since I think people want to support authors), it’s that pirated ebooks are unlocked and come in all the formats you need to load onto whatever device you have. If Amazon Unlimited can convert people back to a paid service, I think they’ll have a big win for everyone.

      2. I read library books on my kindle all the time — I just click on a few buttons at the library website to choose a book, and it takes me to the amazon site, where I can download the book. It does seem unnerving the way it just disappears after three weeks, but one can always check it out again. Maybe the difficulty of the process depends on your local library.

        I too mainly prefer “real” books, but the kindle has been a lifesaver for traveling, especially for long trips or sabbaticals. I am terribly neurotic about having enough to read, and taking enough actual books in one’s luggage gets cumbersome. The ebooks solve all that.

  1. I only resort to e-books if I have to (this is rare). Like you, I want a dead tree in my hands. Always and forever (but not “Amen”).

    1. I have only read a couple of free kindle books – I too require the hard copy, but I am DROWNING in books! oh well…!

      To link to the previous WET item,

      “A room without books is like a body without a soul.”
      ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

      1. Of course Cicero presumably said sine spirito, using a word for ‘breath’ which most languages (including Hebrew iirc) use more or less literally to indicate the difference between a living and a dead animal. ‘Soul’ has no underlying meaning in English, but its German cognate Seele is thought to be related to Seil (rope), meaning something like that which ‘ties’ the body together. Pretty abstruse metaphor, no wonder it became a theological term of art to hide the absence of literal content.

        A room without books is like a computer without software. Or at least without an internet connection.

    2. For me it depends on what I am reading. When I am reading a novel or something like that I am perfectly fine with eBooks. For non-fiction I still prefer real book since you often need to go back a few pages or you simply use them to look something up.

      1. Same here. I actually prefer the form factor of e-readers for fiction. You can hold it with one hand in bed, or just lay it on the table next to your plate while eating without trying to find something to hold the pages open.

        1. This is exactly my experience too. E-books are great for reading novels, especially lying in bed and for having enough to read while travelling.
          Non-fiction, especially when doing research, a real book is essential imo.

    3. I use both. I like ebooks for adding notes because 1) I don’t want to mark up my hardcopy 2) I can’t mark up my hard copy when I read in bed (not easily anyway).

      I am rapidly running out of book room. My books are now being piled on my shelves.

      1. I’m running out of book room too, but I received a kindle two Xmas’s ago, and just couldn’t read from it. I like reflective light while reading and I don’t have the best eyes anyway. People have posted about the “friendly on the eyes” models, but don’t know. Pondering.

        1. Did you get the tablet-style “Kindle Fire” or the e-ink Kindle Paperwhite?

          I had a hard time reading off tablets for any length of time but the e-ink readers are amazing. It reinvigorated my reading. I love the form-factor and the light-weight package and it’s so nice to get books with a few clicks, delivered instantly.

          1. It was the tablet “Kindle Fire”. Thanks for the advice. And thanks Diana below for the similar advice…non backlight is what I must be looking for.

          2. Yes, I just borrowed a paperwhite with the e-ink. Amazing. Seriously, I’m losing my near-field vision to a hardening lens (old age!) and I found the e-ink easier to read than a “real” book.

            This experience (along with the user interface, size, weight, and cost) convinced me to finally take the plunge.

        2. Anything with the non backlight should be good for you. I have an old Sony, who first marketed the technology, and you can read outside or with light directly on the screen. It is nice for the adjustable font size as well.

        3. I’ve found that there are two solutions to the “running out of book room” problem that have worked for my wife and me. One solution was to purchase more shelves. That works for a while, but ultimately we’ve just decided to periodically purge ourselves of some volumes. Not all the books we acquire are really worth holding on to forever. And we both learned a lesson from our now deceased parents… if you hold on to all of those books you just burden your heirs with the pain of lugging them away to find many of them have little value to anyone else.

