MONEY The Economy

WATCH: These 3 Companies Can Raise Prices Without Losing Your Business

Netflix, Amazon, and Chipotle have raised prices without losing the support of their customers or investors on Wall Street.

TIME Technology & Media

10 Great Books That Aren’t on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (Yet!)

Today - Season 62
Pictured: Malcolm Gladwell appears on NBC News' "Today" show NBC NewsWire—NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Amazon's Kindle Unlimited isn't lived up to its name yet

Amazon announced Friday its new Kindle Unlimited service, which allows customers to read an unlimited number of e-books for $9.99 per month. Essentially, Kindle Unlimited is to books as Netflix is to movies. It’s a potentially a game-changing new platform, could be deeply disruptive to the publishing industry, and will likely divide authors in the same way that music streaming divided musicians.

Although there are 600,000 e-book titles to read via Kindle Unlimited, there are still a vast number of great books you can’t read if you sign up. That’s because a number of major publishers, including Penguin, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have not made their books available on the service.

Are the big publishers opposed to Kindle Unlimited? Or is the availability of their books on the service contingent on renewing contracts with Amazon? The major publishers have not yet publicly taken a stance on Kindle Unlimited and did not return TIME’s requests for comment, so for now, we don’t know. But it’s probably safe to say that Kindle Unlimited’s success will be defined by the number of books the big publishers make available.

For now, here are ten great books that still aren’t available on Kindle Unlimited (some of them were taken from our list of All-TIME 100 Novels):

1. Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

2. American Pastoral by Philip Roth

3. Rabbit, Run by John Updike

4. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

5. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

6. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

7. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

8. The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie

9. The Circle by Dave Eggers

10. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

TIME Amazon

Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Is Worth It If You Read This Many Books

Random House Publishing And Penguin Books Ahead Of Merger
The logo of the Penguin publishing house, part of Pearson Plc, is seen on a Kindle Fire HD e-reader at a bookstore in London, U.K., on Friday, April 5, 2013. Bloomberg/Getty Images

Amazon on Friday announced Kindle Unlimited, a new all-you-can read e-book service allows customers to read as many titles as they want for $9.99 per month. Kindle Unlimited has a library of over 600,000 books, including well-known titles like Harry Potter and Life of Pi. If you’re a voracious reader, the Unlimited program could be a good way to save money while feeding your reading habit. Let’s break down the math to see whether you plow through enough books regularly to justify the cost.

At $9.99 per month, Kindle Unlimited costs about $120 per year. E-books on Amazon can vary wildly in price, from $0.99 to hundreds of dollars. During 2013, e-books on the Digital Book World best-sellers’ list mostly sold for between $7 and $8 on average (the price in the most recent recorded week in 2014 was $7.52). If we say that the typical e-book best-seller costs $7.50, a customer would need to read more than 16 books per year to derive a greater value from Kindle Unlimited than buying the books individually.

This doesn’t necessarily mean avid readers should dive head-first into Kindle Unlimited. Customers lose access to Unlimited’s library of books if they end their subscription, whereas readers can typically hold on to purchased books forever. Also, books from major publishers such as Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette so far don’t appear to be part of the service.

Think of Kindle Unlimited more like Netflix, which has a spotty selection of movies for its streaming library (especially during its early days) rather than Spotify, which typically gets new album releases the same day they go on sale in physical stores. Either way, Amazon is offering a 30-day free trial of Kindle Unlimited, so you can test your binge-reading capabilities before committing to pay for the service.

MONEY Tech

How Amazon’s New E-book Subscription Service Stacks Up

Amazon Kindle in front of a bookshelf
JHPhoto—Alamy

The Seattle retailer just announced Kindle Unlimited, which will go head to head with existing reader subscription services Oyster and Scribd.

