On the surface, Amazon's Lending Library, which begins today, sounds Netflix-esque: Pay a fee for unlimited digital borrowing access. But for people used to the all-you-can-eat goodness of Netflix, Amazon's ebook service has a lot of limitations. But then again, so does Netflix these days.
How It's Worse Than Netflix
Bad Selection To be fair, Netflix is losing its library bragging rights after with its Starz contract expiring. But, it's attemped to add a bunch of titles, including content from AMC, Discovery, DreamWorks and the CW. Tony Wible, a Janney Capital Markets analyst who covers Netflix, estimated its current library has about 17,000 titles. Amazon, on the other hand, will for now offer "slightly more than 5,000 titles in the library, including more than 100 current and former national bestsellers," write The Wall Street Journal's Jeffrey Trachtenberg and Stu Woo. That's not too many options. And the selection won't be too great. None of the six biggest U.S. publishers has signed on.
Restrictive Lending For Netflix's streaming service, users can watch as many shows and movies as they want on many devices. Netflix even lets multiple people use the same account to watch on multiple computers or tablets. The lending library is one book at a time, and one book per month. That means only 12 books a year, max. If you start a book you don't like, too bad. Not only has Amazon enforced a reading cap, it restricts access to Kindle owners. Even those who use Kindle Apps on tablets can't borrow.
Pricey Netflix got a lot of flack for raising its prices. But users still get unlimited streaming access for $7.99 a month. To get access to the Lending Library, hopeful readers need to sign up for Amazon Prime and get a Kindle. Prime costs $79 per year, which is cheaper than Netflix. But, remember: It's only 12 reads, maximum. And for those who don't already have a Kindle, this service requires extra supplies. Amazon began selling cheaper tablets earlier this year, so that will only put you out another $79 for the cheapest one.
How It's Better Than Netflix
Amazon Prime The service comes as an added bonus to Amazon's Prime other benefits: streaming access to nearly 13,000 movies and TV shows and unlimited free shipping. Individually, none of them may reach a Netflix-level of satisfaction, but throwing in 12 free books a year does make the Amazon Prime subscription look more competitive with the $96 a year (minimum) that Netflix charges.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.