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Amazon launches Netflix-style service for eBooks

The largest U.S. e-commerce site said Friday that the Kindle Unlimited service will give users the ability to read as much as they want from more than 600,000 Kindle titles such as “The Hunger Games” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”
By MAE ANDERSON, Associated Press Published: July 18, 2014
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Amazon is rolling out a new subscription service that will allow unlimited access to thousands of electronic books and audiobooks for $9.99 a month in the online giant’s latest effort to attract more users.

The largest U.S. e-commerce site said Friday that the Kindle Unlimited service will give users the ability to read as much as they want from more than 600,000 Kindle titles such as “The Hunger Games” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” They can also listen as much as they like to thousands of Audible audiobooks, including “Water for Elephants.”

The service will offer about 2,000 audiobooks from Audible with Whispersync for Voice, which lets users switch between reading and listening to books. Subscribers will get a free three-month membership to the broader Audible service, which has 150,000 titles.

Amazon is offering a free 30-day trial to entice users to try the service. The move is a switch from Amazon’s latest efforts, which have largely focused on adding services to its Prime loyalty program. The company has recently launched a video streaming box and grocery delivery service, unveiled plans for a smartphone and expanded its Sunday delivery service, all for members of Prime. But Kindle Unlimited is for anyone with a Kindle device or app.

Americans have a growing appetite for e-books. In the U.S., 79 million people will use e-book readers in 2014, up nearly 9 percent from 72 million in 2013, according to eMarketer.

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Chapter of competition

Here’s how Kindle Unlimited, which Amazon announced Friday, compares with rivals Scribd and Oyster.

PRICE: Kindle costs $9.99 a month, while Oyster costs $9.95 and Scribd $8.99. All three offer the first month free.

SELECTION: Kindle has the largest number of titles, with more than 600,000, compared with Oyster’s 500,000 and Scribd’s 400,000. However, only Oyster and Scribd have books from two of the largest publishers, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster.

LIMITS: You can read as many books as you want, but you can have only a certain number downloaded at a time. For Kindle, it’s 10 per account. You have to “return” a book to get the 11th. Oyster allows 10 per device and Scribd allows 20 per device.

EXTRAS: Kindle is alone in offering free audiobooks, with a selection of 2,000 from Amazon’s Audible. Subscribers also get a three-month trial to Audible, which offers one book a month from a larger library.

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