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What Is Kindle Unlimited & How Does It Work in 2022?

Are you wondering what Kindle Unlimited is and how it works? Or maybe you’re interested in the service but not sure if it’s really worth it? Join us as we explore the ins and outs of Amazon’s subscription service for e-books.

Aleksander Hougen
By Aleksander Hougen (Managing Editor)
— Last Updated: 2022-03-07T19:27:44+00:00 Facts checked by Elisabeth Ivey

One of the most notable digital trends of the last decade has been the proliferation of subscription services for content. However, subscription services for written works haven’t caught on compared to music, movies, television or even audiobooks. Kindle Unlimited probably has the best chance of changing that; but how does Kindle Unlimited work? Keep reading as we look at Amazon’s unlimited reading service.

Key Takeaways:

  • Kindle Unlimited offers free access to over two million titles on the Kindle Store for a monthly price of $9.99.
  • There are some notable holes in the Kindle Unlimited library, especially from the big publishing houses, so you can sign up for a 30-day free trial to see if the selection satisfies you.
  • Kindle Unlimited is tied to your Amazon account, which means you don’t need a Kindle device to make use of it — it works just as well in the Kindle app.
  • Kindle Unlimited is separate from Prime Reading, which contains only a few thousand books (and no audiobooks) and is available for free if you’re an Amazon Prime member.

Taken at face value, Kindle Unlimited is definitely an interesting proposition. With access to more than two million books, audiobooks and comic books for just $9.99 per month, it sounds almost too good to be true. Before you get too excited, there are some significant limitations to its offerings, so let’s start by looking at what exactly Kindle Unlimited is and how it works.

If you’ve just bought a Kindle and need help getting started or adjusting the various settings, you should head over to our Kindle setup guide followed by our Kindle user guide. If you’re stuck choosing between Kindle e-readers and Amazon Fire tablets, make sure to read our Kindle vs Fire comparison.

  • Yes, you can use your Kindle e-reader or read Kindle books through the free Kindle app without signing up for a subscription. Kindle Unlimited is a separate service that provides access to books that you would otherwise have to purchase individually.

  • No, titles that you get through Kindle Unlimited are technically borrowed, which means that if you cancel your account, you’ll lose access to any books you selected through the program at the beginning of the next billing cycle.

  • No. Although you can share books that you purchase with one other adult, four teens and four children through the Amazon Household feature, this doesn’t apply to Kindle Unlimited books, which are technically borrowed.

What Is Kindle Unlimited?

Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s subscription service for Kindle e-books. It provides access to over two million Kindle Unlimited titles, which includes best sellers, self-published and new authors, as well as some big-name publishing houses like HarperCollins.

kindle unlimited benefits
There’s a lot to like about Kindle Unlimited, but whether it’s for you depends on your reading.

Kindle Unlimited is obviously intended for people with Kindle e-readers (check out our Kindle model comparison if you don’t have one already). However, you don’t need a Kindle to get a Kindle Unlimited account, and you can just as easily take advantage of the service on any type of device by using the Kindle app.

In addition to regular e-books, there are thousands of audiobooks available through Kindle Unlimited and Audible. Any Kindle Unlimited e-book that has an audiobook version allows you to switch seamlessly between reading and listening to the book.

How Does Kindle Unlimited Work?

Although Kindle Unlimited works without an internet connection, you will have to download the books you want to read before you go offline. Subscribers can download up to 20 eligible titles at any time, which is a pretty large number even for avid readers — you’ll need to return a Kindle book or two if you reach the limit, though.

That said, if your reading habits include tearing through 20 books on a regular basis without connecting to the internet, then Kindle Unlimited might not be for you.

Another thing to bear in mind is that Kindle Unlimited basically lets you borrow titles instead of purchasing them. If you cancel your subscription, you’ll lose access to books selected from the program at the next billing date. This doesn’t apply to any books that you purchase with a Kindle Unlimited discount, so those titles will remain active in your library.

For authors, Kindle Unlimited works much like YouTube Premium. When publishing a book through Amazon, authors can choose to offer their book through Kindle Unlimited, and they’re paid a percentage of the total subscription revenue based on how many times their book was borrowed and how many pages were read.

Does Kindle Unlimited Include All Books on Amazon?

Unfortunately, Kindle Unlimited doesn’t include every book on Amazon. The publisher (or in the case of self-published books, the author) makes the decision on whether to include a title in the program on a book-by-book basis. That said, there’s still more than two million Kindle titles available with a Kindle Unlimited membership.

browse books
There’s a lot of titles available on Kindle Unlimited, but the selection might not be to everyone’s tastes.

Although Kindle Unlimited includes plenty of best sellers, its greatest weakness remains the lackluster adoption from the so-called big five, meaning the five publishing companies that publish the majority of U.S. books. 

HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster offer select titles from their libraries, but the remaining three (Penguin Random House, Hachette and Macmillan) don’t offer any of their titles through the service.

How Much Does a Kindle Unlimited Subscription Cost?

A Kindle Unlimited subscription costs $9.99 per month. There’s also a 30-day free trial, which you can use to see how you like the service before putting any money down. If the price seems a bit too steep for you, you can also wait for a sale, as Amazon frequently offers deals on longer subscription periods, such as six, 12 or 24 months.

Can You Get Kindle Unlimited Free With Amazon Prime?

No, Amazon Kindle Unlimited is an entirely separate subscription service from Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime Video. However, Prime subscribers also get access to a number of books for free, but it’s through the Prime Reading program instead (check out our guide to what Prime Reading is).

