Post Updated: 6/27/19 – Amazon’s annual Prime Day blowout sale starts 7/15/19, offering lots of deep discounts on electronics, home goods, fashion, food and drink, kitchen appliances, digital content, and of course Amazon’s own devices. Folks who are already Amazon Prime subscribers are all set to rake in the deals, but given the recent subscription price increase (to $12.99/mo, as of this writing, on 6/27/19) everyone else is asking: is Amazon Prime still worth it?
I have been an Amazon Prime (UK readers, click here) subscriber since the very beginning, so I’ve seen first-hand how the value and benefits of that subscription have changed over the years as well as how important (or not) having a Prime subscription is for Alexa device owners in particular.
Prime + Alexa = Instant, Huge Music Library
When I got my parents their first Alexa device as a gift I knew they’d often want to use it for listening to music. I soon realized that without a Prime subscription, they wouldn’t have a very good Alexa experience. Alexa can play music, but without any music memberships she’s limited to TuneIn and iHeartRadio (service availability varies by country/region), plus whatever digital music you’ve already bought from Amazon. With an Amazon Prime account, Alexa gets access to the entire Prime Music library and can really flex those music command muscles.
The Prime Music library is a subset of the entire catalog of digital music available for sale on Amazon. Prime Music includes over 2 million tracks, which is a lot less than the 40 million+ tracks you get with an Amazon Music Unlimited (UK readers, click here) subscription, but it’s still quite a lot of music and it covers all genres. In my experience Prime Music tends to include less of the most recent releases, but for folks aged 30+ you’ll find plenty of the beloved music of your youth in the Prime catalog.
Prime Music albums and tracks are designated with the Prime logo on their Amazon product pages. Prime members can stream Prime Music while browsing the Amazon site, via the Amazon Music mobile app, or via their Alexa devices. Prime members can also include Prime albums, tracks and artists in custom playlists they create within the Amazon Music app (mobile app, or accessed via the Your Music Library link on the Amazon site). Prime Music also includes “stations”, which are pre-curated libraries of tracks in a single genre or mood. You request them by asking Alexa to “play [name] station on Prime Music.” My favorite Prime station is “stand up comedy”—but be warned: its content is sometimes adult oriented.
Most premium music subscription services run anywhere from $7-10 per month, so at $12.99 Prime isn’t much higher. And music is just the beginning for Prime.
Prime + Alexa = Instant, Huge Video Library
Another Prime benefit is free, unlimited access to the Amazon Prime Video library. As with music, Prime Video is a subset of the entire digital video catalog Amazon offers for sale. In addition to Prime-exclusive series like Bosch, Good Omens and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Prime Video has consistently offered roughly 5.5x as much content as Netflix. Amazon doesn’t release exact numbers, but a quick Google on “Netflix vs. Prime Video” will find many articles detailing the differences between the two services, including catalog size. A similar search with Hulu will show the same thing: Amazon Prime Video’s catalog is MUCH bigger.
As of 2/20/18, Business Insider reports Netflix in the US has about 4,010 movies and 530 TV shows, which means Prime Video offers about 22,000 movies and around 2,900 TV series.
The easiest way to tell if the kinds of shows you like are included in that number is to either browse the Prime Video department on the Amazon site (UK readers click here), or search for the programs and movies you like on the Amazon site, and see how many of them have that little Prime logo next to their titles. You’ll find such hits as History Channel’s Vikings, the Transformers movies, the Twilight series and more there (varies between US & UK), and the library is growing all the time.
Of course the video library makes no difference to those who have voice-only Alexa devices, but for those with one of the devices listed below, the ability to use Alexa voice commands to search and control videos (UK readers click here) is very helpful:
Fire HD 10 tablet + Echo Show dock (US only as of this writing, on 7/13/18)
Fire TV Cube (US only as of this writing)
Netflix and Hulu subscriptions run about $10 per month, and at $12.99 per month Prime gets you more video content than either of those services, plus the music, plus more. Read on.
Prime + Alexa = Instant, Huge Digital Book & Magazine Library
One of the lesser-known benefits of Prime membership is Prime Reading. Prime members get access to a rotating library of Kindle book and magazine content in the Prime Reading library, they also get free access to Audible Channels original audiobook and podcast-type content. In the US, Prime members also receive their choice of a free Kindle First book each month from a selection of 4-6 titles on offer.
The ebook and digital magazine content is accessible via the free Kindle Reader app, which means you don’t have to own a Kindle or Fire device to use them. Alexa can play Audible content for you via voice commands, but she can also read Text-To-Speech (TTS) -enabled Kindle books aloud and will remember where you left off after each listening session, just like with an audiobook. TTS-enabled books are labeled as such on their product pages, in the “details” box where page count, publisher and other details are listed.
Best of all, those where-you-left-off bookmarks are synced across all apps and devices, so you can start listening on your Echo or Dot at home, pick up the book in the Kindle Reader app on your phone or tablet, and then get back to the book for a quick couple chapters back home, before bed.
Other, Non-Alexa-Related Prime Benefits
The major benefit that drew most of us old-timers to Prime membership in the first place is the free, two-day shipping on tens of thousands of “fulfilled by Amazon” products. If you regularly spend over $13 per month in shipping charges on Amazon orders, this benefit alone makes Prime membership a smart and money-saving buy. In all honesty it seems to me like the free shipping is offered on fewer specific products each year and more grocery-type items are shifted out of Prime shipping and into Amazon Fresh/Grocery each year, but Prime shipping still covers all the most popular categories of products so I can still usually find what I want to buy with the Prime shipping option.
Other benefits of Prime (in the US, benefits will vary in other countries) include Prime Pantry (discounted grocery products with free shipping), Prime Wardrobe (a try-before-you-buy clothing order option), Prime Twitch (free and discounted videogame purchases, free and discounted in-game purchases, etc.), early access to new Amazon products and special deals, plus the ability to share your Prime benefits with family/household members.
Bottom Line: Yeah, Prime’s Still A Great Deal
As I said at the start, I’ve been a Prime member since the program first launched. I have renewed every year without hesitation, even though I must admit I only use a fraction of all the benefits Prime gets me. I’m one of those who’s getting her money’s worth on the free shipping alone, but I do take advantage of Prime Video, Prime Music and the Kindle First books pretty regularly.
In my opinion, the best and most value-packed bundle to get the maximum access and use of both Alexa technology AND Amazon Prime is any Fire TV device + Prime membership. The Fire TV device offers easy access to Prime videos and Twitch content, and it can play your Prime music—and display lyrics, where available, on your attached TV’s screen as well. The Prime Reading content is accessible via the free Kindle Reader app which you can run on your preferred device or use in a browser window on the Amazon site itself.
Reviews have been mixed on the new Fire TV Cube so far, but reviews on the Fire TV stick with Alexa Remote (UK readers click here) and Fire TV Streaming Box (UK readers click here) have remained consistently high.