Prime Time for Prime?


As someone who is both impatient and cheap, I struggle with online shopping. I hate paying sales tax, but I also want everything right now.

I compromise with Amazon Prime. The membership-based media and benefits package within Amazon boasts free shipping, among other offerings. Hawaii people don’t get free two-day shipping, but free regular shipping is pretty awesome. And you actually can share the shipping benefits with your family, at no cost to them (my parents like this part, a lot).

I’ve had Prime about a year and a half, and I still question how much money I actually save when I spend $99 a year paying for “free” shipping – which is why I finally began utilizing all the other perks that come with Prime last year (after six months of money-wasting). The program has had ample time to mature, but is it worth it?

Prime Instant Video: It’s no Netflix, but Amazon has made it a point to acquire different titles than what that other streaming service offers. For instance, you can watch a lot of HBO shows (though not Game of Thrones or True Detective) and cult shows like Hannibal. You’re also able to have more of a selection of shows and films to watch by utilizing a VPN that can change your internet location, therefore unrestricting various titles due to geographical location. In order to do this and enjoy an increased amount of entertainment through Prime, read into something like this guide on VPN Compass as an example.

The interface is functional – not beautiful, just functional. But Amazon is very tricky. Titles pop in and out of the Prime selection, and Amazon doesn’t notify you when something in your queue is no longer free. I discovered this the hard way.

Prime Music: Amazon’s cloud player is frustrating and unintuitive (and refuses to let me repeat songs unless I put them in new playlists). And Prime Music only can be accessed via this obnoxious player, which is fine, I guess, if you happen to see something you like and you are a patient individual. You can’t download any of it for offline listening, though.

Kindle: There are two Prime perks for avid readers: Kindle First and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. In Kindle First, Amazon gives you one free book a month. Now, these aren’t Nobel Prize-caliber novels – typically, it’s a choice between a just-released fantasy, thriller, mystery or romance – but they are enjoyable pulp. I currently am reading a ridiculous book called Inamorata about vampires that suck creativity out of their victims.

The Lending Library allows you to “borrow” one book at a time from a vast selection of books, and then “return” it when you’re done, with no due dates. You’d probably have to be a fast reader to get the most out of it, but even if you got through just one book a month, that’s not a bad deal.

Prime Photos: It’s basically Dropbox, but only for photos.

The verdict? Amazon Prime’s perks are individually all kind of meh – nice, but not must-haves. Combine them with the shipping, though, and you get a decent digital media package to go with all the physical packages you have coming to your house.

Still, it’s worth it only if you are an voracious consumer of media or a chronic online shopper (like me).

Editor’s Note: Staff writer Paige Takeya is temporarily filling in for Christa Wittmier. Follow Paige at @lordmayocloud. Christa’s SuperTech column will return shortly.