Kindle Unlimited: Not Worth Your Money

Have you heard?  Netflix for books has arrived!  Amazon now offers a new service called Kindle Unlimited.  For a nominal fee of $9.99/month ($119.88) you can “enjoy unlimited access to over 600,000 titles and thousands of audio books on any device.” Sounds excellent, right?  Sorry, no.  It’s not worth your money.  Here’s why:

    • Borrowing books, not buying them…so there is a limit on how many you can have out a time.
    • Not included in Amazon Prime
    • Do not have access to all Kindle books
    • Better/More Popular selection available for FREE through your local public library using the app OverDrive.
    • Not a new, innovative idea

Borrowing Books, Not Buying Them Did you actually read the all the fine print or just watch the sailboat video?  I’ll say it plainly so there are no questions: you are borrowing books, not buying them.  The subscription service is not “get unlimited books for $10/month”, it is “borrow 10 books at time, as frequently as you want for $10/month”.  That’s right, you’re actually restricted to “ten books at a time and there are no due dates.”  While the restriction seems logical…it’s not so awesome if your family shares an Amazon account. A caveat of borrowing Kindle books is this: once you return the book, any annotations and notes you make are gone.  Technically, they are inaccessible because they are saved as a separate file on your Kindle, so if you borrow the book again your notes will be there…as long as you didn’t accidentally delete the “letter” that states your rental expired.

Not Included In Amazon Prime Kindle Unlimited is not added into the Amazon Prime subscription.  It’s an extra cost.  However, if you have Amazon Prime and a Kindle, each month you can read free books through the Kindle First and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (about 500,000 titles).

Do Not Have Access to All Kindle Books Did you read the first paragraph thoroughly or did you just skim right over the 600,000 titles number? Or did the difference simply not register?  Amazon boasts “over 1 million books are available for the Amazon Kindle”.  Let’s do some simple math: 1,000,000-600,000=400,000 Kindle books that Amazon has that are not available for Kindle Unlimited. So what accounts for the large difference? Five major publishing houses opted not to participateSimon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, MacMillan, and Penguin.  So while Scholastic and HoughlinMifflin Harcourt are participating, there is a noticeable lack of New York Times Bestsellers.

Better/More Popular Selection Available through OverDrive and Your Local Library OverDrive is a free app that you can download to your iPad/iPhone/iPod, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle, Nook, Mac, and Windows.  Once downloaded, you log into OverDrive using your library card and pin/password that was given to you at the library.  If you have any trouble with this, consult your local library. Be advised: the availability of books for you may differ from someone else as availability depends on what subscription your public library has with OverDrive. You can filter search results by format: Audio book, Adobe ePub, OverDriveREAD, Adobe PDF EBook, and Kindle.  Yes, you can borrow several Kindle books through OverDrive that are unavailable through Kindle Unlimited.

Not a New Concept There are already a few eBook subscriptions sites available: Scribd, Oyster, and Entitle, just to name a few.

Not Worth Your Money So, why is Amazon charging an extra $9.99/month to borrow books that I can digitally borrow on my iPad through OverDrive and my local public library for free?  It’s a great business endeavor for them, but bad for the consumer.  You’re better off either buying the ebooks, borrowing for free from your local library, or using a different subscription service that actually has some of the top publishing houses.

Book Crawler: Keep Track of Your Own Library

Have you ever bought a book only to come home and find out you already had it?  No?  Well, then have you ever found a book in a series but you weren’t sure if you had it, passed it by, and then returned home only to find out you didn’t have it?  Still no?  Hmm, you must not be a bookworm or have your own physical library.

I have lots of books.  I have two encyclopedia sets (one Britannica one from the 70s and one called the Great Books of the Western World), a leather-bound book collection, mass market paperbacks from several favorite authors, popular fiction I’ve read, a lengthy “to read” shelf, textbooks from undergraduate and graduate school, textbooks for tutoring, graphic novels, etc.  My children’s books are currently in storage.  Like I said, I have lots of books.

I’ve always wanted to digitally keep track of my library; however, I did not have the funds to purchase card catalog software (though if I had, I would have years ago!).  Thankfully, I didn’t because I’ve found a smartphone app that scans the ISBN bar code of a book and populates an entry for me to keep track of each and every book (since it populates from WorldCat).  It’s called Book Crawler.

Book Crawler is available for the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch ($1.99) and the Mac Desktop. The free/lite version of Book Crawler limits you to only 25 books.  I use Book Crawler on my iPhone and iPad.  The app is perfect; I can scan each book (that has a bar code, I will have to manually create new entries for all the leather-bound books and encyclopedia sets) and add any additional information I want to the entry.  I can add the price I paid for the book, whether I own it, the genre, have read it (and the date I read it or just put “a long time ago…”), have multiple editions of the same book, the medium (Kindle, paperback, hardcover, audio, etc.) plus several custom fields.  But what I REALLY like is the ability to classify the series it belongs to, including the order number.

