As much as I enjoy my Kindle Touch as an ideal device for readers on the go, I’m not always impressed by the offerings of what can be called its “incentive features.” One of these, the Prime membership read-for-free feature called Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, is too much like a street vendor’s remaindered books table. You can spend a lot of time looking before you find anything worth reading.
At $79, I still consider my Kindle to be a bargain. For anyone who wants to kill commuting time or kid-chauffeuring time with something to read, it’s great to have the grab-and-go selection. I’m just not convinced that the Prime read-for-free offerings will prove to be useful without a better way to search for books.
The primary way to access Prime read-for-free titles is by browsing. Neither amazon.com nor the Kindle store on the reader itself support robust filtering or search. Online, you can try a search for a favorite author, then scroll through the results in hope of seeing the Prime icon that identifies read-for-free titles. This works reasonably well if there aren’t many editions of a specific author’s works available in Kindle format. I find, however, that there are few prize-winning or short-listed books. For living authors, it’s more likely that any read-for-free title will be one of their lesser-selling works.
Browsing read-for-free titles on the Kindle itself can be frustrating too. Categories are general and include thousands or tens of thousands of books. Even subcategories are not particularly illuminating. The refine function is underserved by poor indexing. For example, refining through Non-fiction > Education yields many self-help books in addition to books about education policy.
A Prime membership may be worth it to you if you want upgraded shipping or enjoy the video downloads. At this point, I don’t think the Prime membership fee is worth it for the purpose of accessing ebooks.