Some highlights: no additional cost to borrow, free to own

Some highlights: no additional cost to borrow, free to own

Some people are what I call “piece buyers”: they see a book that they want, and they pay for that book on an individual basis. Amazon has lots and lots of sales for them.

That’s certainly the traditional way to go, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I still do some piece buying, although I would guess it is all for gifts for people not on my account.

Another way to go is to use a subscription service, what I call a “subser”. With a subser, you don’t pay for each book, and you don’t own the book (technically, when you buy a Kindle book, you are buying a license to read it). You pay a set amount, and then can borrow books to read as part of that.

Amazon’s subser is

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

You can get a thirty day free trial, or you typically pay $9.99 a month (it’s sometimes on sale for more time for less per month.

There are currently more than one and a half million titles (!) in KU for the USA…many times the total number of titles which were available when the Kindle store launched getting on towards ten years ago.

You can borrow up to ten at a time (and each one can be usually be read on multiple devices registered on the same account at the same time…typically up to six).

It seems to me like Amazon has recently probably upped their spending on titles for KU…I would say the selection is getting better. That’s actually what prompted this post.

Another thing which could be used as a subser, but for most people, the free to borrow books are an ancillary benefit, is Amazon Prime and its

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

There are 1,086 titles there at time of writing…much less than one percent of the KU titles, but there are still some good choices.

Both KU and PR are books to borrow. There are also tens of thousands of free to own books from the Kindle store at Many of them are in the public domain (not under copyright protection), and some of those are some of my favorite books.

Here is a search for the 89,886 at time of writing:

free Kindle books (at AmazonSmile*)

Okay, let me point out some highlights. I’ll start with ones which are exclusively Kindle Unlimited, then do Prime Reading, then do free to own (anybody in the USA with an account can get those). I think I’ll do three of each, and I won’t repeat the same book (even though the ones I mention for PR will be in KU). Note: books can go in and out of these categories, so as always, check the price before you click, tap, or eye gaze (the last one is in virtual reality) that title).

Kindle Unlimited

Ripper: The Secret Life of Walter Sickert [Kindle in Motion] by Patricia Cornwell

Amazon even sent me an e-mail on this one, which was released February 28, 2017. Cornwell, of course, is a bestselling author…this one is non-fiction about Jack the Ripper (we are in a bit of a “Ripperssance” right, now with a new Time after Time TV series based on the Nicholas Meyer movie). It’s also a “Kindle in Motion” book, which includes animation…that’s viewable on a tablet or phone, but the book can be read (without the animations) on an EBR (E-Book Reader). I will borrow this for my Kindle Fire, because I’m curious about the animation elements. The hardcover is #1,098 in Kindle books right now, which is quite high (and that’s without the animations, of course).

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Soon to be a Hulu original series (I may watch in Virtual Reality…Hulu has done some really interesting things with their VR app), it’s rated 4.1 out of 5 stars with 3,202 customer reviews at time of writing. It’s #39 in the Kindle store right now (paid e-books), and would cost $9.99 to buy. It’s a dark dystopian novel, but critically acclaimed.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

3.8 stars, 523 reviews, it’s a young adult book which inspired a Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning movie.

There’s three for KU…on to Prime Reading. Again, if you are a USA Amazon Prime member, you can borrow these at no additional cost.

Prime Reading

The One That Got Away by Simon Wood

4.2 stars, 5150 reviews…Simon Wood has sold over a million copies of books. This one is a crime thriller.

Moon Dance (Vampire for Hire Book 1) by J.R. Rain

This is a series starter that’s gone on to thirteen books…884 customer reviews with an average of 4.3 stars. In this urban fantasy, Samantha Moon is a private investigator…and a vampire.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

A Man Booker Prize winner and massive bestseller, it’s rated 4.4 stars with 6,718 customer reviews…that’s remarkably good! It also was the basis for a 2012 multiple-Oscar winning movie. It would be hard to describe a book that would be considered to be a better value for a no-added cost offer, unless it was brand new and topping the bestseller lists.

Three and three…now for free! 😉 Free to own, that is…again, on the above, you are borrowing them as part of a membership. These next ones are yours to own, free and clear. You don’t even need a Kindle to read them (you can use free Kindle reading apps on other types of devices), although there is a $20 off sale right now for National Reading Month (gee, isn’t that every month?) 😉 on everything except the top of the line Oasis:

Well, I thought I’d check the most reviewed books first, and the number one was this

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References) by Crossway Bibles

It has 8,826 reviews with 4.5 stars.

