If you signed up for Kindle Unlimited when it first was announced your first three months is just about to end. I have been using Kindle Unlimited actively during that time and wanted to update my initial thoughts about the value of the service and who should think about using it. I am not going to pretend that I am an average reader, I read more than at least 95% of the public. But I do think that for at least some, Kindle Unlimited is valuable.
Kindle Unlimited allows the subscriber to borrow up to 10 books at a time from a library of more than 600,000 books (roughly 30% of the total Kindle books available.) None of the major 5 publishers participate, but several of the still good-sized smaller publishers do.
The first month of the trial is free, and each of the following months is $9.99. The first three months the subscriber also gets 1 Audible.com Audiobook credit a month that can be used on any Audible book, not just those in the Kindle Unlimited library.
So how much did I use Kindle Unlimited? Quite a bit. During the last three months I read (including books that I did not complete):
- 19 books from the Kindle Unlimited library (2 of which I already owned, but hadn’t previously read)
- 4 books from my local library
- 4 books that were originally free from Amazon
- 2 review copies
- 13 other books
I spent $19.98 on the Kindle Unlimited Subscriptions for 2 months (and had one month free). I also spend $11.43 on audiobook upgrades where the kindle edition was free, but the audiobook companion cost more. (Note: That $11.43 was purchases, so even though the Kindle Unlimited is a borrowing program, the audiobook companions were purchases, so I have 4 audiobooks that I purchased and will keep.)
The hardest part of figuring out whether Kindle Unlimited is worth the price is determining a value for borrowing a book. Of course you can borrow a book for free from your local library (and I do frequently).
To determine a ‘leasing price’ I started out the purchase price of the books that I borrowed. I borrowed $98.22 (purchasing price) worth of books, also 8 of the books had free audiobooks with them, so the value of the audiobook companions was $16.94 for a total purchase value of $115.16.
(I am not including the value of the two books I already owned that were part of the Kindle Unlimited library, which was $9.01).
But it is an apples and oranges comparison to look at the purchase price and compare it to the ‘leasing’ price of the books. Of those that I borrowed from Kindle Unlimited I do not plan on actually purchasing any of the books in the future. So if I figured the lease should be 1/4 of the value of the purchase, then the leasing value would be $115.16 divided by 4 or $28.79.
So at this point, I paid, $31.41, I had a ‘leasing’ value of $28.79. But I also purchased 4 audiobooks as part of the $31.41 and I got three audiobooks from Audible. If I calculate the cheapest Audiobook credit price I got a value of $27.51 in free audiobooks, but the retail price if not using credits would be $57.84 if you are not a member, or $40.48 if you have the Audible member discount.
The final tally then would be $31.41 spending compared to a leasing value of $28.79 and audible bonus of $27.51 (or $56.30)
If the audible credit were a part of every month, and not just the first three months, this would be a no question great deal. As it is, it is still a good deal if you can find books that you are interested in.
The book selection is mixed. Many of the books are self published or if published through a regular publisher are older books or less well known. You cannot expect to find many New York Times Bestseller books at Kindle Unlimited. The purchase price of the books included tends to be about $2.99 to $6.50.
There is still a lot of books that are well worth reading. At this point, I have read about 70 books from the list and I have a wishlist of another 70 that I would like to read someday. I am sure I could come up with a couple hundred additional books that are well worth reading. (These are the reviews of the Kindle Unlimited books I have read.)
For me that audiobook selection is the killer feature. Roughly 1/3 of the books I read are audiobooks. Because I am a stay at home Dad I listen to audiobooks while playing with my 11 month old or cleaning the house or doing data entry work for my paying job. There are just over 2000 of the 600,000 books in the Kindle Unlimited library that have free audiobooks with them. My guess is that there are less than 100 that I would be really interested in (and have not already read). But if I listened to just 3 audiobooks a month I would consider the $9.99 monthly price a great deal.
In the end I think that a Kindle Unlimited subscriber needs to do one or more of the following to keep subscribing:
- Read at least 3 or 4 books a month from the Kindle Unlimited library
- Listen to at least 2 or 3 free audiobooks from the Kindle Unlimited Library
- or Use the cheap audiobook upgrades to purchase 2 or 3 audiobook that you want to keep at a discount
I also value the convenience of a subscription where I pay once, and additional books feel like they are free. So it is easy to try books that you are not sure of, and would not otherwise purchase. Most of the books that I read over the past three months from the Kindle Unlimited library were exactly that, books that I had an interest in, but was not interested enough to purchase. Most of those books I enjoyed, but none of them were ‘must have books’.
Personally I will be taking a couple months off of Kindle Unlimited. I will read some other things that I want to read and then probably re-subscribe to Kindle Unlimited in a couple months. (And see if there is an incentive to re-subscribe.)