I've been seeing a lot of these ads around in the past year.
Oyster -- $9.95 monthly for unlimited access to over 500,000 titles.
Scribd -- $8.99 monthly for unlimited access to over 400,000 titles.
And now Amazon (whose goal is world domination, I assume), is launching Kindle Unlimited with a $9.99 monthly subscription fee. They're boasting unlimited access to over 600,000 titles as well as thousands of audio books! (Source: The Verge)
Always needing to one up each other, aren't they, these kids?
Go here to check out their subscription trial as well as seek more information from Amazon. There's even a nifty little video to go with it!
Now, I'm not a part of the "Amazon is the evil anti-Christ" group out there--I'm a happy consumer who is always grateful to spend less money on certain purchases. Money is definitely limited, you see. And I've bought my fair share of Kindle books which is really the only thing I use Amazon for aside from the occasional purchase of some cheap material goods I can't get cheaper in a local retail store.
However, I am also slightly frustrated that it's so hard to find a good bookstore around town anymore because the Big Dogs are edging out the Independents (yes, You've Got Mail was one of my favorite rom-coms). And now Amazon's flexible pricing and convenient shopping is starting to edge out actual, physical book stores on their quest to take over the world.
But you still have to admit: they're pretty good at knowing how to win the hearts of consumers of all ages. Pricing has a lot to do with it and ease of access as well as those "one-click" purchases allowing one to shop in the comfort of their own home... I'm a hermit and a 3rd shift worker, so it's kind of nice not to have to wait around for store hours to do my browsing and shopping--my sleep schedule isn't exactly the kindest one.
But let's backtrack to the whole book subscription thing.
These sites might have been around longer than the past year I've been noticing them, but I'm not the most observant person around (for one); and also, I've never really thought to pay for a book subscription of "unlimited access to over x00,000 titles" for a specific monthly fee. I mean, my city has 8 different branches in our public library system and a continuously growing e-book selection. I've also discovered recently our statewide online libraries, though their selections are much skimpier than expected. All of this is for free and the only thing you have to really do is wait in line. Not all books are readily available and not all books you'd like to read are available through the local library--it's not a complaint, it's just a fact of life.
Even book stores won't always have what you want to read and the difference is that you don't have to spend any money at a library unless you forgot to turn something in on time.
Nonetheless, the library is still the first place I think about whenever I want to read a book, but I don't know if I should pay to own it. Also, there's always this cozy, at-home feeling whenever I walk into a library (despite the kiddie crowds during the summer time reading programs) and it gives me a reason to be somewhere else aside from hiding in my house all day long. And they DO have a fairly wide selection. Aside from a rough percentage of titles, the library has always been quite satisfactory in appeasing my bookworm needs.
Waiting in a hold line to check out a book has never been a problem for me mainly because I have a long list on my TBR shelf anyway. Just pick up a different book and wait for a desired title to become available.
And if they don't happen to have a title, I go to a used book store to see if I can't find the book for a cheap price, read it and then decide if I want to resell it or donate it to the library so that they DO have the title for future book nerds like myself or just keep it for my future private library.
So book subscription sites have always been noticeable, but continue to fly under the radar for me. I'm in a "Currently Considering" mode, and this mode can last a couple years before I decide what I want to do.
Of course, now with these free 30 day trials being offered, I might think about giving these book subscriptions a shot.
I did my math--sort of. Contrary to popular belief, Asians are not all good at math, so bear with me here as I round off numbers and make wide guesstimates.
If I were to subscribe to one of these book services, it looks like we'd be averaging about $9 a month depending on which one I wanted to subscribe to (see beginning of this post for pricing). I read a calculated average of 14.33 books a month (yes, I've been keeping track this year; yes, I AM that OCD), and if I went by the cheapest title sold through Amazon at roughly $1.99 a book, I'd be spending around $27 a month on books if I only ever bought the books that I read. Assuming that I continuously choose to read my books through one of these book subscriptions for a good part of the month, the deal isn't all too bad. $9.99 versus $27 dollars monthly is no contest.
Don't even get me started on paperback books, because even the used ones in this city go for around $3 to $4, plus tax and that's assuming you find what you want. New books are an average of $7.99 if you're lucky and it's not a new release.
