As many of you know, Amazon Prime is the ultimate product bundling deal imaginable because it combines the physical—free shipping for real-world purchases—with digital subscription perks for music, videos, and more. But this week, Amazon took an aggressive step to better compete with standalone subscription services, offering a new variety of Prime offerings by the month.
I’ve subscribed for years, and even with a few price increases over the years, Amazon Prime still very affordable at $99 per year. With this subscription, you can get most Amazon.com purchases delivered to your home in two days for free (with just a small fee for next-day delivery), plus an astonishing array of digital services, which include:
Amazon Video. Unlimited access to movies and TV shows in SD, HD, Ultra HD & HDR (where possible).
Amazon Prime Music. Unlimited streaming from Amazon’s music service, which includes ad-free and personalized radio stations.
Free Kindle books. As a Prime subscriber, you get access to over 1 million Kindle e-books for free, plus the Kindle Lending Library, which lets you borrow one free e-book per month. (Not to be confused withKindle Unlimited, which is a separate paid subscription.)
Those first two are the big digital hooks for most, since competing standalone services—Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, whatever—are typically $9.99 or more each per month. If you’re already shopping at Amazon regularly—and for better or worse, many of us are—then these perks put Amazon Prime over the top. (That neither works on Windows phone is, of course, a source of long-time aggravation.)
But the problem with Prime is that it is only available in a one-year subscription, whereas competing standalone services are all available month-to-month. To close this gap, and convince potential customers that the wide swath of Prime perks is worth consideration, Amazon is now offering two monthly Prime subscriptions. They are:
Amazon Prime (Monthly). This is the annual plan, but month-to-month. That is, you get all of the perks of the yearly Amazon Prime membership, but pay $10.99 per month instead of $99 per year. (So it’s cheaper to get the annual subscription if you can afford it and know you’ll use it all year long.)
Amazon Prime Video. Finally available as a standalone subscription service that can take on Netflix and Hulu, Amazon Prime Video costs $8.99 per month, undercutting those services when you compare functionality. Netflix costs $7.99 to $11.99 per month (where only the most expensive versions offers HD and or Ultra HD) and Hulu is $7.99 (with limited commercials) to $11.99 per month (no commercials).
If you can get a full-blown yearly Amazon Prime subscription, and would take advantage of the shipping perk, that’s obviously still the best choice. But this move signals that Amazon—unlike, say, Microsoft—is serious about keeping its digital media services both competitive and desirable.