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Amazon’s Prime membership has been around for several years now and has, over the years, gained some notable upgrades. Once no more than a free shipping offer, Prime is now a streaming media service on par with Netflix and a digital library, too. That’s a lot to gain from a single subscription.

Prime is $79 a year, however, and there’s no way to reduce that upfront fee (the monthly subscription program Amazon Offers Monthly Prime Membership Subscription [Updates] Amazon Offers Monthly Prime Membership Subscription [Updates] The huge book and product seller, recently introduced a month-to-month pay option for its popular Amazon Prime services. Customers can now pay $7.99 per month for the service instead of the annual $79 fee.... Read More , which debuted in 2012, has been axed). Many people will find themselves staring at the fee and wondering – is this really worth it? Or will I be flushing 80 bucks down the drain? Let’s take a closer look.

Prime At A Glance


Amazon Prime basically consists of three major benefits, all of which are only targeted at shoppers in the United States (sorry, everyone else!)

The core benefit is free two-day shipping on items sold by Amazon or by a partner that has its order fulfilled by Amazon. There are no minimum purchases, but this offer does not extend to third-party vendors selling through Amazon’s website (which can lead to some confusion).

Another nice boon is access to Amazon’s streaming video service. The company has worked hard to build this feature out, and it now offers variety that’s nearly on par with Netflix. You can access the service on a PC or through various media devices, like the Roku Roku 3 Review and Giveaway Roku 3 Review and Giveaway As more content becomes available online, the need for a traditional television subscription may not be enough anymore to justify the costs. If you’re already subscribed to services like Netflix or Hulu Plus, now may... Read More .

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Finally, Prime subscribers can “borrow” one Kindle book a month, for free, but there’s a rather big catch – you can only borrow via Kindle hardware, not via the Kindle app. Which rather feels like a poke in the eye for those who own, well, any other tablet.

A Closer Look At Free Two-Day Shipping


The free shipping offer that’s core to Prime looks awesome. Two-day shipping isn’t just free, it’s fast – you can’t beat that with a stick, right?

A more critical look at the offer reveals that it’s not as impressive as it sounds. Remember, Amazon already offers free Super Saver shipping on orders above $25 that are sold directly through Amazon or a thirty-party vendor that has its orders fulfilled by Amazon. And these are also the only items that qualify for Prime’s free two-day shipping. So what you’re really paying for is not free shipping – which you’d receive anyway – but fast shipping.

The value represented by two-day shipping can vary greatly because Amazon tends to overestimate just how much time Super Saver shipping takes to get to your door. While the page often claims 5 days to 2 weeks, I’ve found that it’s rare to receive an item more than 5 business days after it was ordered. Still, having two-day shipping at the ready is nice whenever you want an item now.

You may actually spend more for that item, however. Why? Because as a Prime member, you have an incentive to only order items directly from Amazon or fulfilled by an Amazon partner, and you’ll even see prices from them instead of (potentially lower) prices from third-party vendors.


Here’s an example; currently the Xbox 360 2012 holiday bundle sells for $292 from an order fulfilled by an Amazon partner, and when I am logged in with my account, that’s the price I see. But if I’m not logged in, I instead see a price of $281, which is provided by a third party merchant.

Of course, the thirteen dollar difference might be made up for by shipping, and isn’t going 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 Hulu Plus vs. iTunes vs. Netflix vs. Amazon Instant Video: Which Is Best? Hulu Plus vs. iTunes vs. Netflix vs. Amazon Instant Video: Which Is Best? Hulu Plus. iTunes. Netflix. Amazon Instant Video. The lifeblood of online cinema and television. The new wave of home media. The providers of endless entertainment in which pants are not necessarily required. They are the... Read More 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 of $79 breaks down to about $6.50 per month, which is less than Netflix’s $7.99 per month. But unlike Netflix, you can only grab Prime in one-year chunks. If you for some reason you lose access to broadband during the year, or otherwise don’t need the service, too bad. You’ve already paid.