Next, I’m going to recommend the original fourteen (Wizard of) Oz books by L. Frank Baum. Regular readers know I’m a big Oz fan, but it’s particularly relevant to read them now with the bleak adaptation Emerald City running on NBC. The famous fourteen (in order) are

  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • The Marvelous Land of Oz
  • Ozma of Oz
  • Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
  • The Road to Oz
  • The Emerald City of Oz
  • The Patchwork Girl of Oz
  • The Scarecrow of Oz
  • Rinkitink in Oz
  • The Lost Princess of Oz
  • The Tin Woodman of Oz
  • The Magic of Oz
  • Glinda of Oz

I’d read them from the beginning straight through…hang on through the first book, they really change after that (for a good reason).

Note that there are other Oz books…I’d take considerable care with reading The Woggle-Bug Book, which is written by Baum but doesn’t fit the rest of the series well at all. It’s an adaptation of a stage play and has a lot of ethnic humor, including the use of the “n word”. The first book by the successor author Ruth Plumly Thompson (who is quite good, although not as deep), The Royal Book of Oz, is also commonly available (being old enough to be in the public domain).

If you are reading the books because of the TV series…there are elements in the series from quite a few of them, and it’s not particularly tied to The Emerald City of Oz. If you only want to read one, I’d go with the second book, The Marvelous Land.

Finally, I think I’ll go with

The Country of the Blind, and Other Stories by H.G. Wells

This is a collection of short stories, and The Country of the Blind is one of my favorite short stories by anyone.

There you go! Three free for anyone, three for Prime members, and three for KU members. I would consider all of these books worth piece buying (although I haven’t looked at the Cornwell book yet, it’s a pioneer, at least).

Do you have other recommendations for free/no cost added books for me and my readers? Would you caution people against one of the books I’ve suggested? Feel free to let us know by commenting on this post.

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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! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.



5 Responses to “Some highlights: no additional cost to borrow, free to own”

  1. Phink Says:

    Never heard of ‘Country of the blind’ but I really liked ‘the Time Machine’ so I’ll give it a try.

    One reason I don’t subscribe to ‘Kindle Unlimited’ is because there are 31 books on my wish list at Amazon. Not a single one of them is available on KU. I am not criticizing the program. I am just saying that for me it does not work. Plus, as I’ve mentioned on here before, and this is just psychological, but I like the idea of owning what I read. I really have no idea why the feeling of ownership is so important to me but I want to own what I read. This is why I never used the library. With Kindle I realize I don’t actually own it. I own a license or something like that but it sure feels like ownership to me. Well, except for the fact I can’t loan it at will and as much as I wish, or sell it, or give it away. Hhhhhmmmmm? OK, ownership with limitations. Speaking of that, I truly wish Amazon would allow us to sell, give away, transfer the license etc. to our purchased eBooks. I’m not sure if they can’t or they simply won’t but that would be a great benefit.

    The price for KU for someone who uses it is a bargain. It’s the same price as Netflix or earthquake insurance on a small home in NE Arkansas. Why that came to mind I have no idea but when you use any of those three above it’s worth the $10 a month.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      Hope you enjoy the short stories! Feel free to give me your opinion when you’re done. 🙂

      Oh, certainly, KU isn’t right for everybody. There’s nothing wrong with being a piece buyer…just doesn’t work as well for us.

      I also get the ownership thing: we wouldn’t have something like 10,000 paperbooks if I didn’t. 😉 However, if subsers were available years ago would I still own that many p-books? Perhaps not…

  2. Jackie Says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for all the good information you share! I tend to not reply or comment but wanted to say I appreciate your time and effort.

  3. Edward Boyhan Says:

    As I’ve said many times before, I’m not price sensitive when it comes to books. It would seem to me that cost would be one of the primary drivers to borrow rather than to own — so borrowing and “free” (or heavily discounted) options don’t have much appeal for me.

    OTOH every time I see a mass market eBook priced above $9.99, I grit my teeth in annoyance. Almost all of these items come from traditional publishers. While I grit my teeth, I still buy the item, if it is of interest to me.

    Most of my dislike of the traditional publishers’ pricing model has to do with considerations of the cost to produce an eBook which at the margin are effectively zero. EBooks are probably a very high margin item for the publishers.

    Of course cost of production is not the only driver of price — another is “perceived value” — so (in the case of books) popular items can command a higher price. When I worked for Microsoft that was the main factor in their pricing strategies.

    The only place on Amazon where I’ve ever borrowed a book rather than bought is KOLL. There were two or three times where I wasn’t sure about a title that was the beginning of a series. I borrowed using KOLL to see if I liked it. If yes, I would then buy the title, and continue with the series. The impetus there was not cost/price, but the desire not to clutter up my devices with un wanted titles.

    BTW, I believe KOLL was the one borrowing option not mentioned in your post (:grin)

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