With the onslaught of COVID-19 and the need for social distancing, I am trying to figure out a strategy for staying sane (no comment). Even though I’ve worked from home for 20 years, I’m used to getting out and being interactive. I can’t watch TV for long without losing interest. Baseball and football will keep my attention for a while, but I’ll eventually tire of those and start mucking about with my phone.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch up on some reading. I’m currently reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood in hardback. I have The Tiger waiting in the wings, but I’m itching for some classic sci-fi.
Poking around on Amazon, I found some newer books by authors I like. While browsing, I was presented with an advert for Kindle Unlimited, so I went to the information page to check it out. It seemed like some big names were in there, including the Harry Potter books. I tried to find specific titles that were in Kindle Unlimited, but I couldn’t find them in the regular book listings. I also couldn’t browse for the titles without being an active subscriber to the service. Amazon is offering a 2 month plan for free, so I signed up. Once I was added as a subscriber, I sought out some books that were on my mind.
How about ‘Second Foundation’ by Isaac Asimov? I’d read the first 3 books when I was in grad school. It doesn’t exist for Kindle Unlimited. “Alright, how about one of Jim Butcher’s ‘Dresden Files’ books?” Nope, not a one. “Maybe some cyberpunk or cypherpunk titles?” William Gibson? None. Neal Stephenson? Nada. “Well, s–t. How about some old-school sci-fi?” Andre Norton… a few co-authored titles, but none of her good stuff. Arthur C. Clarke? Nice try.
Fine, let’s switch genres. In this crazy time, Stephen King’s The Stand would seem like a fit choice. Nope. Also, none of the Dark Tower books.
Travel? There are the Lonely Planet guides, which would be nice, but I don’t think I’m going to be in Provence or Tuscany in the next year. How about Peter Maile’s classic A Year in Provence? Not a chance.
OK, what does Kindle Unlimited have in those 1 million books they are advertising?
J.K. Rowling. It doesn’t matter what genre you’re searching, she will show up in your results. I read the Potter books to my kids when they came out, but I’m not interested in reading her expanded universe.
Lots of titles that are self-published or authors that wouldn’t crack the NY Times lists in any genre.
Public-domain titles that can be found on the Gutenberg Project site.
Kids chapter books. This seems to be an area where maybe the subscription would work, but it’s hard to convey the joy of a book in electronic form. Especially if you’re trying to limit the amount of screen-time your kids get.
Mommy porn. If you’re into beefcake smut, there’s plenty of it on Kindle Unlimited. In general, there’s a lot of low-effort smut in many of the fiction genres and these titles often show up in the first page of results.
Self-help titles that were relevant in the 1990’s. That’s alright, I don’t really want to read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
After an hour of digging around and finding little of interest, I cancelled the subscription. I’m disappointed that Kindle Unlimited is such a complete mess. Especially considering that books were where Amazon got their start. It’s a great idea, but a horrible execution.