But that’s the only bone to pick. Quantifying which service has the best catalog is almost impossible, as 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. Neither does a good job of stocking recently-released television – that’s what Hulu is for.

Kindle Lending Probably Isn’t Worth Your Time


Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library Check Out One Book Per Month On Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library [News] Check Out One Book Per Month On Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library [News] Miss your old neighborhood library? Amazon is trying to help with their newly announced Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. This service allows Kindle users to check out books from the library and later "return" them and... Read More is the latest feature to come to Prime. The way it works is simple. Once you’ve signed up for Prime, you’ll find a new “Borrow” button next to “Buy” when viewing eligible books on Amazon with your Kindle device. Tap it and presto, you’re done. You can only borrow one book at a time, but there are no due dates.

Note, however, that I said “your Kindle device.” You cannot under any circumstances use this feature on a PC or on any tablet which is not a Kindle Fire. 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.

And while Amazon makes hay about its huge selection, millions of titles aren’t available. Finding books to borrow becomes more and more difficult as you move away from mainstream literature and non-fiction and into other genres, like history or science. And, since you can only borrow one book at a time, and there’s no easy way to copy pages, the borrow feature is almost useless for anything besides casual reading.

So, Should You Sign Up For Amazon Prime?

The deal Prime represents to you depends significantly on how you might use the service. If you’re looking for a streaming video provider to help you “cut the cord” on cable, Prime will prove a great deal, and I heartily recommend taking the plunge.

Those who are more interested in the free shipping, however, should be wary. All you receive from Prime is faster free shipping, and in addition to that, you may have to pay more for an item to take advantage of your subscription. Only very frequent users, or customers who buy large items (like televisions), will get the most from their subscription.

Then there’s the Kindle Lending Library which, to all but a small niche of loyalists who already own Kindles and only want to read popular literature, is basically worthless. If you want to borrow a book, go to the library.

Here’s where I end and you pipe up. Are you an Amazon Prime subscriber? Have you taken advantage of all its benefits?

  1. Rachel Nelson
    November 18, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Thank you SO much for an awesome honest opinion it's absolutely fair and very helpful! You're so on point to explain the benefits based on the need of the consumer.

  2. Jay P
    August 24, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    I think Amazon Prime is a great option for those who use it on a regular basis.

  3. Tom S
    July 23, 2013 at 5:56 am

    You don't mention that if you purchase a Kindle Fire, or Fire HD you get one year free.

    • Tina
      October 25, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      Thanks for letting me know this, I have been debating on getting a new tablet, possibly an ipad, and an amazon prime membership. The ipads are just so over priced so I was considering other options. Good to know that if I go with a Kindle I can save the $79 on the prime membership.

    • Tina
      October 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      I don't see anywhere that is says you get Amazon Prime free for a year with the purchase of a Kindle Fire, I see it lists the Prime membership and it says you can get a free 30 day trial if you have not had one in the past. Maybe that was a previous promotion?

    • Phoghat
      October 26, 2013 at 2:02 am

      Have Fire HD, Have one year free

  4. John
    July 23, 2013 at 2:59 am

    Is this comment board a big infomercial for amazon prime, amazon did away many of the cheaper ($5) items with free shipping. Its called a add on item, which just means you need to put it on a $25 bill to ship it for free. I still think Amazon prime is worth it. Namely for Amazon customer service. The movies selection is not great, not good enough. Kindle library is good if you only have a Kindle. The selection is good, even if you don't find what you want, at least you can borrow something that you would not ordinarily buy. As a consequence be exposed to something new. As far as the love fest of ordering $5 items. This is really about people getting excited about receiving packages from the UPS man. Not feeling guilty about paying for shipping on a $5 item, you could have easily bought at your local store...

  5. danny6114
    July 22, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Another thing, on Prime you can get next day shipping for $3.99 if you really need it quick. Plus, the non-Prime merchandise shipping is usually quite a bit more.

