We’ve now had over ten years of Amazon Prime. In that decade, it has gained some notable upgrades. Once no more than a free shipping offer, Amazon Prime is now a multifaceted service that many subscribers cannot do without.
Amazon Prime is $99 per year. That is an upfront payment. However, Amazon recently reinstated their pay monthly scheme, which will set you back $10.99 per month. Is Amazon Prime good value for that price?
Let’s find out.
Prime At A Glance
Amazon Prime has dramatically expanded its offerings in recent years. Similarly, it is no longer restricted to just the US. You can pick up a Prime subscription in the UK, France, Japan, Canada, and several other countries. However, you’ll have to check local yearly subscription fees as well as what is included. Today, we’re focusing on the US subscription.
The biggest Amazon Prime perk is free two-day shipping. Better yet, some ZIP codes within major cities are eligible for free same-day delivery on selected items. Furthermore, a Prime subscription can reduce the cost of one-day shipping and Saturday deliveries for other items. Regular two-day shipping costs vary, but even irregular Prime users can save a significant amount on shipping throughout the year.
Prime now comes with an extensive video library, including some extremely well received Amazon Originals, including the award-winning The Man in the High Castle and Transparent. Furthermore, Prime Music gives you access to over two million tracks, as well as thousands of playlists and stations. Finally, a Prime subscription gives you unlimited photo storage, and instant access to millions of Kindle eBook rentals.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Free two-day shipping is the perk that brought many people to Prime in the first place. A closer look at Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping costs will help us understand where the value lies.
You’ll have to spend $49 to qualify for free Amazon shipping. This is a 40% increase on the $35 minimum set in 2013. This minimum purchase drops to just $25 for an order of books. Whether you choose two-day shipping depends on how quickly you want your items (duh!) versus the faith you have in the free shipping option. The below image shows a fictional order. Free shipping shows a delivery date between December 12th and 16th.
Two-day delivery — the key feature of Amazon Prime — comes in at $12.23 for this item. That makes 8 purchases before I’ve recouped the cost of my subscription. Free two-day shipping doesn’t apply to every item, though. And many items purchased through Amazon Prime are more expensive, which could increase your overall spending.
Stores are getting that crowded holiday feeling that I hate. Thank you Amazon Prime for two day shipping. How I love thee.
— Rebecca (@bexda47) November 19, 2016
Of course, the difference might be made up for by shipping, and isn’t likely to break anyone’s budget. But a few bucks here and there can add up, particularly for heavy Amazon users. Once you’re a Prime member, pricing for Prime-eligible vendors will be prioritized when you’re logged in, which means you may end up paying more unless you’re meticulous about checking deals offered by third-party vendors.
Prime Instant Video Is The Real Value
Amazon’s Prime Instant Video is basically a Netflix clone, and works the same way. You sign in, you browse movies, you stream them. As long as you have a Prime subscription, you can access all the movies Amazon makes available to Prime members at no added charge.
The only major difference is pricing. Amazon’s year-long subscription breaks down to about $8.25 per month, which is less than Netflix’s $8.99 per month. However, Amazon now offers a Prime Video membership that will set you back $8.99 per month — the same as Netflix. You’ll have access to the entire Amazon Prime Video catalogue, but without the added benefit of two-day shipping (or anything else). In my opinion, paying the extra 74¢ for free shipping isn’t even a question.
Can the two services be compared? If they can, it is a very difficult comparison that will come down to your personal viewing preferences. Both Prime and Netflix see choices come and go as old contracts expire and new ones are inked. Personally, I’d say they’re on even ground. Both do a decent job of grabbing up recent blockbuster movies and both have a good (but incomplete) selection of older television shows. Amazon has invested a huge amount into their original programming, and it really shows.
For me, paying 74¢ extra each month to have my stuff delivered really fast is absolutely worthwhile.
Prime Music Brings The Beats
Amazon Prime Music features over two million ad-free tracks. You can stream playlists curated by “music experts” or personalize your own music stations. Like Amazon Prime Video, Prime Music has consistently improved and is now a serious contender in the digital music subscription pantheon.
Amazon Prime Music has an extensive catalog, but still falls short of other services like Spotify or Slacker Radio. However, its integration with Amazon’s Echo, Echo Dot, and Tap devices is a big plus.