          Kindle solves the disposal problem and saves on book shelf space. But in my case I don’t much enjoy reading that way. So I’ve learned to do periodic purging.

          1. Agreed 100%. I just took two entire (floor-to-ceiling) book shelves’ worth of books to my local library. Cleared up my office amazingly.

            I frequently buy inexpensive used HB copies of books (mainly on Amazon) and my practice now is mainly to give them away after I’ve read them.

            I can see retirement now (it’s close enough), and the desire to purge the house has taken hold pretty well.

      2. I have about 1500 books in my study/office/library and possible a similar number in the loft… there are many more rooms in the house… 

        But oddly my wife doesn’t want bookshelves in every room.

        /@

        1. That’s another thing. Visitors to your house will be able to see all those books and tell that you’re a well read, erudite, urbane, intelligent guy. If you had all those on an ereader they wouldn’t! Unless you let them flick through your ereader while you go and make the coffee!

          1. Well, purging to the books that mean the most to you will actually make it easier for the visitor to assess your erudition.

            My son’s young friend walked into my office with a wondering look on his face, gazing about him: “Did you read all those?!” (I still have a LOT of dead-tree books.)

            Yes, son, and you can too!

            1. LOL! Someone said that to me too once – “Did you really read all those books?” No, I bought them all to impress you. To impress you further, I highlighted things in them to make it appear as though I actually read them.

              I thought someone at work bore a striking (and uncanny) resemblance to a famous Russian economist (Hermann Gräf – German Gref if you accept the version of his name from German to Russian to English). When I showed pictures of him, someone asked, “how did you know about this?” to which I replied, “I read a lot”. 😀

          2. One of the first things I do when going into someone’s home is look for the books (and CDs, movies). Tells you a lot about someone.

            I always worry about those houses without books — and there are a lot of them in the US!

              1. OK. Your “song” count beats mine.

                I remember the Christmas vacation I spent a few years back… digitizing my 550 or so CDs. I got to feel what life as a robot would be like.

            1. Q: What can you learn about someone by studying their CD collection?

              A: They have an inordinate fondness for Beatles!

    4. I bought a basic Kindle for my last holiday in Kenya. It replaced the several kilograms of dead trees that I usually take on holiday, and which I otherwise prefer. I loaded it with books from the wonderful site gutenberg.org, and caught up a little on my classical reading. Curiously, when I demonstrated gutenberg.org to one of my sisters, we had a problem. The downloads were hidden on her Kindle. She has an account with Amazon, and it appears that they quite cynically install software that obstructs any competition, while boasting of the versatility of their otherwise useful product.

    1. Ha ha! I tricked iTunes with American gift cards. I wonder if there is a similar Amazon loop hole.

      Anyway, before I clicked the link, I knew Canada would be excluded from the service. It’s part of being Canadian like high taxes and renewing your stupid health card if it has the picture (in Ontario).

      1. We have lower taxes, but the cost my “health card” almost certainly more than compensates for the difference.

    1. Yeah. I flipped out when I saw the offer but when I looked more closely, I found that very few of the books I’m actually interested in reading are covered. The “600,000” figure is inflated, probably by including hundreds of thousands of self-published books that essentially no one is interested in reading (with downloads numbering in the single or double digits).

      In the reports, there’s this: “However, the deal currently leaves out the “big five” publishers in the U.S.: Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Macmillan and Penguin Random House, the product of a 2013 merger. Hachette titles are inconspicuously absent from the list of books Amazon offers with Kindle Unlimited.”

      Many commentators have compared it to Netflix. I think this comparison is more apt than some may recognize. Like netflix, choices are restricted and unpredictable, focusing on older and cheaper items. Newer blockbusters/bestsellers appear but are rare and appear to be there more for PR value than anything else.

