How to Make the Most of Your Amazon Prime Membership
The summer sale drew attention to Prime, Amazon's loyalty shopping club where consumers pay $99 a year for unlimited two-day shipping of goods warehoused at one of its distribution centers. With "tens of millions" of subscribers -- Amazon won't offer a more specific tally than that -- there's a good chance that you or someone you know is a member.
There's more to Amazon Prime than free shipping, though. Let's take a look into some of the digital perks that members may be missing out on, possibly saving you money on services that you're paying for now.
There's Always Something on TV
Prime Instant Video was the original online goodie for Amazon Prime shoppers, giving folks streaming access to what was initially a modest vault of old TV shows and obscure movies. Amazon has made some big investments since the platform's launch in early 2011.
It has followed niche leader Netflix (NFLX) into original programming with the Emmy-worthy "Transparent" and more recently "Catastrophe." It also offers some pretty compelling content that isn't available on Netflix, including "Downton Abbey" and several older HBO shows. Its catalog will never be as broad as Netflix's, but when you consider that folks are paying nearly as much for a year of Netflix as they are for a year of Prime, it's a pretty sweet benefit to folks who think that Prime is only about speedy order fulfillment.
Crank Up Some Tunes
Just as Prime Instant Video can save money for some customers of Netflix, Hulu Plus, and possibly even cable television providers, Prime Music does the same to upend Spotify's and Pandora's (P) models.
Prime Music offers streaming access to more than a million tracks that can be played on demand (like Spotify), but it also offers personalized stations like Pandora. Yes, Pandora is free, but Amazon's option is ad-free, something that Pandora users would have to pay $4.99 a month to get.
To be fair, the Prime Music library is a lot smaller than that of the leading music services. It's sorely lacking when it comes to the latest releases. However, with a million songs to choose from, you probably won't have a problem finding something you'll like.
Read All About It
Amazon's most successful product has been the Kindle e-reader, and it's fitting, since the Web-based retailer got its start by selling hardcover and paperback books. Selling the industry's top e-reader has naturally made Amazon a thriving e-book distributor.
Prime users can get in on the fun through the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. Once a month, a Prime member can borrow one of the more than 800,000 e-books that are available under the program. They need to be read on Kindle devices, but it's a fair bet that Amazon Prime shoppers who love to read already own one.
It's a Pretty Picture
The most recent addition to the Prime catalog is unlimited online storage of photos. Amazon Cloud Drive offers online storage and automatic photo backup, with photos viewable on the Internet or through a mobile app for smartphones and tablets.
The benefit doesn't include video clips, since naturally those chunky media files can take up a lot of space. Amazon Prime is generous, but not that generous. However, for those with a growing collection of digital snapshots, it's just the latest neat perk available to the e-tailer's most loyal customers at no additional cost.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Netflix and Pandora Media. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.