Keep in mind, though--I don't buy all the books that I read. More on this later.
I allot myself $25 a month to spend on books anyway (if I didn't budget myself, I'd go too crazy, as I discovered before I started keeping track of my book spending habits), totaling $300 a year with give or take for over or under spending. (Last year I spent nearing $500 on books until I decided to put a leash on myself and track my spending more strictly. This year I've spent about $150 so far, and most of that spending happened in June when I allowed for splurge to celebrate my birthday.) I'm still a realist about my book spending habits, and so while I'm paying more attention to how much money I put into purchasing books, I know that spending a lot of money on books is inevitable.
Anyway, back to the rough math: If I subscribed to, say, Kindle Unlimited for the $9.99 monthly, that's about $119.88 for the full year, minus the free 30 day trial (we'll also give or take for any time I decide to cancel my subscription and save a few payments during the year.
Still... it's not a bad deal.
Of course, then we have to factor in the fact that, if I liked the book enough, I might go out and buy it for full price. And that's a guess as to how many books I'll love enough to want to own them permanently. Will that end up being more or less added onto my book spending?
The main factor that gives me pause, however, is this: How often will I actually be using these "unlimited access to x00,000 titles" services?
Ever since I spotted the first ad for Oyster, I'd been wondering whether or not these types of services were really worth it.
I have a Netflix account (one that I've barely been using lately, but my parents use it, so whatevs). Netflix (the streaming part of it) gives you unlimited access to a wide selection of television series, movies, documentaries, concerts... etc. My current fee is $7.99 a month, though I know that new users are now being charged $9.99 a month and that I get to continue enjoying my $7.99 a month for the next two years until Netflix decides that I need to start giving them more money.
I chose to subscribe to Netflix because RedBox requires getting out of my house and driving to the nearest retail store and standing in front of a box outside of said store while choosing a movie. And to be totally honest, I'm not enough of a movie buff to spend my time browsing movie titles for my evening entertainment.
So Netflix was the way to go. Of course, their selection of movie titles and television series is quite limited. And their navigation sucks too.
And yet... I still have the account... just in case I ever want to watch anything. Like paying for cable and just letting it sit there until I'm bored enough to watch something random, or interested enough to go searching for something to watch.
I'm contradictory in my consuming habits. I know that. I'm willing to drive all around town to find a book I want to read, or collect all four books to a series I'm interested in from three different libraries, or run across town to the chain used book store we have to find books not available at the library... but I'm sitting here contemplating whether or not it would be worth the money to spend a monthly fee on unlimited access to any book I might find interesting.
And that's the thing. At least half of the titles I read each month are borrowed from the library rather than bought. So would I technically be spending more money or less money since half the books I read don't cost me anything aside from the time it takes me to run to the library and the gas it requires to get me there?
This is where my conflict lies. I could spend the $9.99 a month to be able to read any book at anytime for as long as I want. But I could also not spend any money and still have access to that book, so long as I have a little bit of patience to wait my turn.
How desperate am I to "have that book and read it right now"?
My logic only really makes sense to me, to be honest.
You would think that I would be one of the first people to jump on these platforms and use it for all its worth. And I don't know what's holding me back. I have a Scribd account already, but not a paid subscription, so only certain books and documents are made available to me. I have browsed through the selections on both Oyster and Scribd, and I did a cursory skim-through of Kindle Unlimited this evening, and decided that their selections are fairly varied and plenty. (Well, except for Kindle Unlimited. Their selections are kind of skimpy and I'm not sure I've found enough books I want to read to merit a "I must get this subscription now!" reaction.)
So, yes. Still in contemplation mode.
Maybe it's just that change is something hard to jump-start on. It took me a long time to even contemplate picking up an e-reader since I've always been in the "real books 4 teh win" type of reader. Now I'm crazy about the ease of access and convenience that having an e-book library provides, despite still loving the feel of having a paper bound book in my hand.
And the more I talk about these book subscription services, the more I'm contemplating giving them a try. It probably wouldn't hurt to take advantage of that 30 day free trial.
If anyone has any suggestions, let me know. Also, I only really did a cursory search through of these book subscriptions platforms, so it's not like I know much about them aside from what's being advertised. If there's something I missed, by all means, let me know. It'll at least help me make my decision.