Amazon Prime: One Year Review


Amazon.com lets you review and rate anything you buy on their mega-super-store-site… except Prim Membership. Odd, that. But I can always post it here in my little corner of the universe.

I got Amazon Prime last year during Holiday Shopping Season. Handy during that, you know. There are three major benefits of Prime Membership:

     
    Free 2-Day Shipping
    Free Streaming Videos
    Kindle Lending Libray

And I have been wondering, off and on throughout the year, if my Prime Membership was worth this stuff. Let’s take a closer look.


 
Kindle Lending Library:

This is the weakest link of Prime Membership. You can borrow ONE Kindle eBook per month. But, not just any Kindle eBook. They have to participate in the whatever program they participate in to make it available to borrow in the KLL. The latest bestseller in your favorite genre probably doesn’t.

Secondly, you have to FIND the titles that do. That you might be interested in. There really isn’t a good way to do this. You can go to the KLL on your Kindle (but not on the Amazon site, that I’ve found), and pick a category, and trawl through the 300 some-odd titles that category might have.

What I have found works better is to just bop around on the Amazon site, and if I see an interesting title, and it happens to be labeled for Prime lending, then I throw it into a wishlist named Kindle Lending Library.

This, of course, takes a lot of time to build up a selection of books to borrow. I didn’t get around to borrowing a book until about four months into my membership.

Borrowing them is kinda a pain, too. You can BUY a book with one click on the Amazon site, but you can’t borrow it in any way, shape or form. Instead, you have to remember you need to go onto your Kindle device, go find the KLL, and search for the book title there. Then you can borrow it. Why they don’t have a one-click borrow button and slated delivery that works like a purchase, I don’t know. You’d think that would be easy.

Also, you do not get to keep the book for 30 days. You get ONE book per month. So, if you borrow it on the 25th… you get 5 (or 6) days to read it.

At first, one book per month sounded pretty cheap and shoddy. After all, when I go to the local library, I get several books per month to read. But really, between all the free stuff and purchased books I got on my Kindle, I’m actually kinda pressed for time to read one ‘extra’ book per month.
 
Bottom Line: The Kindle Lending Library is a neat little perq, but not a cornerstone of the Prime Membership.


 
Amazon Instant Video

I have Netflix, so the big question for this year was: How does Amazon compare? It’s a little hard to tell. In the question of title availability… It is VERY close. Here are some comparisons:

     
    Red Dwarf: Amazon had the full series first, but Netflix got it a few days later.
    Doctor Who: Amazon has Series 7 (part 1), while Netflix still only has through 6.
    Arrow: Netflix has this. Amazon has it, but it’s not included with Prime Membership.

Generally speaking, if I can’t find a movie on Netflix, I can’t find it on Amazon Instant Video, either. EXCEPT…! Sometimes a title will be in the Amazon Streaming library, but it will not be included with Prime Membership.

For example: Avengers is out on Netflix and Amazon. Netflix also has Thor and Captain America, but not any of the Ironman movies. Amazon has those, but they’ll cost you $2.99 to watch them. While it goes against my stingy nature to pay for individual movies/TV shows on top of a Prime Membership… the fact is, it’s nice to know that if I really, REALLY want to watch them, I can fork that out and do so. On Netflix, there is no alternative option like this. (Unless maybe you have the Netflix DVD service… but who still has that? :X )

 

The layout and format of Amazon Instant Video leaves a bit to be desired — if you’re used to Netflix. With Netflix, you get one big long playlist of titles. With Amazon, you get a watchlist that has several pages of a grid view, showing the thumbnail of the movie/show cover image. You can change the order of stuff on Netflix. I don’t think you can on Amazon. That I found, anyway.

Netflix does not separate TV shows from movies. Amazon doesn’t either, but it does have a toggle where you can select one or the other. So if you want a movie, click on movies, and pick from those. You can also select the Prime toggle and see only those that don’t cost extra. But that will show both movies and TV.

Searching for titles is basically the same. Amazon doesn’t have the nifty pop up display after you add a title to your watchlist, that shows you a bunch of other titles you might like, that Netflix has. So it might take you a while longer to build up your queue. :X I have 170+ titles in my Netflix queue. I have about 70 on my Amazon watchlist.

I find it easier to watch stuff on Netflix. There, it’s pretty straightforward. You hit play, it goes to a new page with the video playing in the whole browser window. You click to go to full screen.

