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How Does Kindle Unlimited Work? Experts Weigh in on How to Use Your Membership

Here's how you could get the most out of your e-reader and your subscription

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Whether you're a voracious vacation reader or just like to pick up a new page-turner while relaxing at home, you may be one of the many people who prefers to use an Amazon Kindle e-reader instead of a physical book. And while the handy device makes it easier to find and purchase titles, the site's Kindle Unlimited service offers an even more enticing way to get the most bang for your buck when you're reading. Based on the name alone, it might seem like a no-brainer for bookworms to sign up for a subscription. But how does Kindle Unlimited work, exactly? We reached out to the experts to see what kind of readers can benefit most. Read on to see if a Kindle Unlimited membership is right for you.

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What Is Kindle Unlimited?

Kindle Paperwhite from Amazon in unopened package and opened
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Purchasing a new Kindle could be the first step toward a more convenient reading experience, making it possible for you to download and consume on the go. Though purchasing (and borrowing!) books piecemeal is always an option, so is using Amazon Kindle Unlimited—which could save you money in the long run if you're a voracious reader.

"Kindle Unlimited is essentially a massive digital library that you can borrow from endlessly for a flat monthly fee," William Green, literature expert and founder of Poem Analysis, tells Best Life. "With over three million titles across virtually every genre, it provides a vast collection of reading material at your fingertips."

"As someone deeply passionate about literature and making knowledge accessible, I'm always looking for services that can enrich people's reading lives," he adds. "It's a bibliophile's dream come true!"

How Does Kindle Unlimited Work?

You can set up an Amazon Kindle Unlimited account in just a few taps—but first, you probably want to know how you'd use it.

"Kindle Unlimited is a paid Amazon subscription service to access the Kindle Unlimited catalog of e-books and audiobooks," explains Julianne Buonocore, book expert and founder of The Literary Lifestyle. "For a monthly fee, subscribers get unlimited access to titles to lend from the Kindle Unlimited library. Readers can then browse Kindle Unlimited books in the collection or look for the Kindle Unlimited logo near the price when searching for a particular title."

Then, you can basically carry around a small library with you wherever you go. "Once you subscribe, you gain the ability to 'borrow' up to 20 e-books at a time from the Kindle Unlimited library with no due dates," says Green. "When you're done with a title, you simply return it and check out something new."

Do I Need to Have a Kindle to Use Kindle Unlimited?

E-readers including the Kindle are slim, portable, and boast long battery lives, making them extra enticing to bookworms who hate being caught without their current reads or move through books very quickly. Fortunately for anyone who has an e-reader from another brand—or even no e-reader at all—you don't need a Kindle to sign up for a membership.

Buonocore notes that "you can use the free Kindle app on any device, like your iPhone," as well as other tablets, making it easy to access no matter which device you have at hand.

"I even have the app downloaded on my laptop. I like this for searching my Kindle notes," she says.

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What Books Does Kindle Unlimited Include?

Amazon Kindle e book reader on the pile of books
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Life in the era of streaming services has made on-demand content the norm. Buonocore explains that signing up for a subscription gives you access to "millions" of Kindle Unlimited books at the push of a button, just as signing up for Netflix gives you a library of movies and TV shows to choose from.

"While many are self-published books by authors trying to gain exposure, there are also countless bestselling titles from extremely popular authors like Freida McFadden, Colleen Hoover, Lucy Score, Rebecca Ross, Ana Huang, and Abby Jimenez," she says. "These are some of the hottest authors on BookTok and Bookstagram right now."

Green adds that even though you won't find every bestseller, available Kindle Unlimited titles cover a wide range of fiction, non-fiction, classics, and indie books. "There are popular options like romance, mysteries, and celebrity bios alongside more niche picks," he says. "You'll also get access to thousands of audiobooks and current magazine issues."

How Much Does a Kindle Unlimited Subscription Cost?

Like any subscription service, how much you consume could make Kindle Unlimited work best for your budget versus individual purchases and downloads from the general Kindle store.

"For around $11.99 per month, you get unlimited access," says Green. "No calculating whether buying individual e-books is cheaper: It's one flat fee for as much as you want to read."

