Kindle Unlimited isn’t quite unlimited, but it does offer avid readers access to a large catalog of audiobooks, magazines, and over 3 million e-books. But is it worth $9.99 a month? We considered the alternatives, did the math, and consulted user reviews to find out.
What Is Kindle Unlimited?
As if we all needed another subscription service, Amazon launched Kindle Unlimited in 2014. Subscribers can borrow up to 20 books at a time from the enormous catalog, which Amazon has expanded significantly since the service's launch.
But despite the catalog's supposed abundance, the platform’s landing page is dominated by mysteries, thrillers, and bodice rippers. So if you’re looking for “an absolutely addictive psychological thriller with a jaw-dropping twist,” as one front page title describes itself, then Kindle Unlimited will likely cater to your tastes. Some current Amazon bestsellers — Lucy Score’s “Things We Never Got Over” and Colleen Hoover’s “Reminders of Him” (notably both romance novels) — also made their way into the catalog. And popular magazines like People, BBC History, Cosmopolitan, and Popular Mechanics are also free for subscribers (magazines don't count toward a user's 20-book limit).
If, on the other hand, you read popular nonfiction, classics, and literary fiction, you’ll likely find the selection lacking. In other words, Kindle Unlimited seems, well, limited.
How Does Kindle Unlimited Work?
I signed up for a 30-day free trial to find out how Kindle Unlimited works. While you’d think the service would be straightforward, I almost immediately had problems navigating the website. Rather than sending me to the actual catalog, I was presented with a hard-to-navigate “discover” page.
And when I found the catalog, I couldn’t figure out how to read the magazine that I’d just borrowed (it wasn’t in my Kindle library). I could go on, but suffice to say that the user experience on desktop isn’t great.
To answer the question at hand, though, Kindle Unlimited should be familiar to anyone with an Amazon account. Under the Kindle Unlimited tab, subscribers can sort through e-books, audiobooks, and magazines available through the plan. And once you’ve settled on a title, you can click on it and select “read for free,” which should send the title to your library. When you’re finished with a title, you can hold onto it, though you’ll be limited to 20 books at a time.
What Do Subscribers Say?
To give you an idea of subscribers’ perspectives, we pulled comments from popular Reddit threads on r/Kindle and r/Books about Kindle Unlimited.
“I can't scroll a single page on the Kindle store without a parade of naked male torsos. It's exhausting.
I only use it when there’s a free or cheap offer. It’s not something I would pay full price for.” —nishidake
“It's worth it to me because I read a lot of genre fiction, mostly queer romance. These books are often self-published, and I guess Kindle Unlimited is a good option for self-published authors.” —anonymous
“I use KU almost exclusively for trash romance lol. There's some decent romance and fantasy novels on there, but the selection is very ... dimestore, if that makes sense?” —goldenringlets
Is Kindle Unlimited Worth It?
Whether Kindle Unlimited is worth $9.99 a month depends on your reading habits. If you read more than a book a month, have an e-reader, and like the service’s catalog, then a Kindle Unlimited membership isn’t a bad idea. But that’s a lot of ifs.
Luckily, Amazon offers free trial options: First-time subscribers get a month-long free trial, while those who purchase a new Kindle get four months to try the service.
But for most readers, I imagine the public library would be a cheaper, more enjoyable option. While it’s easy to forget they exist, public libraries have huge catalogs of books, many of which you can check out digitally through Libby.
Other Kindle Unlimited alternatives:
- Project Gutenberg is a library of over 60,000 free e-books, including classics that have entered the public domain.
- Librivox is a free library of public domain audiobooks.
- Scribd offers an $11.99 subscription service that grants access to over 2 million books, 300,000 audiobooks, and 1 million magazines and articles.
- Prime Reading has a rotating catalog of e-books and audiobooks that are free for Amazon Prime members.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a voracious reader of self-published romance, science fiction, or horror, then Kindle Unlimited might be the perfect service for you. But for most bibliophiles, there are better options out there, many of which are free. Visit your public library, explore Project Gutenberg’s catalog of classics, or support your local used bookstore. And if you’re still intrigued by the Kindle Unlimited library, try it for free and then decide whether it's worth the cash.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How much is Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited costs $9.99 a month. First-time subscribers qualify for a free 30-day trial.
How do you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited?
You can subscribe here, though we encourage you to try the 30-day free trial.
What kinds of books are on Kindle Unlimited?
While all kinds of books are available on Kindle Unlimited, it’s dominated by romance, mysteries, science fiction, and fantasy. Self-published books in these genres abound, while popular, mainstream titles may be hard to find.
Where can I read Kindle Unlimited books?
You can read on a Kindle device, computer, or phone using the Kindle app.
Is Kindle Unlimited free with Prime?
No, Kindle Unlimited is $9.99 a month for everyone. However, Amazon Prime users do have access to Prime Reading’s catalog of rotating titles.
How do you cancel Kindle Unlimited?
Go to the Amazon website on your web browser and click on the button that says “hello” in the upper right hand corner. Then, click on “Kindle Unlimited.” To the left, you should see an option to cancel your membership.