I can delete any information that is populated from scanning the bar code and/or add any information.  This is great because sometimes the populated information isn’t specific enough for me or it doesn’t match others in the same series and thus, the database thinks this new book is a different series.  For example, one author I like to read is Debbie Macomber.  She has a series she calls “Dakota”.  Two of the books scanned with “Dakota” as the series, but another used “Buffalo Valley”.  It is a common reference to the series.  However, I wanted to keep the series name consistent, so I changed it to “Dakota”.

I like the ability to create Collections as well.  This allows me to separate my cookbooks.  Collections can be a smart list so I can specify a “Sparks Notes” Collection by publisher or content for my graphic novels.  I can also tag content in the books.  Right now I am not tagging content, mostly because of the sheer number of books and it’s not a priority.  But since I can go back and edit this, I may add tags in the future.

An excellent time-saving feature of Book Crawler is the ability to set defaults for my entries.  For example, if I am scanning all the books I own, I can set the default to of “Own” to on.  Why would it be anything else?  Perhaps you want to keep track of every book you ever read…including library books.  And since I’m scanning books I’ve already read, I’ve got that default set in the on position as well.  Lastly, since most of my books are paperback, I’ve got that default set to on as well.

When I first started scanning books using Book Crawler, I frequently got an error message that it couldn’t find the book.  I would have to manually enter the information in.  It quickly grew tedious and time-consuming on an iPhone to do so.  I have found three things that together solved the problem.  First, and most importantly, there is a difference between the UPC bar code on the back of the book and the ISBN bar code on the inside flap of a mass market paperback.  Book Crawler needs the ISBN bar code.  If there is no other bar code than the back of the book (like with a hard cover book), then chances are the ISBN bar code and the UPC bar code are intertwined.  Secondly, the default scanning program that Book Crawler uses is not that good.  It has trouble reading the ISBN bar codes.  Book Crawler recommends that you download pic2shop, a free bar code scanning program that integrates with Book Crawler.  I have found the recognition rate to be much higher.  Lastly, I have found that, on occasion, Book Crawler can take up to a minute to populate the entry with scanned information.  On the times the information is not found instantaneously, I begin filling out any information that I want that won’t be populated, like if I have read the book, how much I paid for it, etc.  Generally, after about 3 fields, the information is populated.

Now that I have Book Crawler running smoothly, I am excited to scan all my books.  I typically scan on my iPhone, however, if I want to use my iPad, the Book Crawler database does not automatically sync.  I have to back up the database to Dropbox (an excellent feature) on my iPhone and then download the backup on my iPad.  It takes a couple of minutes to do, but it’s not a big deal once I have it initially setup.

Book Crawler is essentially my own electronic card catalog for my own library!

“14 Things that are obsolete in 21st century schools”

The following article was published by Ingvi Hrannar Ómarsson, an Icelandic elementary teacher & Entrepreneur, on his blog,

The Time Keeper

As I have mentioned before, I have a Kindle and an iPad in which I read books on.  Recently, I renewed my public library card so I could borrow Kindle books.  I figured the book selection may not be diverse, but hey, it couldn’t hurt to browse the selection, right?  So, as a test/trial run I borrowed the first book that I recognized that I hadn’t read: Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper.

Now, I read Tuesdays with Morrie when it was first published.  I’ve seen the movie version of The Five People You Meet in Heaven.  I figured I was in a for a bit of a “tugging at your heart-strings” book.  It took me a couple of chapters to get the rhythm of the book down, but once I did, it was hard to stop reading.

It was a simple story, about a man named Dor who was the first human to count time who was then “cursed” to hear the cries of the people of Earth who wished for time to slow down or speed up, the cries for yesterday and for tomorrow.  For 6,000 years he endured this curse, only to be released and find out the job wasn’t quite finished.  He learned a few valuable lessons about time during his tenure in the cave and he had two to teach the lessons to two certain people while adjusting to a planet that had…changed…quite a bit in 6,000 years.  One of the characters that Dor had to help was the stereotypical teenager girl who was treated horribly by a guy and the other person Dor had to help was a man trying to cheat death by choosing cryostasis.

I don’t want to give away the ending, but if you’ve read any of Mitch Albom’s books, you know there are many lessons and many layers to his books.  I planned on reading this book just to see how borrowing a Kindle book worked on my iPad’s Kindle app, but I couldn’t avoid the lessons Albom’s book had in mind.  There were two that resonated within me.

