Almost everyone I know has a Netflix account. Except for my family. Instead, we have Amazon Prime. One of the biggest features of Amazon Prime is Instant Video, a Netflix-like streaming video service. I’m not sure if Instant Video’s library is quite as good as Netflix, so if you’re a TV and movies buff, Netflix may be the way to go. However, as a fairly casual TV viewer, Instant Video is pretty good. The thing is, Netflix only offers streaming video. “Well of course,” you might be saying. However, since Amazon has such a deep media ecosystem, Prime also gives you access to lots of other things. Besides Instant Video, there are three main draws to Amazon Prime.
1. Free Two-Day Shipping
This feature will save you lots of money. Amazon already offers free shipping deals to their customers. However, you have to spend $35 or more (yes, it used to be $25), and it’s only standard shipping. With Amazon Prime, you get free two-day shipping with no minimum order. This is really great, because when I need to buy something online, Amazon is the first place I look. I’ve never been one to actually pay for expedited shipping, but it sure is nice to have. One caveat: Prime shipping only applies to items sold by or fulfilled by Amazon, so it doesn’t apply to third-party Amazon sellers who don’t have their orders fulfilled by Amazon. To be fair, this restriction also applies to the $35 free shipping for non-Prime customers.
2. Prime Music
Prime Music is a Spotify-like streaming music service that is included with Amazon Prime at no extra cost. As I said before, Amazon is able to do this because it has such a deep media ecosystem. Netflix would have a hard time getting into the streaming music business, since they would have to start making deals with record labels, and then put all that music on their servers. Amazon, in contrast, already sells digital music on their Amazon MP3 store, so they have less hoops to jump through.
3. Kindle Owners’ Lending Library
The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library allows you to borrow and read thousands of books for free as a Prime Member. The catch? You have to own an actual Kindle (Kindle apps don’t count). This is a shame, because I would love to make use of this service on my iPad. If you’re not a Kindle owner but you really want access to all those books, you can make use of Amazon’s new service, Kindle Unlimited. Amazon just recently launched Kindle Unlimited, a service that allows you to borrow and read thousands of books on any device. Kindle Unlimited costs $9.99 per month, a cost separate from your Prime subscription (you aren’t required to have a Prime subscription, but even if you do, you still have to pay the extra $10 a month).
All that discussion leaves one question left to be answered. How much does all this cost? Amazon prime is $99 per year (it used to be $79). This works out to $8.25 per month. Netflix starts at $7.99 per month, so the pricing is almost identical. However, when you factor in the extra features Amazon gives you (including free shipping on other things you buy), it really seems to give Amazon the edge. Now if only there was an Instant Video channel on the Apple TV, so we didn’t have to AirPlay from the iPad every time we want to watch something. ••
Update 11/6/14: Amazon recently announced that Prime members also get unlimited photo storage in Amazon Cloud Drive. This is yet another reason why Amazon Prime gives you more than Netflix.