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Monday, July 21, 2014

Amazon's Kindle Unlimited vs The Public Library -- Libraries Still Win

The big techie news last Friday (7/18/2014) was Amazon's announcement of Kindle Unlimited.  The reviews of this new product has been mixed reviews.  The response ranged from Bezo has done it again to it's too early to tell if this will be a hit.  What is Kindle Unlimited?  A subscription service through Kindle that allows readers to download up to ten titles per month for the amazing low price of $9.99 or $120 a year.   Sounds wonderful, right?  On the surface it does seem like a dream come true.  However, as parents have always warned their children for ages, "If it sounds too good to be true,   it is too good to be true."   Before plopping down that money, think of these questions.

Question One,  does this duplicate something that is already provided?  Nine out of ten people should say yes.  The reason being is that almost all communities have libraries.  These days, all libraries, public or private, small or large, have access to downloading books.  If a customer pays $120 per year to Amazon for the subscription, how much does she pay her local library for the same service?  Most people would say $0 but that's not true.   Property taxes pay for the majority of public libraries in America.  Having said that,   most communities pay roughly about $80 to $155 per household per year to support the library.   Not a bad price for being able to check out just about anything, including digital materials.

Question Two,  how many titles are in the selection?  Amazon boosts that it has over 600,000 titles to choose from in this package.  However the five major have stepped away from this wonderful venture and their titles are not included in the service (Harper Collins,  Simon & Schuster are just two of the publishers who opted out.)  What books are included?   On a first glance,  many of the  titles from independent publishers  that need an audience.  Now one may say that this is just a step for Amazon to take to try out the market for an idea like this and publishers are just stepping back to see if it's a hit.   True, but when the bigger publishers join the "party" of book subscriptions what happens to the year fee?   Prices rarely go further down one a low, low fee has been set.  With no rocket science degree, it would be a safe bet to say the fee would increase.

Question Three:  How many books would need to be read to make this program a good deal to the avid reader?  If a reader read three to four books a month, it would be worthwhile.  Quite frankly a really good deal.  However, see question two.  Do they have the titles of interest?

Question Four: If the subscription is terminated does the consumer keep the books?  According to Amazon's website the answer is no.  This might be a non factor since checking out books at a library (ebook or paper) the borrower does not keep the book.

After all these questions have been thoughtfully answered there can only be one question left.  For a reorder where is the first place to turn to when looking for the perfect book, article, or movie.  The Library.     It is probably not Amazon's intent to do away with libraries as one  author  may have suggested. (Forbes, T. Worstall Close All the Libraries and Buy Everyone An Amazon Kindle,  7-18-14)   Amazon is merely trying to do what Netflix has done for movies.  Lots of choices, one low price which will probably increase just as every other service fee from Amazon has.   Which brings another important to mind.  Would  a Kindle subscription stop avid readers  from using a library. Not any more going to Barnes and Noble to purchase a book. Readers just love to read and finding that perfect book or books can lead them to the library, the bookstore or online.

To say the least, it will be interesting to see how and if  Amazon Unlimited grows in demand.   As for libraries, well they have been around long before Amazon and quite frankly, they will be around long after Amazon too.
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