One minute review
Avid readers who get through books within days may find it more beneficial to sign up for an ebook subscription service like Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. It’s essentially a library of over a million digital titles – several of which also have audiobook versions for you to listen to – and you’re allowed to “borrow” up to 10 at a time and store a total of 20 titles in your library.
You can find books in a variety of genres on the platform, although we found that it leans heavily towards romance and self-published titles. This is great for the adventurous reader, but not ideal for anyone looking for specific authors or titles. Yet there are plenty of bestsellers from well-known authors.
However, browsing on Kindle Unlimited can be a bit frustrating. Once you sign up, you’ll be presented with a number of options such as “favorites” or “recommended,” each with just 20 titles to browse. For a better overview of what’s available on the platform, it’s best to navigate to “Browse Catalog” in a desktop browser window, an option not available in the app or the eReaders.
That niggle aside, you can use Kindle Unlimited on your phone or tablet through the Kindle app, read in a browser window, or access it through your Kindle reader. The best part is that you can move from one device to another without losing your seat as everything syncs up almost instantly (give or take a few pages).
The important thing to note about Kindle Unlimited is that you don’t own the books you select to read; they are only borrowed. If you already have 10 titles in your library, you’ll need to bring one back to borrow another. However, unlike a traditional library, there is no time limit on how long you can keep the ebook – read at your leisure and come back when you’re ready to discover your next book.
If you’re a fast reader, Kindle Unlimited’s monthly subscription fee may be worth it rather than buying each book individually.
Kindle Unlimited Price and Availability
- $9.99 / £7.99 / AU$13.99 monthly subscription
- 30 days free trial
The monthly cost of Amazon Kindle Unlimited is $9.99 / £7.99 / AU$13.99, which is comparable to what several other streaming services will cost you. This monthly subscription gives you access to over a million ebooks, approximately 2,000 audiobooks with an associated ebook on the platform and, in some countries, a limited number of magazines.
During special shopping events, Amazon offers a discount on the monthly fee for a few months or an extended free trial, but these are limited to new Kindle Unlimited subscribers only. You do get a 30-day free trial to try the service before paying.
It is important to note that Kindle Unlimited is not part of the Amazon Prime subscription and is an additional service that you must sign up for. If you’re a Prime member, you can use the Prime Reading service at no extra cost, but it limits you to a catalog of only 1,000 titles at a time (otherwise works the same as Kindle Unlimited).
In comparison, the ebook subscription service Scribd costs the same in some markets but slightly more in others ($9.99 / £10.99 / AU$14.99) and gives you access to a very diverse range of content, including more magazines and audiobooks, podcasts, documents (which includes recipes and business templates), plus free access to six additional educational and streaming apps, making it a little more cost-effective. Plus, there’s no limit to the number of titles you can add to your personal library. The downside of this is that you can’t use Scribd on any eReader.
Kindle Unlimited Library and Content
- Over a million ebooks
- About 2,000 audiobooks
- Some magazines are available in certain markets
Where Scribd has many more audiobooks than ebooks, it’s the other way around for Kindle Unlimited; that’s because Amazon has dedicated its Audible platform to audiobooks. Kindle Unlimited is more about ebooks that you can enjoy on your Kindle reader or the Kindle app, of which only a few thousand are available with audible narration.
Pretty much every genre of ebook you can think of is available on Kindle Unlimited, but we found that there were many more self-published titles on the platform, many of which are novels. If you know what you’re looking for, you can search for a specific author or title on any device (even a Kindle e-reader), but browsing the full catalog is best done on a desktop computer.
As mentioned, there is an option to browse the catalog when browsing Amazon on a Mac or PC that is not available in the Kindle app or the eReaders. Any title you add through the browser will, of course, become available on all devices that have Kindle Unlimited set up.
Contrary to the name, the catalog is not completely unlimited, although it can be argued that a million titles is a lot. The service isn’t unlimited in the number of items you can borrow either – you can download a total of 20 titles, but only borrow 10 at a time. If you want to add more, you have to ‘bring back’ a book for that.
If you are looking for new releases you will be disappointed. Several popular authors don’t have their books on the platform, and if they do, you’ll have to wait a while for them to become available on Kindle Unlimited.
The catalog is updated every month, with some existing titles leaving the platform to make way for others. However, if you have a book in your library, you can still read it after it’s been removed from the catalog by downloading it to your device.
While magazines are available to customers in the US, several other countries cannot access them. Where available, the number of magazines is quite limited, and Scribd offers much more. That said, if magazines are your focus, you might be better off signing up for Readly, which offers over 5,000 magazines.
Kindle Unlimited User Experience
- Kindle app is well designed
- eReader support
- Excellent audio and text quality
No matter what screen or device you use Kindle Unlimited, your library is easily available to you. Whether you’re using a browser, the Kindle app, or a Kindle e-reader, you can filter your Kindle Unlimited library with just one tab or click and start reading on any device. If you want to switch from one to the other, you’ll find that the book opens to the page you left off; however, there are times when this is a few pages off when going from an eReader to the Kindle app, but always just right when moving from a browser to the app.
Titles that have both ebook and audiobook versions can of course be read or listened to, and you can even do this on a Kindle eReader – most recent models have Bluetooth support to pair wireless headphones with. We were unable to test the quality of the audiobook on a Kindle e-reader because we used Amazon Voyage to test the platform, which has no Bluetooth connectivity. We used the Kindle app to listen to audiobooks instead and couldn’t find any reason to complain. You can even read and listen at the same time, highlighting the text sections as the story progresses.
Kindle Unlimited vs Prime Reading
Both Kindle Unlimited and Prime Reading are essentially the same, but with two key differences. The more important of the two is the price. While Kindle Unlimited is a standalone service that requires a subscription, Prime Reading is available as a perk of Amazon’s Prime membership. So if you’re already a Prime member, you might be able to settle for Prime Reading, but there’s one caveat that spills over into the second difference between the two platforms.
Prime Reading has a very limited catalog. Where Kindle Unlimited flips through a million titles, Prime Reading doesn’t have more than 2,000 ebooks at any one time, but this is a subset of what’s available on Kindle Unlimited. That said, many of Kindle Unlimited’s popular titles are available on Prime Reading. For example, at the time of writing, David Hunt’s girt and Real Girt — this reviewer’s personal favorites — were available on both ebook platforms. However, unlike Kindle Unlimited, there are no audiobook options on Prime Reading.
Do I need to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited?
Don’t subscribe if…
[First reviewed April 2022]