Amazon Announces Prime Reading

Even as the latest sales numbers say digital reading is heading into a slump, Amazon is releasing a feature for Prime members the company hopes will encourage more digital content consumption: free digital books.

Beginning in early May, subscribers to Amazon’s Prime service can pick from “more than 1,000” books, magazines, and comics — all digital — through Prime Reading, and they can do so absolutely free.

Examples of the selections available include some of the Harry Potter books, The Hobbit, 1984 and the Boxcar Children series, as well as a selection of popular magazines like Sports Illustrated and National Geographic.

Prime Reading is just one more feature to entice users to cough up $100 for the annual membership which offers more than 20 added features including free two-day shipping, discounted same-day delivery and access to hours and hours of free streaming video content.

All these perks have people loving Amazon. Both consumers and investors are smiling as big as the logo on those eponymous shipping boxes. And it’s not surprising, considering Amazon’s market value is nearing $400 billion. That valuation adds Amazon to some rare company, including Apple, Alphabet (Google), and Microsoft.

But the real success story here is how Amazon got here. Through a combination of superior customer service, tech innovation, and targeted re-investing, Jeff Bezos’ company turned a scorned idea into one of the biggest game changers in the world.

As crazy as it may seem now, not that long ago, people laughed at the idea that online booksellers could put a dent in the brick-and-mortar businesses of malls and massive big box bookstores. Turns out, the only laughing matter here is that Amazon wasn’t only targeting books. They wanted to make it easier for people to find and buy just about anything.

Thanks to this customer-first approach and to Bezos’ commitment to investing profits back into the company long past the point at which many CEOs would be comfortable, Amazon is now a behemoth international company that is changing the way consumers operate on a daily basis.

Think about it. People would never order books online. And they did. By the millions. Then people wouldn’t order other stuff online. But they have. In facts, countless people have made a career selling products to each other through Amazon … and many of these people don’t even stock the products they sell.

And Amazon kept growing, kept innovating. New ways to buy and sell. New ways to watch movies… Ten years ago, would anyone have believed how fast they would give up DVDs? Likely not. But, as Apple revolutionized how people do music, Amazon helped transform how people watch video. So, while the trends might be against them with reading, they are giving something to their eReading customers that they didn’t expect, but will likely appreciate. Which has more or less been Amazon’s MO from the start? giving something.

David Milberg is a credit analyst in NYC.