Like Prime Video, you can purchase a separate Amazon Music plan. The separate music plans offer more music — around 40 million tracks — but there is nothing else included.
Kindle Lending Probably Isn’t Worth Your Time
The Kindle Lending Library offers subscribers an easy way to borrow books. The way it works is simple. When you sign into your Amazon Prime account, you’ll find a “Borrow” button alongside eligible items. One tap, and you’re done. There are no return dates, but you can only borrow one book at a time.
Kindle Lending is restricted to your Kindle. You cannot use this feature on your PC or any non-Kindle-Fire tablet. That is a pretty big restriction. Sure, you can borrow the books for free — but only after you pay for both the Prime membership and a Kindle reader or tablet. Furthermore, if you move away from mainstream literature, it becomes increasingly difficult to find free books to borrow.
Prime Reading Expands the Offering
Amazon Prime Reading is one of the latest subscriber perks. Potentially realizing that a single book selected from mainstream literature isn’t for everyone, subscribers can now select from a rotating library of over a thousand books. The service, currently only available to Prime members in the US, also provides a changing selection of comics, children’s books, magazines, and more.
Unlike Kindle Lending, Prime Reading is available on any Android or iOS device as well as Kindle devices. It isn’t really a killer feature, but it certainly offers more to the readers out there.
Amazon’s Audible audiobook service also receives its own Amazon Prime perk. You won’t have access to the outstanding Audible range. But Amazon Prime members will have access to a rotating selection of 50 audiobooks.
To sweeten the deal, Prime members also receive access to a new Audible feature called Channels. Channels provides ad-free podcasts, audio versions of articles from major publications, comedy shows, and other audio content. It would cost a non-Prime member $4.95 per month on top of their Audible subscription.
Again, this isn’t a killer feature, but certainly something that expands what is on offer.
Twitch Prime Is New, Too
Amazon Prime doesn’t stop there. Another recent addition is Twitch Prime.
Amazon has partnered with video game streaming service Twitch to give subscribers exclusive discounts on new releases and pre-ordered boxed video games. Additionally, you’ll receive new characters, vehicles, skins, boosts, loot, and more for popular games, as well as free indie games.
One of the single biggest Twitch Prime features is account linking. Link Amazon Prime to your Twitch account and you’ll immediately enjoy an ad-free experience known as Twitch Turbo. There is also a free channel subscription to make use of, too.
This link isn’t surprising. When Amazon bought Twitch, the first thing that came to mind was “when will Twitch be bundled with Amazon Prime?” This is an excellent opportunity for Twitch to continue growing their viewership, in turn creating a valuable opportunity for the streamers.
You want more? Some people . . . never satisfied. Luckily, there is more.
Amazon Prime grants you unlimited photo storage. The service helps keep your photo collection organized and all under one roof. Advance photo searching technology lets you search for “beach” or “dog” to find matching images. Prime members can share their photo storage with five family members too, bringing even more of your family’s memories into a single, massive photo album.
Prime members also receive early access to Amazon Lightning Deals. These are deals that take place every day across a wide range of Amazon products. And how about Amazon Prime Pantry? You can have fresh produce delivered to your door (if you live in select areas) for a set price.
Should You Sign Up For Amazon Prime?
Amazon Prime is a great deal. Amazon continues to add perks to the Prime package that increase its overall value. Even if you’re an infrequent shopper, free two-day shipping can be extremely handy when needed. And Amazon Prime Video keeps getting better, with more Amazon originals set to arrive.
However, Kindle Lending leaves a lot to be desired, and services like Twitch Prime, Prime Reading, and the new Audible offer are somewhat niche.
wow i hate amazon prime
— kriss? (@_kristennng) October 21, 2016
I’ve had a Prime subscription for three years now, albeit in the UK. It’s been worth every penny for me. Try to see where the value lies for your own circumstances, and maybe sign up for a 30-day trial. Just remember to cancel it if it doesn’t work out!
Are you an Amazon Prime subscriber? Do you think Prime consistently adds value? Or are there other features you’d like to see added? Let us know your thoughts below!
Originally written Matt Smith on July 19, 2013.