Amazon banks on the power of Prime with free reading access to 1,000 books and magazines each month

Amazon has introduced a new reading benefit for US Prime members with a rotating selection of books, magazines and comics now included in the Prime monthly cost.

Prime members have previously been able to borrow KDP Select books for free through the Kindle Owners Lending Library scheme but only one book per month. Prime Reading will offer unlimited access to around 1,000 books.

The ‘unlimited’ bit is slightly misleading as Amazon will limit members to borrowing 10 items at any one time but you only have to ‘return’ an item to be able to borrow another one. Under the completely separate Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription service, readers can also borrow up to 10 items at a time.

It looks like a classic case of Amazon disrupting itself, as it did when it launched Kindle Unlimited just over two years, offering ebook borrowing at lower margins than it was already getting from its established ebook sales business.

The power of Prime, however, must obviously pay off for Amazon in the long run as Prime Reading is just the latest benefit it has offered to members, following fast and free shipping, unlimited access to Prime Video, Prime Music, Prime Photos, Audible Channels, free games and early access to Lightning Deals.

Amazon, of course, has never revealed how many Prime members it has but many sources, including The Motley Fool, put the US total at well over 50 million.

Prime membership costs $10.99 a month or $99 a year if paid annually. Now if we just assume (for ease of calculation) that everybody’s on the monthly tariff, round it up to $11 and multiply by 50 million, then Amazon is taking in $550 million a month just from Prime membership.

That’s over half a billion dollars up front each and every month, which will do wonders for anyone’s cashflow. That’s just in the US, as there are reckoned to be anywhere between 20 million and 30 million more Prime members internationally, although Prime Reading is restricted for the present at least to the US.

Last year during the holiday and sales season, Amazon is reckoned to have added at least seven million new Prime members and if that happens again this year it could mean well over 60 million members in the US and nearing 100 million worldwide.

Prime members have proved to be higher-spending customers, with an RBC Capital Markets survey last year estimating that 40% of Prime members spent $800 a year with Amazon compared with just 15% of non-Prime members who spent that amount.

The Prime Reading offer includes:

  • Over 1,000 popular books. Amazon says there will be a diverse selection of titles available, including Red Sparrow, The Butterfly Garden, The 5 Love Languages, The Atlantis Gene, Lonely Planet travel guides and books from best-selling authors Brad Thor, Barry Eisler, Stephen Covey, James Altucher, Rachel Abbott and more.
  • Premium magazines. A rotating selection of fresh, complete issues of top magazines covering sports, technology, cooking and home improvement, current affairs, notable people, etc.
  • Exclusive short content. Hundreds of Kindle Singles, including short stories, memoirs and essays from a variety of top writers.

There’s no news from Amazon on what Prime Reading will mean for authors included in the program but I would expect payments to be normal royalty rates as most of the titles named by Amazon so far for the service are published by imprints from the big traditional publishers.

Monica Ray, Executive Vice President of Consumer Marketing at Condé Nast, says, “This is a new and exciting way for our premium brands to reach and engage with Amazon’s Prime members.”

Prime members in the US can get more details at Amazon.