Updated July 18th

This morning, Amazon announced Kindle Unlimited, a new e-book subscription service. But while Amazon is now the biggest name in the “Netflix for books” business, it’s not the only option. So, how does Kindle Unlimited compare with Oyster and Scribd, it’s best-known competition? Here’s the rundown:

Price

At $9.99 per month, Kindle Unlimited is slightly more expensive than the competition. Scribd is priced at $8.99 a month, and Oyster at $9.95. All three offer a trial month for free.

Selection of books

Not surprisingly, Amazon comes out on top in terms of the sheer number of e-books included. The company says Kindle Unlimited includes more than 600,000 titles, plus “thousands” of audio books. Oyster says it has more than 500,000 titles. Scribd, for it’s part, has more than 400,000.

When it comes to the question of which service offers the “best” books, things get a little muddy. Kindle Unlimited includes popular series like the Harry Potter books and the Hunger Games trilogy, as well as a a number of best-sellers, like Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, and some new titles such as Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis. But, as noted by GigaOm, the service does not include books from the “Big 5″ publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin Random House.

Scibd and Oyster, on the other hand, both offer books from HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. In additon, each has a few notable deals with smaller publishers: Oyster has books from McSweeney’s and Rodale, while Scribd offers Lonely Planet guides and reference books from Wiley.

Device compatibility

Kindle Unlimited works with all Kindle devices (obviously!), and, via the Kindle app, can be used on most smartphones, tablets and computers. Scribd has apps for the iPad, iPhone, Android, and Kindle Fire. Oyster users can access the service on Apple and Android devices, Kindle Fire and the Nook HD.

The takeaway

Kindle Unlimited isn’t a book lover’s silver bullet. Indeed, as noted by Gizmodo, the books offered by the service aren’t that different from what Amazon Prime subscribers can already access. However, if Amazon is able to get the Big 5 onboard, that could change. At this point, the decision about which service is best for you depends largely on which provider’s library you prefer. So, since all three offer a free month trial, why not give each a spin?

A previous version of this story stated that Oyster is available only on Apple and Android devices. It has been updated to reflect the fact that Oyster may also be used on Kindle Fire and Nook HD.

 

 

 

TIME Amazon

Amazon Just Launched ‘Kindle Unlimited,’ a Subscription Service for E-Books

The online retailer is entering the competitive e-book subscription game

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The online retail giant Amazon announced Friday it’s launching an e-book subscription service called “Kindle Unlimited.”

Kindle Unlimited lets Amazon customers pay $9.99 every month for unlimited access to 600,000 titles plus more than 2,000 audiobooks accessible on any Kindle or Kindle app on any mobile device, according to the company. Amazon introduced the service in this video, which is unavailable for embedding in this post.

With the announcement, Amazon enters a field populated by other similar services, chiefly Scribd, Oyster and Entitle.

Titles available through the service include books like The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the the Harry Potter series. The more than 2,000 audiobooks available through the service are linked up with Amazon’s Whispersync program, allowing the reader to switch between reading and listening to the narrated text.

Depending on the details of how Kindle Unlimited was set up, the program may further complicated Amazon’s relationship with book publishers. Several of those publishers have been locked in a years-long tug-of-war with Amazon over the company’s pricing of e-books, which publishers argue has been too low. In a somewhat separate but related issue, Amazon is currently embroiled in a dispute with one publisher in particular, Hachette, most likely over the pricing of Hachette’s physical and digital books.

TIME Rumors

Amazon Appears to Be Testing All-You-Can-Read Kindle Ebook Subscriptions

Amazon Kindle
Amazon Kindle in Sao Paulo, Brazil on March 15, 2013. Yasuyoshi Chiba—AFP/Getty Images

The "Kindle Unlimited" plan could include more than 600,000 ebooks for $9.99 per month.

Amazon loves its subscription business models, so it’s no surprise that the company might be testing an unlimited ebook plan.

The so-called “Kindle Unlimited” plan would reportedly cost $9.99 per month. It was first noticed by users on a Kindle forum, and then by GigaOM. Amazon has since wiped most the evidence from its site, but you can still see some of the test pages on Amazon’s site and on Google Cache.

