There is lots of discussion about Amazon, the publisher, and the author. It is generally thought that Amazon is not fair to the publisher or the author but by being unfair, monopolising competition, and underpaying the author, Amazon is great to the customer, and can provide products at a low cost because of this. I find it unusual, therefore, that the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library is a service which, in my opinion, sounds like a good idea but just fails to deliver.
For those who don’t know, the KOLL is a fairly recent addition to the Amazon Prime package, and it allows customers who own Kindle devices to download one book a month to read then return for no additional cost on top of the £79 per year it costs to become a Prime customer. Not long ago, Amazon Prime went up in price by £30, but now provides more services. Prime Instant Video (which used to be Lovefilm) and the KOLL are now included.
If you don’t use Amazon often, are organised enough to never need next-day delivery, and prefer not to stream movies and TV shows, then KOLL just does not seem worth it, especially if you don’t already own a Kindle. If you don’t use the other benefits of Prime, then each book that you borrow from the KOLL works out as £6.50 each. This is an outrageous price to pay to merely borrow an ebook. As a book-lover, part of the enjoyment of picking out a new book to read is browsing the shelves, reading blurbs, and having a flick through the first chapter. If I want to buy a book over the internet, I will usually have a particular novel in mind. With the KOLL, this is difficult to do. I would say that most of the books are by authors that you might not have heard of. They could be gems and you might be overjoyed to have found a new author that you like, but for £6.50 it isn’t worth the risk.
Let’s presume that most customers will want to use the Prime Instant Video as well as the KOLL. This is far more economic and a better deal than Netflix, which costs £6.99 per month. But still, you need to own a Kindle device to use the Library, and as I mentioned yesterday, I’m not sure whether Kindle’s are worth buying over an inexpensive tablet. This feature seems unfair – you might be one of Amazon’s top customers, but you can only use the Library with a Kindle, and not on an iPad or similar reading device. A quick search for ‘Kindle Owner’s Lending Library iPad’ on Google shows many loyal Amazon customers who are outraged that they cannot access the Library despite having had Amazon Prime for years.
Finally, I fail to see how Amazon’s Library is better than an actual public library. At a public library, you can receive recommendations for books and not be wary of some hidden sales agenda. You can ask a librarian to buy in a book for you for either no cost or a very small fee. I would argue, too, that at a public library there is more choice. Just because there are more books to choose from, doesn’t mean that there are more books to read. The books chosen are a considered selection at a library, while the KOLL includes many novels that don’t seem to be very high in quality. More importantly, a public library is free and you can borrow more books that you can feasibly read. If a customer likes reading enough to have bought a Kindle, then being able to borrow just one book a month is not adequate.
To summarise, the KOLL is a welcome addition for Amazon Prime customers who already own a Kindle, but for those perhaps thinking about joining Prime or buying a Kindle to use the Library, then it is just not worth joining.