  6. ashley
    July 21, 2013 at 5:35 am

    I am a graduate student and amazon prime has totally been worth the money. I can wait until class starts to make sure I really need the textbooks and then order them with free two day shipping. I have saved so much money this way, and it is worth buying the books new from amazon because you can sell them back for gift cards, which I then just apply to my next purchase.
    Also, when I am buying an item- such as clothes- that has some colors/sizes/styles that qualify for Prime and some that do not, it really is worth it because usually the shipping charged by a third party vendor makes the total price equal or more than what I pay for the Prime product. Plus, I do not need to make the $25 minimum purchase in order to get free shipping with Prime.

  7. Brian
    July 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    I just signed up for Prime after debating it for years. I love it, but a couple caveats. I find that I might be spending more money because the idea of getting all my stuff quickly is intoxicating. haha. I'm sure I'm not alone. Also, it's easy for me to pony up an extra 4 clams for overnight shipping which I think is a great deal even factoring in the initial 80. Regarding the streaming option, I like that it's there, but I think the library is average at best. But I also think Netflix library sucks anymore too so maybe this is as good as it gets.

  8. Ward Webber
    July 20, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    A small point: The article says you need Kindle Fire to borrow Prime books, but I believe any Kindle reader will work; I have an old Kindle and I've borrowed several Prime books on it.

  9. AJ
    July 20, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Everyone seems to forget the 3.99 next day shipping. That is primarily what i use Prime for. I am a tech sometimes I need things pretty quick. If i can wait I will do the two day though.

  10. Richard Lewis
    July 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

    I've been a Prime member for 2 years. What I like is that I can shop at Amazon, which is the most convenient way to shop!, and not even consider shipping and it arrives in 2 days 99% of the time. It can be a $5.00 item.

  11. Lisa B
    July 20, 2013 at 6:07 am

    I think it is well worth it. Videos are handy, but I also have access to free ebooks that would easily add up to more than the yearly cost. The free shipping seals the deal on most purchases too.

  12. Linda
    July 20, 2013 at 2:28 am

    I have accessed every part of Amazon shipping on items ordered, borrowed a few books from the Lending Library what were part of a series I didn't want to pay for, and watched a bunch of videos (which are clearly marked with a Prime logo). I've had the service for 9 months and have definitely gotten my money's worth. There is no question that I will renew my subscription to the service.

  13. Dave
    July 20, 2013 at 12:18 am

    I think prime is worth it if you order a lot of things from Amazon. I loved the free trial. I can't justify the cost though because I only order maybe once or twice a month. One thing I dislike about amazon is the time it takes them to just ship the items even just one item can take 2-3 days and then the shipping another 3-4 days. I guess it helps make prime more appealing to people.

  14. Mary
    July 19, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    The shipping speed is a bit faster but the shipping vendor is also different, which is what matters to me.

    Super Saver gets delivered by USPS, which in my local area is really, really bad. Delivery is guaranteed to be problematic.

    2-day is delivered by UPS, which never has a problem delivering to me.

    I will pay extra money for 2-day shipping just to make sure that USPS never, ever touches something I actually want to receive.

    The video library is getting much better and I do have a Kindle, so overall I find Prime to be a great value.

  15. Bill Hinds
    July 19, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    One other point to consider is that you can have four "relatives" attached to your prime account to share the cost, but the "relatives" can't access the book borrowing feature.

    • TechnoAngina
      July 19, 2013 at 7:32 pm

      We find this really useful for our mother in law to ship us items quickly.

  16. Jeff Sweet
    July 19, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    For Prime Shipping, you missed the option to upgrade to Overnight for $3.99 an item. I use that frequently when I'm in a hurry, leaving for a trip or just want it tomorrow.

  17. Douglas G
    July 19, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    I have been a prime member for 3 years now. I am a student and started with a free trial for the textbook shipping because I needed them fast. Now that the trial is up, I pay a discounted rate as a student. This year I paid $39 as a student. I get the free 2-day shipping and I use the Prime Instant Videos fairly often--at least once a week. I don't use the Kindle rental as I do not have a Kindle device.

