Prime Reading: The good, the bad and the confusing


Recently, Amazon expanded its Prime benefits by adding a new feature called Prime Reading.It allows Prime Members in the US to read for free from a selection of over a thousand books, magazines, comics and more.  I have been using it over the last week and wanted to share some observations.

The available material is only a small subset of the content in the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program (which has over a million titles). Also, like some of the content on Scribd, the content in Prime Reading will rotate a variety of content monthly, whereas the Kindle Unlimited content is available as long as the content is in the program.

Like Kindle Unlimited, you can borrow up to 10 books at one time. You seem to be able to borrow an unlimited amount of books in total. If you already have 10 books on your device, you will be prompted to return one before you can borrow another.

The Good

For a long time, Prime membership included the benefit of reading free books with the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL).  Because this was set up for owners of an actual Kindle device, the KOLL monthly borrow couldn’t be initiated on the Kindle apps or the Kindle for PC and cloud reader. Prime Reading will allow borrowing from the apps as longs as the book is compatible.(See below**)

Surprisingly, Amazon has made the Prime Reading section really easy to find. (For a long time, customers have been frustrated that there is no section for KOLL books per se.) For Prime Reading, there are headings in the Kindle Books section on the website and it is even easy to find in the bookstore menu on the Fire tablets:



(Click to enlarge)

Like Kindle Unlimited books, books borrowed through Prime Reading show up on your Manage Your Content and Devices (MYCD) page. You can also sort them by date and returned book status.


The Bad:

One of the new feature of Prime Reading is the addition of magazines to the program. The selection is limited and is in a fixed view format (Amazon’s version of PDF).  That means the text is does not reflow and you have to pinch and zoom to read. Personally, I find this totally useless and way too hard to read. However, if you want to look at the original magazine ads, this has you covered.

Amazon has also added these magazines to the Kindle Unlimited subscription as well,so if you already have Kindle Unlimited, Prime Reading is unlikely to offer any additional value.

Every time Amazon shows you the Prime Reading section, it uses the opportunity to pitch you Kindle Unlimited. Since Prime Reading books are a small subset of the KU books, if you are already a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, there probably isn’t any added value for you from just Prime Reading feature .

Prime Reading content cannot be shared and content cannot be loaned to other Household members on your Prime account. Only the primary user can access any of the content, although it can be delivered to other devices on the same account.

The Confusing:

The content you see available on your screen may vary from one account to the next on both the web and device screens. Prime members who are not Kindle Unlimited members will see something different that those who do not have Prime or who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.

Here’s the one of my favorite recent reads, Anne Frazier’s The Body Reader, as seen on two different Kindle Paperwhites. The one on the left is my husband’s; he is the Prime account holder and does not subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. The one on the right is from my Paperwhite; I do not have a Prime account of my own but do subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. Note the difference in the text on the button on the left.


(Click to enlarge)

As with borrowing through the KOLL library, you will be charged the purchase price of the book if you click on the buy button instead of the one that says read for free.

If you are neither a Prime or KU subscriber, you should see a Kindle Unlimited prompt next to the buy button as a default.

On the Fire Tablet, Prime Reading displays pretty much the same way. Note the pitch to join Kindle Unlimited at the bottom:


(Click to enlarge)

**Also  somewhat confusing is the fact that, due to formatting issues, all material from Prime Reading may not be available on all devices. Some people have reported that they cannot read some titles on various apps or devices. I myself have had problems certain graphic-heavy books not downloading, although they still show as borrowed on the MYCD page. On the first day, there were some reports of some comics and graphic novels coming up sideways. 😦

Books that can’t be delivered to a particular device do not seem to be indicated on the borrow page itself. Ineligible devices for delivery of a particular book are grayed out on the MYCD page.

It is still not clear exactly how the rotation in the Prime Reading program works. Will the titles change monthly? What happens if a title is removed from the selection before you are finished reading? It will be interesting to see how the program develops.

Have you tried Prime Reading? What do you think?

9 thoughts on “Prime Reading: The good, the bad and the confusing

    • Carol, you are welcome! If you have Prime Reading, you can always try the magazines and see what you think. My husband and I both want to subscribe to a magazine subscription service like Texture or Magster, but it has to have re-flowable text. I won’t pay for fixed format. A lot of people feel the same way – it’s money left on the table for publishers by not offering an easy to read format!

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  3. It doesn’t make any since when it comes to having a Prime membership, and the content cannot be shared within the house hold. So what happens if you wanted to share something that you read with another family member?? I think it’s terrible, and Amazon just being too over protective, and not family or household friendly. I hope this changes soon. This is why i am going to just get my own Prime membership for a monthly fee so I can enjoy my own content. Don’t you love it when Amazon does their best to keep the family separated??

    • For some reason, Amazon made the choice early own not to allow sub-accounts for families.. While more benefits are shareable now than they were at the beginning, it is still frustrating. My first gen Kindle cost $400, but now they are are low enough in cost to have several devices on each account and share that way. It’s not an ideal solution, especially if you want to keep your content private, but it does enable sharing..

      It may help to let Amazon know how you feel by writing to to them at 🙂

    • Paula, I was trying to research this and can’t find anything. But because of the way Prime Reading works (offering a curated, revolving selection of titles), I don’t think you need to be concerned. You would lose access to the title if Amazon removes it from the list of available content, if you leave Amazon Prime or if you run up against a content limit. Unlike Kindle Unlimited, the rules do not seem to list a limit to titles you can borrow.

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