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For those of you that do not know what Amazon Prime is, let me tell you. To be honest, I had no idea what it was until about somewhere around a year ago. At a cost of $79 per year (or $6.58/month for you math junkies), Amazon Prime members enjoy “free 2 day shipping, instant streaming of movies and TV shows, and instant access to thousands of Kindle books”. It truly is what it says, too. As a member I have not noticed any hidden “catches”. The 2 day shipping? It’s really true. In fact, in many cases, you get the package(s) that you ordered the next day. Now, don’t quote me on that because I don’t want any angry readers! But I can’t recall a time where a package did not come within the 2 days, unless the item was on backorder, unavailable, etc.

Free 2 Day Shipping

One of the main reasons we opted to join the Amazon Prime club….for those of you that are frequent Amazon shoppers, you know that to avoid shipping costs your order has to be from Amazon itself (not one of the “sellers” that just sell on Amazon) and also has to be $25.00 or more. In many instances, we found ourselves filling orders to meet the $25.00 requirement and avoid shipping. Why not just pay the shipping? Well, if I’m going to have to pay the extra either way I’d rather actually get something for the extra money, right? Yes, I’m right! So, since joining Amazon Prime, I can’t even imagine how much money we’ve saved from filling orders with stuff that we really weren’t intending to buy. Maybe not a TRUE benefit of the program, but definitely very helpful.

Another very minor (or major, depends on what you think) benefit…..if you’re like me at all, it’s kind of nice to be able to order something and get it within a couple of days, versus waiting 5/7/10 days to receive it. Again, minor, but the somewhat instant gratification of receiving what I ordered that quickly is nice.

For those of you that are rushing out now to join Amazon Prime, be careful. Only products that are Amazon Prime eligible will qualify for the free 2 day shipping. That being said (because I have to say it), in the past several months since joining Amazon Prime I have yet to come across an item that I wanted to order and it was NOT “Prime” eligible. So don’t let that stop you from joining. In fact, they have a free one month trial of the program. We did it, and that’s what got us hooked. It’s a way to verify that everything I’m telling you is in fact true.

Free Video Streaming

I spent a lot of words on the shipping aspect alone, because that is the greatest benefit for me. They do have unlimited instant videos and movies. This is secondary to me because the movie selection is nothing like what you’d find on Netflix or in the video store – it’s just a subset of the entire Amazon Instant Video collection.

The streaming includes a lot of older movies, but nothing of the new release nature. They also include a decent selection of TV shows, but again, nothing that is extremely new.  One thing I’ve noticed is that they include the first few seasons of a show, but not the later seasons.  It seems like they’re trying to get you hooked on a show, then charge you to get the later seasons – a pretty smart strategy.

The movie/show playback and video quality is good … not great, but not horrible either.  You do need a compatible device in order for the streaming to work.  You can read more details about the program here.

I just don’t see the movies/shows library as the main reason for somebody to join.  Nonetheless, it’s a nice bonus if you were going to join Prime anyway.

Borrow Kindle Books for Free

Amazon recently added a Prime feature that benefits Kindle owners.  You can borrow one book per month from the Amazon Owners’ Lending Library for free.  This is similar to the feature of being able to borrow books from your local library, except that there’s no due date.  You can keep a book for a year if you want … but you can only check out one book at a time (and a maximum of one per month), so you can’t borrow another one until you return the one you have borrowed.

The lending library is a subset of the entire Kindle eBook collection, but just on the teaser page, I see recognizable names such as Michael Lewis, Suzanne Collins, and Stephen Covey.  Don’t worry – the authors (and publishers) are being paid.  Amazon is creating a pool of money each month, and this will be split based on how many times a book is borrowed.  If The Cell Window is borrowed as often as Moneyball, Kosmo will get as much money as Michael Lewis (and his publisher).

Like streaming, it’s probably not worth it to join Prime just to take advantage of the ability to borrow Kindle books – but it’s a nice added feature.

Worth the cost?

So, is Amazon Prime worth the $79/year? Yes, it definitely is. But, to prove that to yourself, join the club for a month for free and see for yourself. You’ll be happy you did.

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Bob Inferapels partners with Cheri Nobel to write a weekly column on entertainment and recreational activities. Read all of Bob's articles in The Playground.

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