  2. This is taking books down the same route as music – authors will end up earning nothing for all their hard work, the time and effort. As one commentator said – you relisten to 3 mins of music a lot more than you reread a book. Amazon takes everything and gives nothing back to the community. This is not a good move. They are corporatising culture as others have corporatised and destroyed the environment

    1. Yes, it is a form of pirating, everybody will be able to download your book, and your royalty contract flies out of the window. For example, one of our books sold 10,000 copies, but has continuously been pirated. On one of these sites (there were many of them) it said that our book had been downloaded 100,000 times. This means a potential income of a good fraction of $200,000 (a royalty of $2 per book) has been stolen from us, the authors.

      So Amazon is institutionalizing this practice. It will have a fund of $ 2 million per month to pay out to 600,000 books, so authors can just expect a pittance.

    2. It looks like it’s for older books; I imagine that either it’s public domain stuff that is already cheap/free and not paying royalties to anyone, or a bit like those ‘get the first book by Popular Author or in Long-Running series, then you have to buy the rest’.

      1. It’s also for books enrolled in the “KDP Select” program, ebooks that the author / publisher has agreed will be Kindle exclusives for 90 days.

        If you enroll in KDP Select your book is automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

  3. Actually, I don’t think it means unlimited access to ALL kindle content – “You can find Kindle Unlimited books everywhere you shop for Kindle books today.”

    So while it looks like a great idea, I suspect in actual fact it sin’t quite the deal it appears. Sadly.

    1. “Actually, I don’t think it means unlimited access to ALL kindle content”

      It definitely doesn’t. I just browsed through several pages of Terry Pratchett books and none of them are currently in the KU program. So it appears that even for much older books the copyright holder has to agree to put their books into the program explicitly. The KU program looks to me to be similar to those old book-of-the-month programs, except with a much bigger selection to chose from.

      If one is just looking for cheap reads, I have bought several large collections of classic books and short stories for my B&N Nook reader, most for anywhere from $0.99 to $4.99. I’ve gotten the complete Oz collection, the complete Sherlock Holmes collection, and several sci fi and mystery collections, plus a lot of classic novels.

  4. I read about it as well. Seems also to be in direct competition with Oyster books, which has been out there for a while:

    https://www.oysterbooks.com/about

    I still don’ think I’d use it; I do buy ebooks (I always check the Kindle Daily deals; sometimes, though not very often, there’s some good books there for $1.99) but not for $10/month. And, as GBJames pointed out, it’s almost like a paid library card. My library is actually quite good with electronic resources; they don’t often have new titles available though, and there’s still a fixed number of copies to be lent out.

    I haven’t completely switched to ebooks yet and don’t think I ever will, but they’re especially convenient when traveling!

  5. I have had a Kindle reader for about four years now, and I have read a couple hundred books with it. I only read nonfiction now and most of it is either science, atheism, cosmology or similar books.

    The information is sketchy on Amazon site but I believe they have picked 600,000 books of which most will be fiction.

    Amazon apparently does not understand what the word unlimited means. It means without limit. I doubt I could find enough books to justify spending $10 a month.

    1. It’s unlimited in the same sense as an all-you-can-eat buffet. You can have unlimited amounts of what they’re serving, but you don’t get to decide what should be served.

  6. My local library has an expanding e-book function that would seem to be much the same thing. I can “take out” books via my Kindle or iPad and the access ends when the borrowing period expires. It’s free, too.

  7. I must be a sad disappointment to Amazon. I’ve had a Kindle for 3 or 4 years now, and use it a fair amount, but I’ve never once brought an item of content for it. I’ve got 10s of thousands of papers and books that I’ve collected over the years with the avowed intent of reading, and so I’m doing that. with the Kindle.
    I suspect I’ll have worn out the electrons before I have to start buying e-books.

    1. What about new books? Like, after all the reviews, I couldn’t wait to read Capital in the 21st Century. To be honest, I didn’t look, but I would imagine that most of us would have waited awhile to find it not checked out of the library.
      I’m not particularly impulsive, but I do tend to buy books that way (“That looks interesting. I want it.”), and the Kindle makes it so easy. Guess I’m their business model, huh?