While Amazon already offers ebook rentals as part of Amazon Prime, users can only take out one book per month, and can only read those books on Amazon devices such as Kindle e-readers and Kindle Fire tablets. Kindle Unlimited would apparently be available on all devices–including iPads and Android tablets–and would have no reading limits.

Unfortunately, none of the major book publishers seem to be participating, as GigaOM points out. Though there are some smaller publishers on board, many of the titles come from Amazon’s own publishing arm.

Still, some publishers are warming to the idea of ebook subscriptions, with Scribd and Oyster offering all-you-can-read books from HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. If Amazon can offer a similar service that integrates with users’ existing Kindle libraries, it could be a hit that shakes up the way people pay for ebooks. But maybe giving more power to Amazon is what publishers are worried about.

TIME Dating

Sorry, Google: Amazon’s Employees Are Hotter Than Yours

An employee seals a box at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Phoenix, Arizona on Dec. 2, 2013.
An employee seals a box at the Amazon.com Inc. fulfillment center in Phoenix, Arizona on Dec. 2, 2013. Bloomberg—Getty Images

At least according to dating app Hinge

Amazon isn’t just a company with an attractive portfolio—CEO Jeff Bezos is worth a staggering $30 billion—it also possesses the most attractive employees, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Hinge, a dating app that matches young professionals in similar networks, found that users are 14.2% more likely to “swipe right” for Amazon employees than their counterparts at tech companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple. Microsoft comes in second with approval levels hitting 8.2% above average, while Apple ranks as the least attractive tech firm with a paltry percentage of 0.2.

Since 2013, Hinge has examined the most attractive firms in New York City, Washington D.C., Boston and San Francisco.Different industries are represented in the lists. Two media firms top New York’s list—Women at MediaVest USA and men at Facebook boast high scores.

But are Amazon employees really more attractive than their Googlers? Amazon reported having 117,300 employees as of January, including part-time workers, while Microsoft has 99,000, Apple 80,300, Google 47,756 and Facebook with 6,337. Hinge works to connect people within their career networks, meaning that more Amazon employees may be more likely to be on the dating app, just because of sheer size. Hinge also reported Amazon as the least “picky” of the tech companies—meaning they were more likely to say “swipe right” on a profile—which could also account for the high numbers.

Amazon employees could be ridiculously good looking, or maybe they just like to lovingly look at their colleagues’ profiles in hopes for a date.

 

 

MONEY Customer Service

How To Break Up with Your Cable Company

140716_EM_cable_1
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...or at Least Drive a Hard Bargain

If your relationship with your cable provider is driving you mad like this man, brace yourself. It’s only going to get worse.

The average monthly cable TV bill is rising 6% a year. It’s projected to hit $123 a month next year and top $200 by 2020, according to market research group NPD. To be fair, part of the surge is because the cost cable providers pay to license shows is getting steeper. But the near-monopoly that cable TV companies have in many places is to blame, too.

Most areas have just one or two pay-TV providers. And even if you’re lucky enough to have more choice, that will probably change if the Time Warner Cable-Comcast and AT&T-DirecTV deals are approved. And less choice means that the providers that remain don’t have to go above and beyond on customer service. As if they did already.

Can’t live without your favorite programs but fed up with the bill? Here are four moves you can make to cut the cost—and not all require you to cut the cord.

Downsize. How many of the 700+ channels that you get do you actually watch? A growing number of pay-TV providers are offering pared-down packages. Verizon recently rolled out its Select HD no-sports package that’s $15 a month cheaper than its $65 a month standard Prime package. Last year, Time Warner Cable launched Starter TV, a bundle of 20 premium channels plus HBO for $29.99 a month—40% less than its 200-channel, no-HBO option. And Cox Communication’s TV Starter is $24.99 a month for 155 channels vs. $49.99 for its Advanced package of 220 channels.

