"Free" Books on Readers: Not Such a Deal for Me

Recently, I managed to wrack up a $30 Kindle book bill one month buying books priced at $3 or less. Now, $30 isn't huge in the grand scheme of things — I can spend that on a single printed book (sans latte) at a full-price bookstore. However, I am always looking for a great deal, so I reviewed my Kindle and Amazon reading and borrowing privileges.

I noticed some of my recent inexpensive buys were Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Prime books, which meant I could read them for free (with some restrictions).

Kindle Prime members are Kindle owners who may borrow a single book each month from a select list. Kindle Unlimited permitted readers to borrow, for a fee, an unlimited number of books each month from a select list. Between the two, I could read for three months on what I spent in a single month.

But was it really a deal? Were the books I wanted to read Unlimited to me?

The short answer: no.

The long answer: none of the 130 books on my Amazon book wish list are Unlimited.

My wish list skews toward popular fiction and non-fiction (at least, that's where I found them when I listed them). If I was paying a monthly fee to read e-books, I'd want access to books I would buy to read.

I checked for Kindle Prime books on my wish list and found the same: not a single one.

Now, to be fair, Kindle Prime borrowing books don't always display on non-Kindle devices, and I searched on a laptop computer browser. Perhaps the same is true of Unlimited books as well.

Typically, I do not shop on my Kindle, so it's not helpful to me if books are accurately tagged as Unlimited or Prime only when viewed on Kindle. I would prefer Amazon tantalize me with Prime and Unlimited books across all platforms — and perhaps lure e-reader enthusiasts to purchase a Kindle reader. (Amazon, please take note.)

Long story short, I am not subscribing or investing in Kindle book borrowing or subscription programs beyond what I already have. I have been spending a lot of time reading e-books lately, and I am weary of a few Kindle features that highlight an e-reader's limitations. I am tired of my Kindle telling me it's low on power. (That's my job, to be low on power.) I don't like having to use a sliding bar to skip around a book, and I haven't mastered the "jump to bookmark" feature. "Added features" such as first chapters of new books show as part of the book I'm reading, so I can finish a book but still show a few percent of the book left to read.

Having said that, I am not going to abandon e-readers completely: my Kindle gives me more than a hundred books at my fingertips, and I am grateful for that, especially when I travel.

However, I would prefer Amazon expand its subscription programs to include more of the books I want to read. I'd consider a subscription if the catalog was worthy.

What do you read on? Have you traveled cross-platform, and do you have a preference?