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Is Amazon Prime worth it?

That’s a fair question after Amazon raised the annual fee last year to $99, and then announced earlier this month that only two adult members within your household could share an account.

While the new limits initially upset some customers, it’s worth noting that some of the new changes aren’t all bad.

Up until now, secondary members — people added to a Prime account by the main user — were never able to access all of the program’s perks. In fact, while they were able to enjoy free two-day shipping, they couldn’t do anything else, like watch Prime Instant Videos on their tablet or borrow books from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.

However, that has changed through the introduction of Amazon Households, which extends those perks — and more — to secondary users.

amazonprimeBut just because you can receive these perks, doesn’t mean you will automatically get them. It requires signing up for Amazon Household, which takes some patience and cooperation within your family to get up and running. Over the past few days, I’ve been experimenting with the program, and while it seems like there’s still some kinks to work out, I highly recommend it to take full advantage of your Prime account.

Amazon has step-by-step directions online for how to create a Household account, which is free to sign up as someone else in your house has Prime.

Please refer to Amazon’s directions for specifics, but know that in order to get started, the first thing that must happen is that the main Prime holder must enter your email address and password into their account. Once that is done, the secondary user must also go online to change their settings to enable content sharing. This is much easier to do from a computer, and can’t be accomplished from Amazon’s mobile app. (Note: You must also have your own logins and accounts.)

In my opinion, the biggest benefit of doing this is not access to the free e-books through the lending library, or access to videos, but the ability to share the tons of e-books you’ve bought over the years. (It also allows you to share apps from the Amazon Appstore if you purchase them).

Don’t worry, the person’s entire book collection won’t suddenly flood on to your Kindle.

Rather, the books are stored in the cloud. On my Kindle, that meant going to the menu and selecting “View Archived Items” to see the whole list. In the case of my husband’s Kindle, which is newer than mine, his device actually alerted him to the fact that book sharing had been enabled, and directed him to where they could be viewed.

With these changes, the Kindle experience is more like storing books on a common bookcase and passing them around your house. As soon as sharing was enabled, my husband and eagerly started recommending books to each other — something we hadn’t done for years.

I instantly downloaded a few obvious books, including a John Grisham novel and two of the books from the Jack Reacher series. I also took the opportunity to peruse the bestseller list to see which books were available to borrow for free. With a four-star rating and 1,300-plus reviews, “The Einstein Prophecy” caught my eye. As I clicked to downloaded, I noticed my husband was already borrowing a book. This is where things could get tricky since it gave me permission to “return” his book, even though I wasn’t the one borrowing it. I could potentially see a few fights developing over this feature.

Another downside, or maybe bug, was that while I downloaded two of my husband’s books to my Kindle, I was not able to see them or read them on my iPhone, despite changing my settings online to allow my husband’s content to appear on my phone.

To me, book sharing is the primary benefit, and therefore the only one I tested out thoroughly.

I was able to sign in to the Amazon Instant Video app on my phone and watch content for free, but there are other benefits too, namely access to parental controls on Amazon FreeTime for up to four children; shared Amazon Mom benefits ; and shopping privacy, which hides your purchase history on Amazon.com, so others in your Amazon Household can’t see what you are buying.

The new Household account does not extend to Prime Music or Prime Photos, so I still can’t listen to Amazon’s new streaming music service or upload my phone’s photos to the cloud for free, unfortunately.

With these new added benefits, is Prime worth it?

All in all, that’s a very difficult thing to calculate without assigning a value to every piece of content you watched or read for free, and keeping a running tally. But one easy benchmark to use is that it takes a minimum of about 25 Prime purchases a year to break even on shipping costs alone.

If you and your spouse don’t currently reach that threshold, maybe the ability to share books and access to videos will put you over the edge.

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