      1. What about new books?

        I feel the temptation. Believe me, I do.
        When we moved house a couple of years ago, as I re-built the bookshelves in my den, I realised I had nearly a metre of unread books, and vowed to not buy any more until I’d dealt with the backlog. It’s a continuing struggle, and at this rate, it’ll be another 3 years before I can start buying again.
        It’s a constant struggle. I have to cross the road to avoid bookshops, and cross two roads and turn a corner to avoid a second-hand bookshop.

          1. That’s the un-read ones. The total is about 20m of bookshelves. Plus the boxes in the attic. And in the garage.

              1. Also you will not be short of time to buy books at Amazon and second-hand bookshops.

              2. You certainly won’t have as much money if Amazon have anything to do with it. That’s what they’re for.

  8. I use my very basic Kindle for reading lite fiction. It works perfectly well for me. But I like to annotate and underline things in my sciencey books so I strictly use dead trees for those.
    I do not think i will bother with the KU deal.

    1. Funny, I use ebooks mostly for the annotation feature. Of course, I use Calbre to manage my electronic collections & I rip the DRM off because I like reading on my Android tablet using Moon Reader Pro. If I pay for the book, I expect to be able to read it on whatever I want to read it on.

      1. I’d add that Moon+ Reader Pro on Android also has excellent text to speech features, especially when combined with the (currently) free audio voices for android by Ivona. For me that is one of the reasons to use my Android device as a reader as opposed to iOS or my Kindle. Not as good as a professional narrator, but also way better than a non-professional narrator – bad narrators can ruin an otherwise good book.

        1. Ah, good to know. I noticed that feature but never tried it out. I recently redid my Nexus 7 from scratch & have begun moving my books & backed up settings/notes over again.

          1. I use the TTS feature for commuting – not as slick as a synced Audible book, but not every book I want to read has an audiobook version. There are limitations, though, one of which is that the Ivona voices (I prefer the British one) do not have customizable pronunciation and are currently optimized for maps. That means that every abbreviated saint (St.) is pronounced “street” and apt is pronounced “apartment”. Sigh.

            Still, high marks to Moon+ Reader and worth paying for the pro version for the TTS features, which seem to be the best of any of the readers on Android.

            1. Thanks, I didn’t know about the Ivona voices so I’ve since downloaded the application. I liked the female British voice best & I’ve downloaded that one.

      2. “Funny, I use ebooks mostly for the annotation feature.”

        Not having an ereader, I’m not familiar with how one annotates. Does one mark up/make notes in the margins of an ebook (as one would in a hard copy book) by using some sort of stylus? Or does one somehow open up space in the body of the text and write with a stylus?

        1. You select the text with your finger (I use an Android tablet so you get a selection of colours) then you can either leave it as just highlights or you can then add a note. A note icon is placed next to the highlighted text which you can click to expand and read your note. At the same time, all the notes are stored in a note area where you can read them all and click them to be brought back to the location where you added the note.

          I also like that you can click on a word and look it up in a dictionary or search google for it in one click.

          1. Oh and I forgot to add that you type with an onscreen keyboard. I think some models have hard keyboards but I just use the Android swift key which is fast (or you could dictate).

  9. I have been resisting the proliferation of screens for a long time now. I’m still holding out against a “smart” phone.

    I finally succumbed to the e-reader with the current version of the 6-inch paperwhite. A friend lent me his and I was (finally) sold.

    The big attraction for me was: Putting all my guidebooks and my pleasure books on one little box for travel. I checked and all my guides for the next trip have Kindle editions. Yes, this means buying them twice; but it’s worth it for the convenience. And, it’s searchable!

    Still a Luddite, though!

    1. It is handy to add PDF versions of manuals too as I can never find hard copies of those thins. I tend to misplace anything that is paper.