Kindle Unlimited vs Prime Reading

Prime Reading is free for Prime members, and it’s basically Kindle Unlimited’s baby brother. Where the Kindle Unlimited catalog includes over two million titles, Prime Reading is limited to around 2,500. Kindle Unlimited also includes thousands of audiobooks, whereas Prime Reading only includes audio-narration for a few hundred titles.

prime members reading
Prime Reading is a nice bonus on top of the other Amazon Prime benefits, but it doesn’t offer as many titles as Kindle Unlimited.

Amazon Prime Reading is a nice bonus if you’re a Prime member, but it can’t compete with Kindle Unlimited in terms of access to literary fiction, comic books, picture books and audiobooks. That said, an Amazon Prime membership gets you access to both Prime Music and Prime Video, so there’s that. Check out our full Prime Reading vs Kindle Unlimited comparison for more.

Is Kindle Unlimited Worth It?

That depends on how many books you read. If you’re just an occasional reader who reads a few books a year, then the answer is probably not. In a similar vein, if you rarely read self-published books from indie authors, Amazon exclusives or titles from smaller publishing houses, then you’ll probably be disappointed with Kindle Unlimited’s selection of books.

With that out of the way, avid readers or people who like to discover new authors and genres on a regular basis will find a lot to like about the service. The ability to read books without purchasing them makes it a lot easier to try out a new author or popular books that you’ve heard about but aren’t sure if you’ll like.

popular titles
Even though some of the big publishers aren’t participating, there are still a lot of best sellers available through Kindle Unlimited.

If you’re not sure whether the service will be worth it for you, a good test is to take a look at the library of available titles and search for some of your favorite authors or other books that you enjoyed.

How to Get a Kindle Unlimited Membership

Signing up to a Kindle Unlimited subscription is a pretty simple process, especially if you already have an Amazon account. 

  1. Go to Amazon.com

    Open a web browser and go to amazon.com.

    amazon homepage
  2. Log in to Your Amazon Account

    Click the button that says “sign in” and follow the instructions to log in to your account. If you’re already signed in, you can skip this step and move to the next one.

    signup signin
  3. Click the Sign-up Button

    Once back on the Kindle Unlimited page, click the big button that says “join Kindle Unlimited.”

    signup start trial
  4. Confirm Your Amazon Account

    Enter your email address and your password and click on the button that says “sign-in.”

    amazon account signin
  5. Choose the Payment Method

    If you already have a payment method attached to your Amazon account, simply tick the checkbox next to the card you want to pay with and click “continue.” If this is your first time purchasing something through Amazon, click on “add a credit or debit card” instead and follow the instructions.

    choose payment method
  6. Browse Kindle Unlimited Books

    That’s it, you’re now signed up to a 30-day free trial to Kindle Unlimited. You’ll now see a welcome screen with some suggested titles.

    kindle unlimited welcome

How to Find Kindle Unlimited Books

Finding Kindle Unlimited books is very much the same as finding e-books on Amazon. Although there’s a dedicated page for titles available through Kindle Unlimited, you can also find books by using the regular search function either through a web browser or with your Kindle by looking for the Kindle Unlimited logo on the top of covers.

  1. Go to the Amazon Kindle Store

    Open a web browser and navigate to amazon.com. Once there, click on the three lines icon under the Amazon logo on the left-hand side. Select “Kindle e-readers & books” and then “Kindle books” in the next menu.

    kindle books menu item
  2. Search for the Book or Author That You’re Looking For

    Type the name of the book or the author you want to read in the search bar near the top of the screen and hit “enter.”

    kindle price search
  3. Look for the Kindle Unlimited Logo or Filter Results

    Once you’ve made your search, you’ll be given a list of results. Simply look at the covers of each one for titles with the Kindle Unlimited logo at the top. However, not all Kindle Unlimited books have this on the cover, so the easier option is to simply filter the results by Kindle Unlimited by checking the box on the left-hand side.

    free reading filter
  4. Borrow the Book

    Once on the book’s page, you’ll see a button that says “$0.00 Kindle Unlimited.” Click that and then make sure that the correct device is selected in the dropdown menu, then click the button that says “read for free” on the right side of the screen. The book should now appear in your Kindle library on your Amazon device or in the app within a few minutes.

    read for free

How to Use Kindle Unlimited on Your Kindle Device

If you have a Kindle device, you’ll probably want to download your books directly from the e-reader without having to bother with additional devices. Fortunately, doing so is pretty straightforward.

  1. Search for a Book or Author

    Starting from the Kindle home screen, tap the search bar on the top and type the name of a book or author that you want to download.

    kindle home screen
  2. Borrow the Book

    Once on the book’s page, simply tap the button that says “read for $0.00.” When you return to your library, you should see your new book on the top of the list.

    kindle device borrow book

Final Thoughts: Kindle Unlimited

With that, we’ve reached the end of our Kindle Unlimited guide. Hopefully it’s helped you understand what the service is and how it works. For our money, we think it’s a decent service, but its value will depend entirely on your individual reading habits.

If you already have a Kindle Unlimited subscription but aren’t happy with what it offers, it’s easy enough to cancel your membership. However, if you need help, check out our guide on how to cancel Kindle Unlimited.

What did you think of our guide to Kindle Unlimited? Did we answer all your questions, or are there things that we missed? If you’ve tried Kindle Unlimited, we’d love to hear from you about your reader experience. Leave your comments down below and, as always, thank you for reading.

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