There are a number of different ways to read Kindle ebooks without having to pay for each specific title. Amazon offers free ebook lending to Prime members, along with a monthly subscription service called Kindle Unlimited, and thousands of public libraries in the US lend Kindle books for free.
These are good options for people that enjoy reading but don’t necessarily want to own every single ebook they ever read, especially since ebooks can’t be re-sold like paper books.
Questions often come up about how Kindle Unlimited and Amazon’s Prime ebooks compare.
The two services are quite different, but there’s a big overlap in terms of the selection of ebooks offered in both programs.
With Kindle Unlimited, you pay $9.99 per month to get access to a library of approximately 1 million ebooks and 10,000 audiobooks, all available at your fingertips 24/7 through any Kindle device or Kindle app. You can read as many ebooks and listen to as many audiobooks as you want with no return dates; the one catch is you can only have up to 10 downloaded at one time. It’s more like renting ebooks than buying them.
Prime ebook lending is a lot different. It’s not something you pay for specifically; it’s one of the perks of being a member of Amazon Prime, which costs $99 per year to get free 2-day shipping from Amazon, along with access to free videos, streaming music, and other benefits.
There’s one major stipulation with Prime ebooks: you must own a Kindle ereader or Fire tablet to get access to them. The service is called the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which is kind of stupid when you think about it. Prime Members’ Lending Library would be a more apt name since Kindle owners without Prime can’t access it.
With Prime, you can only borrow one Kindle ebook per calendar month, and it doesn’t carry over if you miss a month. You can keep a book for as long as you want, but obviously you have to return it before being able to borrow another book the following month.
One of the biggest negatives with both of these services is that most big publishers refuse to offer their books in either catalog, which means many of the best-selling and most-popular titles aren’t available.
The best thing to do is to look over the selection before committing to know what kind of books and authors to expect. Here’s the link to the section for Prime Eligible eBooks and Kindle Unlimited eBooks.
A good alternative to Amazon’s paid services are public libraries. Over 11,000 public libraries in the United States offer Kindle ebook lending. All that you need to checkout ebooks from your library is a valid library card. You don’t even need a Kindle device because free Kindle apps support library books too.
Aside from getting to read ebooks for free, the great thing about libraries is that they often offer best-selling and popular titles from some publishers that aren’t included in Kindle Unlimited or the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. See here for directions on how to get Library eBooks for Kindles.