Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription service allows access to ‘over 600,000 Kindle books’, with the ability to borrow up to 10 at a time and no due dates, for $10 per month. It sounds good, but do they have books I want to read? I was traveling a lot this month for work, so with hours of nothing to do in the evening but watch Friends and Big Bang Theory, I went through my entire Amazon wish list to see which of the books I want to read is actually available on Kindle Unlimited, and what I can find at my local libraries.
Rules: It doesn’t matter if the books available at the library are ebooks or paper books, because free is free. I used the Los Angeles Public Library’s online system (huge!), and the Los Angeles County Library‘s physical book selection, because those are the most convenient for me to access.
Non-Fiction: 213 books on my wish-list.
- Libraries: 88 of those books available
- Kindle Unlimited: 13 of those books available, 10 of which were not available at the libraries.
- Neither: 115 books
Winner: Between the libraries and Kindle Unlimited, definitely the libraries. The libraries might have fared better but:
1) Nearly all my non-fic books are reference/workbooks–gardening, photography, self-help, etc. Narrative fiction is pretty well stocked by the libraries.
2) I didn’t check the LAPL physical library, because their nearest branch is 25+ minutes away. Their selection of garden/art/photography books is excellent though.
Fiction: 61 books on my wish-list.
- Libraries: 57 of those books available
- Kindle Unlimited: 5 of those books available, all of which were also carried by the libraries.
- Neither: 4 books
Winner: Libraries, by a landslide. Seriously, Amazon, no points for this one at all.
Libraries: 145 of 274 books = 53% (93% for fiction!!!)
Kindle Unlimited: 18 of 274 books = 6.5%
Post-game analysis: If you want to be strict and ONLY talk about ebooks, the LAPL has a collection of ~70,000 ebooks, and carries as ebooks 54 of the 274 books on my list. Kindle Unlimited, with its 600,000 books, has 18 of the 274 books on my list. It sounds like a lot of books, but on browsing it looks like those numbers are bulked up by a lot of books that are public domain (already free!), or self-published junk (I’m sure there are some gems, but they’re sure hard to find amidst the ones that aren’t worth the $2.99 price tag). For books worth your time, take a look at your library online book system–you can get a card for any California public library if you are a California resident, no matter what city. The online selections are getting better all the time, and it’s hard to beat free books!