And don't worry if you have concerns about committing sight unseen. "Amazon frequently offers Kindle Unlimited free 30-day trial periods, too," Green says.

Does Kindle Unlimited Come With Prime?

Frequent shoppers justify paying for an Amazon Prime subscription with benefits including free shipping and other perks. However, the company draws the line at including Kindle Unlimited access, making it an added expense, even for Prime shoppers. However, there is a different e-book benefit that does come with a Prime subscription.

"Prime Reading is a separate perk that provides Prime members with a rotating selection of e-books, audiobooks, and magazines at no extra cost," he explains.

But Green adds this is a point of confusion for many subscribers, who don't understand the difference between the two services.

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Kindle Unlimited vs. Prime Reading

Woman sitting at table and reading from e-reader
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According to Phil Strazzulla, tech expert and founder of Select Software Reviews, Prime Reading has a smaller selection of approximately a thousand books and magazines by comparison to Kindle Unlimited. And in some cases, this could make Kindle Unlimited worth signing up for on top of a Prime subscription.

"It's ideal for casual readers," he tells Best Life. "However, for people who consume books or want specialized titles for professional development, Kindle Unlimited is a superior value. I choose Kindle Unlimited because the larger range meets my ongoing demand for new business insights and varied genres."

Buonocore agrees, saying that the decision ultimately depends on the person picking the titles.

"Prime Reading does come free with Prime but users are limited to borrowing just 10 books from a much smaller library of just a few thousand books," she says.

You also likely won't find as many hot new bestsellers there as you might when you browse Kindle Unlimited books. "I've often found it to include a lot of classics and older bestsellers. You won't always find a lot of gems there, but it's useful to check. For example, I first read Harry Potter from Prime Reading!" she says.

Is Kindle Unlimited Worth It?

A person reading a Kindle e-reader
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Ultimately, Kindle Unlimited is a unique new way to access your next great read. But getting the best value will come down to how much you actually make use of what's available to you as a paying subscriber.

"If you think you can read at least two to three books per month from the vast Kindle Unlimited library via e-book or audiobook, then you are very likely saving money versus individually purchasing the books," says Buonocore. "It can be especially worth it if you are looking to read a lot of those popular bestselling romance and thriller authors I mentioned or if you want to binge a lot of books at once at a very low price."

Green agrees, saying the cost of a subscription is usually offset by being a bookworm.

"If you read more than a couple of books per month across various genres, Kindle Unlimited can pay for itself quickly compared to buying e-books individually," he says. "You're getting access to an endless supply of reading material for one low cost. It's perfect for adventurous readers looking to discover new authors or genres."

Green also points out that it's relatively risk-free, as you can cancel Kindle Unlimited if you get too busy to use it as much as you'd like.

"Whether you're a voracious reader or just looking to read more, I'd strongly recommend giving Kindle Unlimited's free trial a spin," he says. "With the sheer volume of high-quality content coupled with unlimited borrowing freedom, it's an extraordinarily convenient and cost-effective way to consume the written word. Any service that makes literature more approachable is a winner in my book!"

However, he does concede that there are a few customers for whom it might not make sense to shell out for the extra title access. "If you only read a few books per year and prefer sticking to new releases from big-name authors, purchasing those specific titles might make more sense financially," he says. "Or if you read at a more casual pace, Prime Reading's limited but free selection could suffice."

In addition to individual value, Kindle Unlimited plays a major role in encouraging reading and making work accessible, he explains.

"As someone who runs a massive poetry analysis database, I have an immense appreciation for resourcefulness and accessibility in the literary world," says Green. "Kindle Unlimited provides incredible value by opening the doors to millions of reading options that may have otherwise gone undiscovered. It empowers people to explore various genres, authors, and topics seamlessly."


Whether you already own an e-reader or are just considering diving into the world of e-books, there's no doubt that Kindle Unlimited is an attractive option. Experts point out that you can get started simply by downloading the Kindle app on any device you already own. But by figuring out how to use Kindle Unlimited the right way, you could end up saving some serious money on book purchases in the long run.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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