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:



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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.


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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:


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**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?

Kindle Lending Library Details

Amazon explains the Kindle Lending Library program in more detail on their help page for the lending program.

A few main points:

  • The program is only for Amazon Prime Members
  • The program is only open to U.S. Kindle and Fire owners
  • The books can only be read on devices, not the software apps. They cannot be read on an iPod or iPhone.
  • The device must be registered to the same account as your Prime membership
  • The program does not begin until Thursday, November 3, 2011.
  • You can only read one book per month with no “roll-overs.”