        1. Smart phones are very useful tools. I held out until about 6 months ago. I was missing out.

          If you do consider trying one, I highly recommend getting one that has a micro SD card slot. I don’t know how people get by with phones that don’t.

          One example, I have nearly my entire music collection on my phone so it goes with me everywhere. With Bluetooth I can listen to it on my home system, in the car, or a variety of portable devices. And if I want to hear something I don’t have on the phone, I can stream or download it from the net in seconds.

          Stargazing. Can’t identify that? Pull up an app that when you hold the phone up to the sky shows a diagram of celestial objects in real time as you move the phone. With tags and links to information about the objects.

          I better stop. There is tons more practical use from a smart phone.

          1. One example, I have nearly my entire music collection on my phone so it goes with me everywhere.

            Likewise on my tablet. (I don’t have a tablet.)
            I never did understand music.

              1. That was an aspect that my music teacher never mentioned. Complete failure to communicate. Complete waste of time – 1 hour a week for 40 (?) weeks a year for 4 years before we could drop the subject. 160 hours that could have been spent on something useful. Like cookery, or … well, lots of things. Even RE (Religious Education) wasn’t such a waste as you got to hone your rhetorical skills dismembering other people’s arguments.
                I hope schooling is better thought out these decades.

  10. Wow, I’m in the minority here: I read all my books using the Kindle app on my iPhone and I love it. It’s easy to read anywhere/anytime, it has a back-light, it’s comfortable to hold, etc. I do read mostly fiction though.

  11. Funny that the poster you picked has To Kill a Mockingbird, when it was only released on Kindle about a week ago (finally!). Harper Lee had been holding out for dead tree books for years.

  12. I looked through the paleontology section and found one book by Donald Prothero. Alot of the selections look like unscientific crap.

  13. I scanned through the eligible titles and they mostly seem to be what a previous poster called “lite fiction,” though there were a few current popular nonfiction titles including Piketty’s “Capital” and Michael Lewis’ “Flash Boys.” I didn’t notice WEIT. No more reason to pay $9.99/mo to borrow these than to pay Amazon Prime $99/yr for the privilege of shorter delivery times, especially when I get instant delivery with Kindle.

    I suspect this innovation may be a response to the failure of so many former Amazon Prime members (including me) to renew their subscriptions after the $20 price rise.

    BTW, I might as well do my bit to defend Kindle: I just turned 80 and my vision has been deteriorating a bit in the last few years, my book shelves are packed solid with conventional books and CD’s and I have no more space, so Kindle is a g-dsend to me for its compact storage, its ability to adjust font size and type, and its easy portability. YMMV.

    1. My drink Mixology book “Unofficial Distorted View Bar Guide” is among the avaialbe titles, as is everything else I’ve published under the name “Matthew Wunderlich.”

  14. Just found out I get New Scientist magazine free on my Kindle – courtesy of my local library.

    1. Which reminds me that I can and do subscribe to The New York Review of Books and The London Review for Kindle on a monthly basis. They’re easier to read than the tiny print paper versions and make payment of their relatively high subscription prices easier. And no ads!

      The only science magazine I could find listed for Kindle was Discover, which is a little too
      elementary for me. But if Scientific American ever takes the plunge I’ll add it to my subscriptions.

      Oh, and you can subscribe to
      Massimo Pigliucci’s essays and articles in blog form on Kindle too 🙂

  15. I am retired and read a lot, sometimes as many as 6 or 7 a week. Why should I commit to 10$ a month whether I read or not.
    Most of the books I read are free or a dollar or less.

    I Like e readers, you can adjust the font sizes
    easily and with my old Keyboard Kindle ,I can listen, as well.

    We lived in our house for 27 years and when we moved , I had to get rid of thousands if books,now I have access to over 2000 in my Amazon library.

    How many books can anyone really read in a year,
    there are only so many hours in a day and I like to get out and hike or travel etc.

    I don’t want a subscription monkey on my back.

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