Amazon Throws the Books at Prime Subscribers

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Amazon last week launched Prime Reading -- a new benefit for subscribers to its US$100-a-year Amazon Prime service that lets them access content for free.

That content will come from more than 1,000 top Kindle books, Kindle Singles, magazines, comic books, children's books, and classic works from writers such as Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer and Gloria Steinem.

The content can be accessed on Kindle or Fire tablets, or through iOS or Android apps on mobile devices.

Kindle features such as Page Flip, Popular Highlights, X-Ray and Goodreads will be usable with the free content.

Prime Reading currently is available to Amazon Prime members in the United States.

"This is great if you want [lots of] content, but it may not be attractive to discriminating readers," suggested Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan Program Manager Michael Jude told the E-Commerce Times.

On the other hand, "even if it doesn't have everything you want in it and doesn't necessarily have all the best sellers, the price is pretty good -- it's free," observed Mike Goodman, director of digital media research at Strategy Analytics.

Books available through Prime Reading include The Hobbit, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and The Millionaire Next Door.

Comics offered include The Complete Peanuts Vol. 1 and Transformers: Robots in Disguise Vol. 1.

"There are far more books than movies released every year, making it harder to find a sweet spot of titles," noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"Quality is more important than quantity, but since this is another free feature of Prime, there's no downside to it," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Still, its appeal will depend on how many desirable new books show up in the service, Enderle said.

"I'm a Kindle Unlimited subscriber and likely get a superset of this group already as a result," he noted.

Kindle Unlimited is a $10 monthly service that gives subscribers unlimited reading and listening from a designated catalog of content on any device.

Prime Reading "will likely be better for casual readers who want a bargain," Enderle remarked. "Serious readers tend to seek out books."

Everything Amazon does is tied in to honing its sales approach, and the Prime Reading offer is no different, as "once Amazon learns what the reader likes, it will offer an even better choice of things they might enjoy," Enderle said. Still, the offer "is a great value, and it could get a lot of folks to read more."

Prime Reading will drive book sales and possibly boost Kindle sales, while it ties people more closely to Amazon, Enderle said.

"This is like stores giving you places to stick your kids or having subsidized food courts -- it holds people in the property -- and the more they buy, the more likely they are to buy something else," he remarked.

Best Buy, Walmart and Sears can't do this, Enderle pointed out, "and it should further cement Amazon's retail dominance."

Ultimately, "having Prime subscribers and ensuring Prime continues to grow is paramount to Amazon," Strategy Analytics' Goodman told the E-Commerce Times.

"Prime subscribers are the core of Amazon -- they spend $1,200 annually compared to non-Prime subscribers, who spend $500," he noted. "So, increasing that relationship with the Prime subscriber is absolutely critical to Amazon's health."

Amazon's Prime ranks have grown steadily. There were 63 million Prime members in the United States in Q2, up from 44 million in the same period last year, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. By the end June, 52 percent of Amazon shoppers were Prime subscribers.

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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