Our Reading Lives

Breaking Up with Kindle Unlimited: Not Forever, Just for Now

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It was about three weeks into self-isolation when I made a decision I’d been waffling with for months. This time, I was really going to do it.

I would read all the books I have borrowed from Kindle Unlimited (and maybe some of the ones I’d added to a special Amazon list that I use when I have 10) and then I’d end my subscription. Not because I don’t love KU—in fact, there are so many books I might not regularly pick up but will take a chance on because I have “free” access to them with the subscription—but because I’m overwhelmed.

I own over 500 print books and ARCs. I also own over 1,000 kindle books and eARCs. All unread.

Read that again: ALL. UNREAD.

Over the course of time, I have weeded the print and Kindle books I’ve decided I would definitely not be interested in reading anymore, but that still leaves a constant stream of books coming into the house and landing onto one of my digital reading devices of choice. I got KU as a free add-on when I decided to save my eyes from the evil iPad screen and get a Kindle. When the three months free were up, I decided it was worthwhile to hold onto based on the selection of books, especially by Black romance authors, that I had access to. I know I could always buy them, but if I played my numbers right, it would definitely be a deal.

Seriously; do you know how many books by Christina C. Jones, and Nicole Falls, and Monica Walters, and Alexandra Warren, and Sherelle Green, and Jack Harbon, and, and, and…I have read in the past 9 months? My life without I Think I Might Love You, or Kitten, or Single AF…I can’t even express how much Kindle Unlimited has helped me dig my elbows into the fresh dough of Black romance.

(All this bread talk has apparently gotten to me, y’all.)

So I added books, and read some and left others, and made a list of others I would read when I had an open space.

But I was still buying books, and checking them out from the library every once in a while. And over the course of working from home over the last month, I found myself slowing down significantly. Whereas some weeks in the past saw me read three or four books, I was lucky to finish one nowadays. And all the new books I wanted to read and squee about in Kissing Books or When In Romance were sitting in dust, waiting for me to grab them.

But there my $10 monthly habit stood, calling for me.

So I decided: I needed a break from a constant feed of content. From the hit of adrenaline whenever a book I was curious about had the little black and orange logo next to it. From wondering every time I saw an author announce a new book if it would be offered. From the mental math of deciding whether I wanted to read something immediately and push something else off the borrowed list, or just add it to the wish list and come back for it later. From wondering if I was reading too many things that only a segment of romance readers were going to want to pick up (because there’s still a significant enough number of people who don’t read via amazon, or digitally at all).

This idea wasn’t a new thing for me; ten thousand years ago in January, I had thought about doing a full year of backlist in 2020 (insert hindsight joke here). After spending the majority of 2019 reading current books for the Ripped Bodice Awards, I had let a lot of older books pass me by. But there are so many new books coming out all the time, and I would not only need to talk about them for work, but some I just NEED in my life. I couldn’t justify going solely backwards, ignoring new releases. But I could definitely pick and choose some titles I’d been ignoring for the past year. They live on my shelves, and in the cloud.

So, Kindle Unlimited and I are going on a break. We’ll have a little more time, going on hopefully successful dates, as I make my way through my borrowed list until this month’s payment expires. And hey, I’ll even keep the wishlist for when we get back together. But I need to stop feeling guilty in both directions, whether it’s looking forlornly at the books I already have as I read a new book in KU, or thinking about that wasted subscription money as I pull more and more books from my physical shelves.

Amazon will survive.

I’m sure I will, too.