The first:

There was always a quest for more minutes, more hours, faster progress to accomplish more in each day.  The simple joy of living between sunrises was gone.

The second:

With endless time, nothing is special.  With no loss or sacrifice, we can’t appreciate what we have.

The End of the Public Library?

What do former First Lady Pat Nixon, former Michigan Gov. William Milliken, Astronaut Neil Armstrong, Isaac Asimov, Dr. Seuss, and E.B. White all have in common?

They wrote letters to the patrons of Troy Public Library in when it opened in 1971.  Marguerite Hart, the library’s first children’s librarian, wrote to numerous public officials and popular writers requesting letters of encouragement to the children at the library.

Thirty years later, my city’s public library is scheduled to close.  The threat of closure has survived two elections of misleading ballot information and smear campaigns.  City Council meetings ran past midnight with child after child pleading the city council not to close the library.  August 2nd, 2011, is its last chance.  This time the verbiage is clear: “The city is requesting a 0.7-mill property tax over five years, which will cost about $70 per home. If the millage is passed, the library will be able to stay open 55 hours a week,” (Pittman).  I’ve voted the past two times to keep the library open and I will vote the same way again.  In the last election the millage was voted down by 51% of voters.  The city is divided, full of misleading information.  The fog has cleared – and it is now or never.

One group, Safeguarding American Families” is so against raising taxes to pay for the library (even though he’s not even a Troy resident) that he posted signs all around Troy that say, “Vote to Close Troy Library — Book Burning Party Aug. 5,” (Laitner).  There is even a Facebook Page for it: Book Burning Party.  Although they claim there won’t be actual burning of books, its strong message still gets across.  Almost dangerously because it is so extreme, many people will vote yes to save the library because they are so against burning books.  Extremes put things into perspective, and I’m not sure just what Tom Ball’s objective is, but he is a radical progressive.

The argument against the millage isn’t that people want to close the library – but they feel the city is misappropriating money that it should use for the library.  I agree.  However, misappropriation of funds is a different issue entirely – one that should be addressed not with the library as a pawn.  For instance, “City Manager John Szerlag makes $247,500 in ‘pay and perks,’” (Laitner).  Does he really need “a $130,473 salary, and receives a $75,178 pension for prior service and gets a $5,100 car allowance,”?  Absolutely not.  Should the city force water restrictions on its residents when it operates an aquatic center?  Probably not.  But city politics is not a mountain I want to conquer.  I just want to keep the public library open.

Is the Troy Public library worth this fight, or is it somewhat antiquated?  How many universities still have libraries?  All of them.  Libraries adapt to changing technology and provide access to computer and internet for those who cannot afford it.  For parents who don’t have $149 to buy a kindle and more money for books on top of that price that they will be unable to sell at a garage sale or the higher amounts of money for a Nook, an iPad, or other eReaders, physical books at a public library is still the best choice.  The Troy Public Library not only has a large children’s and adult’s section, but a large number of CDs, DVDs, and video games that residents can borrow.  They have a small used book store in the basement of the Library where you can buy books for a couple bucks and the money goes towards the improvement of the library.  You can reserve conference rooms, grab a snack, or even have lunch.

Troy has already dropped its nature center from its budget.  It now operates under a nonprofit and functions as a park (the buildings have closed).  I used to volunteer there every Saturday when I was a kid.  In March, I helped make maple syrup.  I’ve laid down woodchips, cleaned animal tanks, hiked the trails, studied nature, and learned about various subjects.  The City has also dropped most the Troy Museum’s funding.  This is a wonderful, small village of buildings that have been moved from various locations in Troy and tells its history.  I can walk through a log cabin, a one-room school house, a wagon shop, and a church all within a few feet of each other.  In college, I interned at the museum one summer.

My childhood is tied to Troy – including the library.  I used to walk the mile or so from my house with my family to borrow books.  Of course, I took forever to choose a few books.  I still do, even when I go to Barnes & Noble.

The Troy Public Library is not antiquated and needs to stay open.  It’s currently defining the childhoods of the next generation.  And the last thing I want to teach them is that the fundamentals and the past don’t matter.  I enjoy reading a book on my iPad, but there is still just something so magical with picking up a paperback book, curling up, and getting ink on my fingers.




Pittman, Asija. “Troy library rediscovers letters that marked its beginning –” Daily Tribune : Breaking news coverage for southeastern Oakland County, Michigan. N.p., 6 July 2011. Web. 14 July 2011.

Laitner, Bill. “Plan for a book-burning party is the latest salvo in Troy library battle.” Detroit Free Press. N.p., 14 July 2011. Web. 14 July 2011.