On Amazon, the video plays in the same page as the title listing, which has a small letterbox type strip across the page. That’s pretty small. You can click to get a pop-out viewer, and/or fullscreen mode. Well, basically you have to, if you want to see anything.

Also on Netflix, when you watch a TV series… when one episode gets to the end, it will automatically play the next episode. (It will eventually stop and ask you if you’re still actually alive….) On Amazon, you have to go out of fullscreen mode and select the next episode in the list manually. (I know, the horror of all that manual labor!)

But what’s really cool with Netflix is, every time I click ‘Play’ on my TV show, it remembers where I left off. I can watch a whole series and never have to remember what season/episode I’m on!

On Amazon, I can see by the different font weight which episodes of a series I have seen, and which I haven’t. But for different sessions, I do have to go in and pick which one to start playing.

Amazon also tends to list each season/series of a show separately. However, once you get in to the list of each season, you can select other seasons underneath the viewer. So while you may have Doctor Who Series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 part 1 in your Watchlist, you really only need one there. You can access the others from it. Netflix doesn’t separate those out. You can go to the show listing and pick a season from a drop-down list, but it is all under one title in your queue.

 
Bottom Line: I can’t imagine giving up Netflix, but I do like Amazon’s options as backup. The fact that I can buy/rent shows/movies on Amazon that I just couldn’t get on Netflix is a bonus. Um, the fact that I have to buy/rent some shows that I don’t on Netflix is a turn-off.


 
Free 2-Day Shipping

Who doesn’t hate shipping & handling charges? When you’re shopping online, grabbing those 50-cent deals on eBay… only to get clobbered with the shipping. That used to drive me nuts as a seller, too. Offering cheap used books, then totally getting killed on the shipping, which I always underestimated! (Well, back in the old days before we had all that standard flat rate shipping stuff going on.)

An not JUST free shipping, but free 2-Day shipping! That’s like half as cool as overnight! You will feel a big smile every time you’re browsing Amazon and see that delightful little Prime icon on it!

(Note: 2-Day shipping isn’t always 2 days. Especially in the holiday shopping season. Those orders came in on a ‘normal’ schedule, which doesn’t bother me one bit. Free is free!)

But all right, do we REALLY spend that much on shipping? Aside from a huge Winter Holiday burst, I don’t really shop that much. And the kicker is… it is really difficult to figure out what you are saving with Prime.

I went to my Order History and looked at all the charges. Shipping & Handling? $0.00, naturally. But what would I have paid? I go to the item listing; it doesn’t say. I log out and look at the item, and it still doesn’t say. It doesn’t calculate this until halfway through your shopping cart.

So I asked the Amazon Help folk if there was a way I could view the shipping & handling savings of my Prime Membership. I mean, hey, if I’m saving a boatload, that would be a really good selling point, right?

First, they told me to look at my order history. I said, I did that, it all says zero. Then they gave me a link to the Shipping Rates Page and they also told me what 2-day shipping on each of my orders this year would have been. Well, that’s nice and all, but no way would I have paid for 2-day shipping!

So, armed with the Shipping Rates table, and my Order History from October of last year forward, I calculated what I would have (actually) paid. There’s a bit of room for leeway, as it’s not clear what all my items are classified under (I did get a total of $17.10 where the 2-day rate was listed as $14.33, so I guesstimated that one down to $12.) But my final total….
 
$78.45

Which, considering Prim Membership is 79 bucks, and I got to watch some videos on top of that… Hey, I’m happy!
 
Bottom Line: Your shipping & handling may vary. If you don’t have Prime yet, go through your Order History and check what you’ve been paying on that over one year. (To get an exact figure, make sure you check if the items you ordered are elligible for Prime shipping.)

 


 
The Bottom Bottom Line

I had my doubts about my first year of Prime membership. The eBook lending? Pfft. The streaming video? Ehhhh…, if I want to see the Doctor Who 50th anniversary episode sometime this year, I probably need that. Is that worth 80 bucks to me? Hrmm….

I had serious doubts about the shipping savings. But these days? Those suckers add up! I’m pleased that I did end up saving so much, enough to justify another year of Prime. Because, you know… Doctor Who 50 years, man! And, heh… shopping with no shipping! BOOYAH!

A pleasant surprise.


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