    One thing that I have found which is an additional plus for the Prime Instant Videos, is that I can view them in a browser on Linux--I use Ubuntu exclusively for my desktop. Netflix as far as I know has not yet provided a straight forward way to view on a Linux desktop OS. So I used to have to go to my wife's computer (Windows) to watch a show on Netflix. We have since cancelled that service.

    All in all I am quite happy with the Prime offerings I use. The student discount definitely makes it worth it. I will re-evaluate the cost to benefit ratio, once I no longer qualify for the student discount.

    Thanks for the coverage of the service.

  18. Jason K
    July 19, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    This will only help some people, but if you are a student (or teacher i suppose) with a .edu email address you can get prime for $39/year. which would be worth it in my book.

  19. Jason Cardiff
    July 19, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    What's also missing from the argument about Prime is the fact that you don't have to hit the $25 Super Saver threshold to get the free shipping. You mention the $25, but I've used Prime quite a few times for quick delivery on products that are valued much less than $25. Not good for Amazon in terms of shipping costs, but still good for them in terms of me staying in their ecosystem vs. perhaps driving to Target.

  20. Jeff
    July 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm

    I get Prime for half price since I am a student. So worth it.

    • TechnoAngina
      July 19, 2013 at 7:31 pm

      You don't get to add relatives with the lower priced ones, but I think that it's still an amazing deal.

  21. Tom W
    July 19, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    In the UK, Prime is £49 and offers free one-day shipping as well as Kindle borrowing. The UK Prime page also says you can share the benefits with family, but I'm not sure how many family members that includes.

    I used the free trial last year at Christmas, but I don't think Prime is worth the pricetag without video lending.

  22. Frugal One
    July 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    The way to make Amazon Prime a great deal is to share it with 4 others as is allowed. If you split the cost its only $16 for each household for a year of shipping. However, for the other benefits I think only the primary household gets the movies and library options so it you set up this make sure you're the admimistrator of it.

  23. Brandon
    July 19, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    The shipping option alone is worth it to me. SuperSaver is usually shipped USPS with no real tracking capability and spotty reliability. I live close to 4 Amazon warehouses, but SuperSaver average ship times were 6 days. On Prime, shipments are UPS and my average is actually next day delivery. I find that the price of Prime options generally is better than non-prime when shipping is factored. The Kindle library and Videos are a nice addition as they complement my Netflix sub.

    • Matt.Smith
      July 19, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      I've gotten next-day delivery on some Prime items too. It's a nice surprise when that happens.

  24. Dane M
    July 19, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    We've gotten a great deal of value from it. I am very pleased with the deal, though i am a heavy Amazon Customer to start with.

  25. Marion
    July 19, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    It's worth it for streaming The West Wing alone - enough said.....

  26. WorknMan
    July 19, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I do most of my shopping at Amazon. Pretty much anything that isn't a grocery item or doesn't need to be tried on first is ordered through Prime :) Definitely worth it, IMO.

  27. Bill
    July 19, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    I buy a lot through and have had a Prime account for a couple years. It's well worth it to me just for the 2 day shipping. Yes you can get free shipping with a $25 order but it's not 2 day. I've also placed a $6 order and got it shipped 2 day for free. That's pretty sweet. The streaming portion isn't all that great and they could do themselves a big favor by improving on it.

  28. Vic
    July 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    I had Prime for a year. Used it for shipping a few times, but the primary benefit was indeed the instant video. However, I also have Netflix, a service which I found to be slightly better in terms of most content(they are virtually identical in most areas).

    So for me, the only way it would have been worth renewing would have been for the shipping, which in my experience was not worth it. I found no real difference in arrival times with or without the service(2 day is never a guarantee paid or not) and most of the time my items come sooner than expected anyway.

    Bottom line, as the article states, if you were buying lots of big ticket items, it would be worth the yearly fee, otherwise, you are essentially paying for a slightly cheaper version of Netflix, with slightly less content.