Play hardball. Despite their dominance, pay-TV providers are still loathe to lose customers, says digital media analyst Dan Rayburn. Call the cancellation department to talk with a retention specialist trained to hang on to customers. Ask about promotions or a discount if you’re a long-time customer. They’ll try hard to keep you, but if they don’t give, you can likely get a better deal as a new subscriber if you have a satellite dish or cable competitor where you live.

Go a la carte. Even though the Aero service that delivers low-cost broadcast TV via Internet shut down thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling, there are still plenty of other lower cost alternatives for those who want to cut the cord, says technology industry analyst Jeff Kagan. Hulu Plus costs just $7.99 a month and shows many current programs the day after they air. If you can wait a season or two to catch up with your favorite shows, Netflix is $7.99 a month (though will go up $1 or $2 for new subscribers). Amazon Prime Instant Video, which comes with Amazon’s $99 a year Prime membership, gives you unlimited streaming movies and TV shows.

NetFlix, Hulu and Amazon are also spending millions on high quality original content. In May, Hulu announced that it would be tripling its budget for exclusive programs and launching six new shows this year, including the much-buzzed-about reality show parody Hotwives of Orlando, which premiers tonight.

Get an antenna. Today’s antennas aren’t the rabbit ears of your parents’ generation. An HD antenna for your roof or TV set top will cost you about $30 to $100,and you can get local TV channels for free. You won’t get cable programs, but you’ll pick up more than 30 broadcast networks (such as ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, FOX). And picture quality is even better than cable, says Kagan.

TIME Books

Amazon Gave Panelists Talking Points to Answer Questions About Hachette

'Bosch' Photocall At MIPTV 2014 In Cannes
Michael Connelly (L) and 'Bosch' star Titus Welliver (R) pose on April 7, 2014 in Cannes, France. Didier Baverel—WireImage / Getty Images

Amazon Studios has provided its panelists with talking points should the matter be raised

On Saturday, Amazon Studios, Amazon’s original video content production arm, will present its upcoming slate of original programming to the Television Critics Association. That line-up will include Bosch, an adaptation of Michael Connelly’s best-selling series of books about LAPD detective Harry Bosch, which happen to be published by Little, Brown and Company, which is part of Hachette, the media company involved in an ongoing and public dispute with Amazon. The dispute has most noticeably manifested itself in shipping delays for Hachette titles on Amazon, but it looks like the retailer is prepared for Bosch to be another reason for consumers and critics to be curious.

TIME received a copy of the talking points provided by Amazon to the Bosch panelists, with suggested answers for questions about the show as well as about the Hachette dispute. And it looks like any attendee hoping to ask such a question is likely to be disappointed: the creation of Bosch the series has nothing to do with the book’s publisher.

  • For a question about how the dispute has affected the series, the suggested answer is that there has been “zero disruption in Michael [Connelly’s] involvement in the series or our filming schedule.”
  • For a question about personal feelings about the dispute, the suggested answer is “I don’t know the particulars on that situation.”
  • For a question about why Michael Connelly, who is also a co-writer for the show, is not on the panel, the suggested answer is that “scheduling conflicts” are the reason for his absence. (Connelly is scheduled to be at a writer’s conference in New York City this weekend, TIME has confirmed.)

An Amazon spokesperson tells TIME that panelists scheduled to talk about Amazon series — not just the Hachette-adjacent one — were generally provided with such talking points, which is a fairly standard procedure and not surprising. Talking points are commonly designed to help with questions that the participants may not know the answers to; the sample questions are not about creative matters but about details like the way the budget for Amazon shows compares to the budget for shows on a platform like Netflix.

Plus, the sample Q&A provided by Amazon is a suggestion, not a requirement, says the spokesperson. “We’re not trying to tell people what to say,” she said.

MONEY Shopping

WATCH: Amazon Sued After Kids Spend Wildly on Apps

The Federal Trade Commission alleges that Amazon made it easy for kids to make unauthorized in-app purchases — and hard for their parents to get refunds.

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