Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gorging on Amazon's $10 Book Buffet

Amazon Unlimited - All you can eat books!
Amazon has started up their own 'all you can stand' Mexican food style buffet book service. They're calling it Kindle Unlimited. Just like a buffet, the offerings are not great, but not bad either, and the price and delicious sopapillas are the star of the show.

Being an Amazon junky I jumped on the 30-day free trial like the proverbial fat kid and his cupcake. Regular price is a reasonable US$9.99. There's plenty of gorging to be done with 60,000 books including some headliners, but it's missing chunks of top tier books from many of the bigger publishers. That particular failing has been well documented in the last few days by other sources, so I won't bother dwelling on it.

Most of the articles I've read panning the service, however, focus entirely on what's not included instead of what is included. That strikes me as odd.

We'll get to that in another post. A lovely rant and rave, if you will. For now, though, is Kindle Unlimited worth it?

I'm of two minds currently.

On the one hand, there are a lot of books in the Kindle Unlimited subscription that I'm looking forward to reading. It's been years since I read The Lord of the Rings series and it's about time to do so. Since it's included with Kindle Unlimited it's a no brainer to just do it. The SF/Fantasy selection looks quite good. If you're more into mystery/suspense or romance those appear to be well represented, as well.

It's also a bargain for people that like to research and investigate new topics. In three days I've downloaded about $100 worth of reference and nonfiction titles. These are the books I blast through in a night or two. I grabbed $50 worth of introduction to Android programing texts, for example, to determine how difficult it would be to develop an app I had an idea for.

Unfortunately, four of the five Android programming books I snagged sucked balls.  One of the books was decent enough to be useful.

I had better luck with business and marketing books, scoring three top notch titles that were well written and useful. The History and Science sections look similarly promising.

Nice, neat category listings Amazon-style.
The ability to grab multiple titles on a subject is a huge benefit of the service. In the Android programming book example, I'd have dropped $50 on books only to find one useful. Instead, I dropped $10 (free under the trial period) and was able to dig into several different titles at a significant savings.

In the business book category, I picked up several books with different techniques to the same problem, illustrating another benefit. It gives me a much broader view of the subject and multiple avenues to consider. I also get access to some rather handy and instantly available reference material.

For people like myself that prefer to read multiple titles and multiple points of view on a subject, Kindle Unlimited is huge.

On the other hand, while the fiction selection is quite good, I read maybe one or two fiction titles a month. That might save me a buck or two, but only if I avail myself of Kindle Unlimited titles.

Alas, none of the authors I read religiously are listed in the selection at all. Jim Butcher, Christopher Moore, Kim Harrison, Brent Weeks, and many others are missing. It's worth it to run your favorite authors through during the free trial period just to find out if they're present or not.

Amazon being the helpful sort it is, if you search an author that is not included in Kindle Unlimited it will automagically suggest similar authors that are!. I can see this being particularly useful for when your favorites aren't publishing and you want to try something new. Searching Christopher Moore, for example, turned up a couple of new authors that tickled my interest. (After I finish Serpent of Venice, of course.)

Personally, if I were only in it for the fiction, I'd have to pass based on the number of titles I read per month. If I read ten fiction titles a month, though, Kindle Unlimited would be a steal.

The biggest bummer is that Kindle Unlimited isn't included in Amazon Prime. Prime is an excellent deal, and they did just add a butt load of music to the service, so can't really complain (much).  Still, why not the books, too?

I've got 27 days on my Kindle Unlimited trial and I'm liking what I see so far. If you're a book junky that will read anything, it's an outstanding deal. If you're a little more selective, it might not be worth it, yet, depending on what you read. Either way, with the free trial running right now, it's worth a shot.

For an all you can eat style buffet, Kindle Unlimited is not yet great, but it's not bad either. The price is right ... and the sopapillas are delicious.


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