    Good article.

    • Jason B
      July 22, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      "So for me, the only way it would have been worth renewing would have been for the shipping, which in my experience was not worth it. I found no real difference in arrival times with or without the service(2 day is never a guarantee paid or not) and most of the time my items come sooner than expected anyway."

      What exactly are you saying about 2 day not being a guarantee? I shop at Amazon for just about everything and they have never delivered an order late. If the item is prime eligible it has always made it to my home in 2 days… sometimes I have even gotten them next day.

    • Mike
      October 17, 2013 at 2:07 am

      2 day is actually a guarentee on most Prime items. If it says "Order in the next X hours, and receive by" message, and it doesn't arrive in the 2 day time frame, you are eligible for a refund of what the shipping cost would have been. Some items do not qualify, and they will not offer the promised date, however customer service always honors this. I ordered a lawn tractor which mistakenly made the 2 day promise (who expect to be able to order a 700 pound tractor and get it in 2 days???), and when it was later than that (took 4 days total), I called up and got a $400 refund.

  29. Jeff
    July 19, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I think the Kindle lending library is better than you give it credit for. It's certainly not worth the cost of prime if that's all your using. But if you are an avid reader like me and you already own a Kindle device, it's pretty awesome. If you borrow one book a month at $3.00 per book (that's the average sale price I've seen of books in the lending library) you save $36.00 per year. That means you are now getting the shipping and video streaming for $43.00 per year.

    Also, the free shipping is super cool. Yes, Amazon already provides free shipping when you spend $25.00. But it's pretty dang cool to see a $4 item and buy it, have it shipped for free in my home in 2 days. Before I got Prime, I always waited several months until all my little $4 nick nacks added up to $25. (Or bought $21 worth of stuff I didn't want that bad) Now I just buy them when I feel like having them.

    • jkcook
      July 19, 2013 at 9:49 pm

      I agree with you about the shipping. Not HAVING to buy $25 to get free shipping is a real benefit. Also I RARELY find new items actually cheaper once the shipping cost is added in. Often used items (books) can be cheaper, but rarely other things. Living overseas, we use amazon a LOT, because they're one of the few places that doesn't charge extra to ship to military addresses, so Prime is definitely worth it to us for the shipping.

  30. Jason T
    July 19, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    I've been asking myself this question for a while now. I've been trying to use the instant video more and the ebook borrowing is something I didn't know about. For me, the faster shipping is pretty significant. There are some things that I probably wouldn't order If I have to wait 5 or more days to get it. I'll just suck it up and go hunting around local stores to buy it. But two days? I can often wait for that. The guaranteed 2 day shipping is also big around Christmas time. That's when the regular free shipping times start to become unpredictable.

  31. Roseann S
    July 19, 2013 at 4:39 pm

    I tried Amazon prime, mostly for the Prime Instant Video and was not impressed. There are not that many selections that are free that you would want to see. It is difficult to tell that a particular movie/tv show is free until you click to view it.

    Netflix does a better job of showing you which titles are available for streaming and there is a much better selection.

    • Matt.Smith
      July 19, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      That is a good point which I've noticed before, but forgot to mention. Prime can be frustrating because it's sometimes not obvious what's free. I prefer Netflix slightly for that reason.

  32. Rich Sneiderman
    July 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm

    You missed one fact about the 2 day shipping. You can add 4 addition amazon accounts to the 2 day shipping feature. So not only do I get the benefit but so do my wife, 2 daughters and my sister. This doesn't change the points you bring up but it does add more value to the service.

    • Joel Lee
      July 19, 2013 at 4:40 pm

      Awesome, I didn't know that. This would've come in handy when my girlfriend needed her textbooks ASAP, but I'll keep it in mind for the future. :D

    • Matt.Smith
      July 19, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      Good point, I didn't know about that.

  33. Steve
    July 19, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Prime is called Premium here in France. It costs 49€ and offers next day delivery, I don't think it offers any other benefits.

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