Kindle Unlimited Is… Not So Bad!

If there is one thing that all Kindle users in India agree upon, it’s that Kindle Unlimited (KU) is terrible. On paper, the idea of paying Rupees 169/month for the ability to borrow as many as 10 books at a time, seems awesome. But the reality is that the KU catalog is limited, basic, and has pages and pages of literary drivel. To a regular reader, a KU subscription seems worthless.

I have had a Kindle Unlimited subscription multiple times in the past few years. My decision to subscribe usually coincides with me going through severe readers block or being too busy with my professional or personal commitments to read. Those are days when I can only read something super light and breezy – usually romances.

Without a KU subscription, I’d have to pay anywhere between Rupees 200 – 350 for a breezy romance that I’d end up finishing quickly and be back to square one in a day or two. During those days, I’d buckle and get KU.

For those who have never tried KU, it is filled with light romances. The good ones are very few and far between but after around thirty minutes of digging, I usually find a couple of decent books. There are just enough good ones to make up for the subscription cost. I stop renewing the subscription in one or two months when the reader’s block/busy phase is over.

This year though, I’ve had the subscription for seven months. Which means I’ve paid the Amazon Overlords Rupees 1014 for KU (1 month free trial + 6*169) in 2020.

It all started with R deciding to re-read the Harry Potter series. He didn’t want to use any of the three physical editions I had lying around the house. My gadget-loving husband, who hasn’t read any book in years, only wanted to read on my Kindle Oasis. I briefly doubted his motivations but I relented because I didn’t care why he was reading as long as he was reading. Besides, he bought me the Oasis as a present so it was only fair that I let him borrow it. 😛

Since I wasn’t interested in owning one more edition of the HP series, we decided to borrow the books in KU. The one month he read the series was probably the only time KU was used the way it is supposed to be.

I would have cancelled the subscription once he was done but with a few interesting developments in my personal life and the one large unspeakable source of anxiety and stress taking over the whole world, I have been in the “it’s a light read or no read” mode for the past few months.

I have managed to read one book on KU per month when I should supposedly be reading ten or more. With the KU catalog being the way it is, I wouldn’t be able to pick ten books to read even if I wanted to. So I was convinced that I was wilfully letting myself be scammed out of money and quality books.

Today, just as I was about to cancel the subscription, I decided to analyse exactly how KU has affected my reading.

  • Have I really been reading subpar books just because they are there in KU?
  • Have I been paying more to borrow books I’ll never buy otherwise?

Let’s find out.

Since this is an exercise to figure out if KU has been lucrative for me, I am going to leave out the HP series because I didn’t read them and I’ve paid for it three times already. So I’ve read 7 books in KU so far this year:

NameMy ratingMRP in Rupees
The Guy on the Right4/5275
Regretting You2/5130
When We Believed in Mermaids4/549
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler2/549
By a Thread2/569
The Worst Best Man1/5349
Avg = 2.7/51276

If I’d bought these books without KU, I would have spent Rs. 262 more than I spent on KU these past seven months (1276 – 1014).

Which sounds like a good deal but would I have really picked these books without the restrictions of a KU catalog?

The average rating of these books only comes to 2.7 stars, which is not very good. But turns out, it’s not very different than my average ratings for romances. In 2019, the average rating I’d given for romances I’d bought outside of KU was a mere 2.8!

This means that inspite of the kind of limitations KU offers, my quality of romance reading hasn’t really taken a hit. Although, it is clear that I am terrible at picking the right romance to read in general.

I also assessed my experience reading each book individually – you can read my reviews here. I very much enjoyed the three 4 star books in the list and I would have never found them if hadn’t been for KU.

The other four were a bad judgement call made by me encouraged by their Goodreads rating. However, I do not regret reading one of them (which is called ‘Regretting you’, funnily enough!).

Based on this exercise, I came to the following conclusions:

  • Though the KU catalog looks crappy at the outset, with a few minutes of effort you might find something worth your time.

  • KU could be beneficial even if you are using it to read just one book per month.

  • Sometimes, we end up choosing the wrong books, with or without KU. Although it seems like we tend to make more errors in judgement when it comes to KU, the percentage is the same outside of KU. At least with KU, you could just return the book once you realise it doesn’t work for you.

  • Genre matters. I am fairly new to romance as I have only been reading it for the past couple of years (compared to other genres). So maybe with KU, you need to pick books from a genre you are new to so their collection doesn’t feel so basic to you.

With all these factors in mind, I have realised that Kindle Unlimited is not so bad, after all. I am keeping the subscription and I’ve decided to explore how KU does with other genres. As a start, I have a few great finds queued up – What the Wind Knows, Where the Forest Meets the Stars and Pachinko. Wish me luck!

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