Downloading your next book with the touch of your finger is the way to go. Why? Because it’s uber convenient. No more going to a physical store or library, lugging around thick books and losing your place, no looking up words manually in a dictionary, no highlighter needed to capture specific tidbits, no worrying about getting pages wet. eReaders and even reading apps are the durable, convenient, and handy reading solution in our ever-evolving technological world. But that begs the question, where is the best place to buy online books? Your e-book service should offer a wide variety at a minimal cost, that’s a given. But to go with the industry standard of Amazon/Kindle or choose a different service altogether is reminiscent of the Apple/PC or tastes-great/less-filling battles. Crossing the streams is not an option – never cross the streams… unless you have to. So, the decision really comes down to what you’ve already invested in and/or how much time you want to spend to convert these prior purchases. Or, if you don’t have an eReader yet, ask yourself, “will I want to deal with converting later on down the road?”. The big players in this industry have cleverly designed e-book options as somewhat device-proprietary, locking you in to choosing one or the other without the flexibility of (easily) switching later on down the road. You can convert just about any format, but it comes at the expense of your time and possibly needing to pay for software to do so.
Main considerations for e-book services:
We have identified 4 Top Picks as the cream of the crop when it comes to e-book service providers based on price, selection, and device flexibility.
Top 4 Picks
Amazon E-book Services
Kindle e-books Average price around $12.99
Prime Membership Yearly price $119.99
Kindle Unlimited Monthly price $9.99
Amazon, of course, with over 3 million Kindle e-books, comes in as the top dog when it comes to e-books. As the first online book-seller they are the obvious juggernaut in this department having had many years of perfecting their devices and offerings. However, you may be surprised to find they do not always have the best prices for individual books. If you have already started collecting Kindle books you probably want to stay with that ecosystem, with the exception of library books or other free ones that can still be emailed to your device. It’s a pain to convert already purchased Kindle books over to other formats unless you have the right software and enjoy repetitive tasks on top of losing your bookmarks and highlights. Kindle e-books are typically cheaper than their paper equivalents. But depending on how avid a book reader you are and how far-stretching Amazon’s tentacles are around you, you might even have more reasons to choose Amazon. If you are a Prime member, which gives you tons of other perks outside of the book realm, you will incur additional benefits such as free Prime books and Prime member book discounts. Prime memberships include Prime Reading which has around 1,000 editor selected books and magazines to choose from with no monthly limits. Prime members also have access to the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library allowing you one borrowed book per month. Kindle Unlimited members are granted access to over a million books. Both Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited cap your allowance to 10 downloaded books in your account, which you may switch out at any time. Note that many of the Kindle/Amazon e-books also have an Audible option as well so you can switch from reading to listening.
Cons: Individual e-book prices are at times higher than other e-books. Prime Reading books are limited to a specific selection set. The only native formats for all Kindles are .mobi, .pdf & .txt, but accepted formats vary by specific device.
OverDrive Price: Free
OverDrive is a pretty incredible app/service which allows you to access online books from your local libraries using your local library card. OverDrive recently launched a new version of their app called Libby which accesses the same book inventory but through a different interface. There are some benefits to using the older OverDrive app such as Libby’s incompatibility with the Kindle Fire (soon to be addressed). Libby is better suited for downloads on your Android or iOS phone/tablet. OverDrive is compatible with more devices and allows for transfers to MP3 players from computers. Libby is missing the ability to recommend titles for purchase and has minimal accessibility features but intends to roll these out eventually. If you like to read across devices, stick with OverDrive. OverDrive also includes parental controls absent from Libby. Libby is different from OverDrive by having an option to download directly to Kindle rather than to Libby. With the exception of Read or Listen formats, titles you download need to be returned early from the device they were downloaded to. All titles expire automatically after the loan period. Libby makes it easy to switch between library cards or between different libraries by allowing you to switch Library or Cards through the menu. All digital checkouts (even from different libraries) will be displayed in one place for easy access.
Cons: If you are using a Kindle, you can only use OverDrive in the US as Kindle only allows US books.
Scribd Monthly price $8.99
Watch out Amazon, you have a disrupter quick on your heels. Scribd is unique in their subscription service model in that they offer an unlimited monthly plan – making this a strong competitor to both Prime Reading as well as Kindle Unlimited, especially for anyone who wants to read/listen to more than the allotted limits of those services. You read that right, you can download as MANY audiobooks, books, magazines, etc., as you want each month with Scribd, making this a more desirable choice than the 1-per-month Audible subscription. The inventory list for Scribd is huge and their selection is arguably better in quality than what Amazon has to offer. Where Scribd really takes the lead is with audiobooks. They get audiobooks the DAY they are released vs. a slower distribution from the other big players, and you can listen to as many as you would like as opposed to 1 a month. You can try Scribd for free for 30 days.
Cons: You can’t keep any of the downloads when you cancel. E-Book selection is less than Amazon.
BookBub & MyBookFinds Price: Free
While neither of these sites are an e-Book “subscription” site per se, they will notify you of books in your chosen genre that are deeply discounted or available for free from book distributors such as Amazon. All you have to do is sign up with you email and choose your interests to receive targeted daily deals for the genres/subjects you have chosen.
Cons: Some people have mentioned that not enough selection is offered, but for free, it’s hard to complain – much.
Top 4 Comparison Table
|Amazon Services||OverDrive||Scribd||BookBub & |
|Our Review Score||4.5 out of 5||4.8 out of 5||4.4 out of 5||N/A|
|Best Pick For||Largest Selection||Library e-Books||Voracious Readers||Finding Deals|
|Average Price||Individual e-Book – Prices vary Kindle Unlimited – $9.99/month Prime Membership – $119.00/year or $12.99/month||Free||$8.99/month||Free|
|Summary||Amazon is the number one pick for e-Books mainly because of their extensive selection and relatively low prices||OverDrive makes e-Book library rentals free and convenient||A strong competitor to Amazon offering unlimited downloads of e-Books and Audiobooks for a cheaper price – selection is a bit less though||Great for being alerted on discounts or free books you may be interested in|
|Selection of e-Books, Audiobooks, Magazines, Other Readables||Kindle Unlimited – Over 1 million KOLL – 800,000 Prime Reading – Over 1,000||Depends on Library Supply||Over a million||N/A|
|Cross-Device||Yes||OverDrive – Yes Libby – No||Yes||N/A|
|Monthly Download Limits||Kindle Unlimited – Unlimited KOLL – 1 Prime Reading – Unlimited||Per Library||Unlimited||N/A|
|Storage Limits||Kindle Unlimited – 10 titles KOLL – 1 Prime Reading – 10 titles||Per Library||20 titles||N/A|
Are there other e-book services we should have included?
Let us know by recommending your favorite one here.