New technology is determined to be valuable based upon simple math. Take the new Vessyl electronic cup. This $99 techno-wizardry is a drinking cup loaded with sophisticated sensors that can tell you what you’re drinking, including contents, calories, and even caffeine amounts. I think of it as Google Glass for healthy nerds.
Similarly, there’s Amazon’s new “Netflix for Books” service, inappropriately titled Kindle Unlimited, a $9.99-per month service that lets you read any or all of over 600,000 books from the massive Kindle library. If you buy a book a month, and the book is on the Amazon Kindle Unlimited’s limited list of books then the math could work for you.
Or, you could save $120 a year and get a public library card.
Everything I can see about Kindle Unlimited tells me it is indeed limited. Even if you could read all 600,000 or so books in a month, that’s all you can read, so, you know– limited. 600,000 books is limited (though, to be fair, far more books than most public libraries).
There’s also the convenience of having the electronic books downloaded to your Kindle reading device, smartphone or tablet so you can take them wherever you go to read them whenever you want. Just like books checked out from the public library.
In essence, Kindle Unlimited is a public library with a subscription price tag. You don’t own the books. You rent the books. For a month. For $9.99. For all the books you can read, provided they’re in the Kindle Unlimited library. Which is limited.
What’s the catch?
As it turns out, there are plenty of catches to Kindle Unlimited. Other than it’s really limited in scope. From what I can see none of the five largest book publishers in the U.S. allow there books in the Kindle Unlimited library, so, right away, more limits on Unlimited.
You may find a book by a favorite author listed in Kindle Unlimited but not necessarily your favorite book by the same author. Amazon isn’t the first book distributor to enter the monthly subscription fee for books, either. Scribd is another one, it’s $8.99 a month, comes with a free trial but has less than 500,000 books available.
Here’s the deal.
Kindle Unlimited, Scrib, and others subscription services offer limited selection and plenty of convenience for the monthly fee. You won’t have to drive to a public library, search through rows of shelves to find a book or two you may want to read (then return the book after it’s been read). Most public libraries are free, of course, and offer other services in exchange for your time and tax dollars, but you won’t shell out as much as you would for a subscription service.
Still, Kindle Unlimited is merely another take on the growing trend of subscription services for media. That’s the Netflix model. Limited selection of movies, one monthly fee. Ditto for music subscription services such as Spotify, Rdio, and Google Play Music All Access (the name just rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?).
In a way, book, music, and streaming movies and TV shows are much like the cable TV model we all use but hate. One monthly fee, access to everything. Everything? Everything that’s available for the monthly fee.
All of these services are limited in scope. Just as Amazon Unlimited limits you only to the books they can provide, cable TV and music subscription services offer access to limited TV shows and music.
What we want, of course, is full access to everything for an affordable monthly fee. Nobody does that. Yet.