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An Upcoming Amazon Perk: Free E-Books


Amazon may soon give consumers more incentive to shell out $79 for an Amazon Prime membership: a library of digital books for their e-readers.

The web retailer is in talks with publishers to create a subscription-based e-book library, a la Netflix for books, reports today’s Wall Street Journal. Access could be restricted to its Amazon Prime members, who also get free two-day shipping and — as of earlier this year — free streaming for a variety of movies and TV shows. (Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.)

“A lot of people get Amazon Prime for the free shipping, but people are starting to look at it for the content,” says Daniel Rayburn, a principal analyst for Frost & Sullivan. The shipping is almost the added benefit — and that’s the reaction Amazon seems to be hoping for as it expands its role as a content provider and device manufacturer, he says. After all, at $79, Amazon Prime is almost $17 cheaper than a year of streaming on Netflix.

But Amazon does have a sparser selection than its competitor. And both have a narrow selection of streaming video titles, many of them older or of niche interest, Rayburn says. “A lot of people, frankly, just can’t find good things to watch.” The WSJ says the e-book library is likely to skew older, too, which could have limited value for subscribers. Many libraries and sites like Google Books already offer a broad selection of free e-book titles. It’s also unclear whether subscribers would need to have a Kindle or the Kindle app, or if they could use another brand of e-reader.

Pay Dirt readers, would access to a digital e-book library make paying for Amazon Prime more enticing?


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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.