Amazon introduces Prime Reading…and hits a sweet spot for many consumers

Amazon introduces Prime Reading…and hits a sweet spot for many consumers

Amazon has introduced yet another Prime benefit…and I expect bloggers to massively underestimate its appeal:

Prime Reading (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

This is included in the regular price of

Amazon Prime (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and, speaking as the former manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, and as someone who has covered the world of e-books for more than seven years, I think this is going to appeal to the vast majority of readers. Those are what I call “casual readers” as opposed to “serious readers”. I’m a serious reader, and I think most of the readers of this blog are: at a minimum, you can define a serious reader as reading a book a month (many read many more than that).

Most books are sold to casual readers: they read a lot fewer books, tend to read more popular books of which they’ve heard already (or something very genre, like you might get in an airport bookstore), and to buy books as gifts.

They aren’t so much looking for surprising, innovative works, in my opinion. They want reading a book to be what they expect it to be. Sure, these are broad generalizations, but it’s my sense as a bookseller.

They don’t spend $100 a month on books for themselves to read…they may spend that for the year.

What is this benefit?

Prime Members (who may pay $99 a year) can read books from a specific selection (1,014 at time of writing). This includes some well-known titles:

  • Harry Potter
  • The Complete Peanuts
  • Lonely Planet travel guides
  • The Man in the High Castle
  • Pines (Wayward Pines #1)

There are a lot more books in Prime Reading that casual readers may not know…but they are generally clear as to what they are (I was intrigued by how many were arts/crafts oriented).

Again, picture being in an airport and you are about to get on a five hour flight. These are books you might grab for that purpose.

It’s worth noting that a lot of Amazon published books are not in Prime Reading…I didn’t see the original James Bond books or the 87th Precinct series, for example.

What else do you take on a plane to read?

Magazines, and they’ve included that.

Sports Illustrated, People, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Sunset, Vogue, National Geographic Traveler…outside of a notable lack of newsmagazines, this selection could also be in an airport bookstore.

I’m not saying this is going to sell a lot more Prime memberships…but I do think it improves “stickiness”, the odds that someone will stay with Prime.

Does this cannibalize anything for Amazon?

It might. It might reduce book purchases by those casual readers, since many of them will already be Prime members. They also may not care as much about owning books (this service is borrowing them, not owning them). It won’t limit them buying books for others, though, and may encourage them to

Give the Gift of Prime (at AmazonSmile*)

which is a giant benefit for Amazon, since Prime members buy more of the higher profit items (what I call diapers and windshield wipers). They would much rather have new Prime members than a casual reader spending $100 on books in a year.

It also competes with two other existing Amazon services. Let’s talk about the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library first.

The KOLL also lets you borrow something to read…but just one book a calendar month (that’s not a limitation with Prime Reading). It requires you to own a physical Kindle; Prime Reading can be used with Kindle reading apps on other devices. Yes, the KOLL has many more titles but seems a lot more restrictive.

I’m not sure how much it is costing Amazon to maintain KOLL. I’m guessing it’s not insignificant, in part because of the number of customer service calls they must get on it (and those are expensive). It does have the advantage for the consumer (but not for Amazon) that you don’t have to be a Prime member…it may sell some Kindles/Fires. However, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they quietly let the KOLL sunset.

The other one, and this is more interesting to me, is

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Like the KOLL, this has many more books than Prime Reading…close to one and half million, much more than 100 times as many.

Every book in Prime Reading (I just can’t bring myself to abbreviate it as PR, because of it being the same as “Public Relations”) is also in KU.

You can get top magazines in both.

The big difference is that you pay an additional $9.99 a month (although it’s sometimes on sale for a longer commitment, as has been the case on Prime Day).

The casual reader may not find that to be necessary. It might seem better if you aren’t also paying for Prime already…but if you are, do you want to add more than $100 a year?

Some will…we pay for Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix in our house, for example…but I wouldn’t describe myself as a casual viewer, either. 😉

I think many bloggers are going to say that it doesn’t have enough books, or diverse enough books…but that’s like when tech reviewers give people pixel per inch counts for phones and tablets and think you should pay significantly more money for more of them. For the typical user, they don’t really care that much about the specs. Good enough might be good enough. 🙂

All in all, Prime just keeps getting better, including the recent addition of

Twitch Prime (at AmazonSmile*)

for videogame fans.

If you can afford Prime, I don’t see why you wouldn’t get it. 🙂

Speaking of affording and Prime members, there is a great sale right now on Kindle EBRs (E-Book Readers) for Prime members! It’s definitely not too early to be thinking of holiday gifts! I don’t know how long this will last, but at time of writing, there are these deals (probably just in the USA):

This may just tie into the Prime Reading announcement, for Prime members who don’t have Kindle EBRs.

I was going to write about Google’s announcement yesterday, which had really significant things to release (including a major Echo competitor), but Prime Reading took precedence…with this sale an added bonus story!

What do you think? Will Prime Reading make you change anything else…like dropping KU or adding Prime (perhaps for someone else)? If the KOLL went away, would that make a big difference for you? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

One more note: a couple of subscribers noted an interruption from Amazon in the delivery of this blog (and at least one unrelated blog in one case). It seems to be okay now…please let me know if there is still an issue.

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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

7 Responses to “Amazon introduces Prime Reading…and hits a sweet spot for many consumers”

  1. Karen Says:

    Hi Bufo, there again seems to be an issue with Amazon not delivering blogs. The last update I received was on 10/2.

  2. Allie Says:

    If you can afford Prime, I don’t see why you wouldn’t get it.🙂 What a salesman you are! 😉

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Allie!

      Just callin’ it like I see it. 🙂 It seems well worth the money to me, especially with the addition of Prime Reading.

  3. Albert Says:

    “It also competes with two other existing Amazon services. Let’s talk about the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library first.”

    I think this may be replacing the KOLL. If you look at the Amazon page describing the Prime benefits, KOLL is no longer listed (though KOLL is still one of the options under Kindle Store on the Paperwhite.)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Albert!

      That’s what I mean by “sunsetting” the KOLL. When I say “sunset”, I think of it as a gradual ending, rather than something sudden. It feels like the KOLL is going that way.

  4. The Kindle Chronicles - TKC 427 Chris Brogan Says:

    […] “Amazon introduces Prime Reading…and hits a sweet spot for many customers” by Bufo Calvin at I Love My Kindle […]

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