Surviving the 'Rona

Surviving Coronavirus: Kindle Unlimited

So I started a Kindle Unlimited trial at the back end of last year – the trial is about to end, so I thought now was a good time to do a little review, plus given the situation that we’re in at the moment, where people may have more time on their hands to read books but less money to spend on them, then it seemed like a good time to do a little recap. The first thing to note with this – as will any free trial – is that you need to diarise when you need to cancel your trial so that you don’t get charged if you don’t want to. I use Google Calendar for this – with a note on the actual date and a string of reminders ahead of time to make me do something. It’s also good if you have an annual subscription to something at a special rate that you want to haggle with to keep rather than pay the full price (hello New York Times). So my first point is that it’s only free if you remember to cancel it. And if you don’t cancel it, it’s only worth having if you are using it, so you need to work out a way of keeping track of what you’re reading. I’ve done this by creating a tag in Goodreads that I add to books from the service that I finish. It also really helped with writing this post!

Covers of Left-Handed Death, The Case of the Famished Parson, He Dies and Makes No Sign and The Colour of Murder

Next a quick primer for those who don’t know: how does Kindle Unlimited (KU) work? Well it’s a bit like a library – you can borrow up to ten books at a time from the included titles. And it’s super easy to know which titles are include because if you’re in the programme it’ll prioritise the option to read with Kindle Unlimited over the option to buy, and if you’re not in the programme it’ll be asking you if you want to read it for free by starting a trial. Once you’ve finished a book, you return it – and if you’re at the limit it’ll then let you borrow another one. If you belong to a library that does ebook loans via Libby this may sound familiar to you, but the difference is that the loans don’t have an expiry (you’ve got them til you give it back) and when you do give it back, it disapears from your Kindle completely – unlike libby loans which stay there and just tell you the loan has ended if you try to read it after the end of your loan.

Covers of Answer in the Negative, Murder in the Mill-Race and the Case of the Demented Spiv

So, how have I got on? So far (with about a week to go of the trial) Kindle Unlimited I’ve read 23 books and threehave them have been written about in Book of the Week posts (Murder by Matchlight – which also is about KU title Murder in the Mill Race), Answer in the Negative and Case of a Demented Spiv). I’ve also binged on a couple of series from Beth Byers – one of which I’m sure I’ll get around to writing about at some point soon. But it is a bit of a process of trial and error. Some of the stuff is really good, some of it is… less so. I’ve had a few total failures, but I’ve got better at working out from the description whether things are going to work for me or not.

Collage of my current KU titles

My perception before I tried the service was that it was mostly authors that I’d never heard over but there are some big names available – the Harry Potter books are currently in KU.  However I’ve found it’s particularly good for finding and trying forgotten Golden-Age Crime writers – as you may have noticed from the BotW. I’ve also found its handy to check back regularly to see if titles by authors you like have gone in (or out) of the programme. For example there is a different selection of George Bellairs novels available this week than there was last time I checked, there’s a  Molly Thynne novel now that wasn’t there when I checked when I returned the one I read last week. There’s a Rhys Bowen standalone novel currently available and there’s a rotating selection of British Library Crime Classics books available. I have had less sucess so far with romance and non-fiction, but perhaps that’s because I’ve read less of them using KU so far so the algorhythm isn’t suggesting the right things to me.

I still haven’t quite decided if I’m going to pay for it monthly – and if I do i’ll have to keep it under review to make sure I’m using it enough, because goodness knows I already have a lot of books to read, but I’ve enjoyed it while I’ve had it. If you’ve got KU, please put your recommendations in the comments!

Happy Reading!

books, The pile

Book pile rationalisation

A Bank Holiday weekend bonus post for you – on my recent “rationalisation” of the to-be-read pile.  When I was little, when mum wanted us to have a tidy up and clear out of our rooms, she would call it a rationalisation.  I think this was mostly because Little Sister and I were extremely loath to throw anything away, so if we thought that we’d have to we’d kick up a stink.  But a rationalisation was different (or so my mum said) we were just looking to make sure we had what we needed – no duplication etc.  She’s cunning my mum.  Thus a clear out for me is always called a rationalisation.  It sounds less scary, less final – more productive.

So my to-read pile has got a little out of hand – even for me, so on a recent Saturday night, after I’d finished the book that I was reading I had a round of the 50 pages and out reading challenge to help get the to-read bookshelf down.  The challenge is fairly self-explanatory – you give a book 50 pages – and if you’re not hooked or don’t care by that point you can give it up and put it on the charity shop pile.  Some of the books didn’t need 50 pages.  This doesn’t mean that they’re bad books, it just means they’re not for me.  Often it means they come under the “Verity tries to kid herself that she’ll read literary fiction” banner.  Because we all know that if given a choice, I’ll go for romance, or crime, or historical fiction, or comic fiction over award winning books.  You’ve seen my Week in Books posts, you know the score.

A pile of books
Some of the 50-pages and out victims – nothing wrong with them, just not for me.

Then I took to the piles behind the sofa.  I did this while The Boy was at work, so he couldn’t see how bad it had got.  I have a magpie’s eye for books.  I’m always picking up more and I have various different sources for them – many are second hand, or review copies – so I often haven’t paid anywhere near jacket price for them.*  I yank them all out, inspect what’s there, hope there aren’t any duplicates in the pile (it has happened) and then have a weed.  What literary fiction have I picked up thinking “I’ll read that some day” and then ignored in favour of pretty much everything else?  Which books are in there by an author that I’ve got fed up of or have overdosed on?  Which ones would I take on holiday with me to read, and then end up ignoring them in favour of the Kindle all week?*** Which are later books in series that I could read if only I pulled my finger out and read the earlier ones?  Which have been sitting in that pile for ages, not getting moved onto the to-read bookshelf because there’s always something I fancy more?  Which, if I’m being really very honest with myself, am I never going to get around to?

I’m not good at this part.  But I don’t have time to give all of these 50 pages.  I keep make a new pile of candidates for the 50-pages and out challenge – the ones where there is a realistic chance that I’ll like them enough to keep reading –  and give that a prime spot near the front of the sofa arm..  But some, after careful consideration, I move straight to the charity shop bag.   Then I reform the piles – trying to move some of the older stuff to the top, to sort it into genres and sizes and hide it all behind the sofa again.

A bag of books in front of a bookshelf
One bag of books in front of the to read shelf after the sofa pile cull. The photos meant to be arty…

I hate admitting that I won’t read some of these books, that my eyes are too big for my stomach in book terms.  But having a rationalisation does usually put the brakes on my aquisitions a little bit because I feel so guilty about the big stack of stuff that’s still waiting to be read.  I could – in a very real sense – keep myself stocked up for books for months without having to buy any more, but we all know I don’t have that will power.  So I sort, I give the excess to one of a series of charity shops I like around town, and then I make an effort to try and read from the pile for a few weeks.  Or that’s the idea at any rate…


*Which is obviously a good thing or I’d be wasting money hand over fist,** which wouldn’t be good.

**I do sometimes wonder if the to-read pile would be any better if I did have to pay for all my books, and then I remember that when I moved to Essex I took 7 books with me, and when I moved back to Northamptonshire 3 years later I brought nearly 80 back with me – and that was after having held a cull before moving and having got rid of some as I went a long.  So having to pay full price doesn’t stop the book acquisition – even when (as I was at that point) I have a *very* tight budget.

*** It happens.  I take something literary fiction-y on holiday with me to force myself to read it, and then I end up ignoring it in favour of the kindle – reading backlog or buying more books in series – and then bring it home, unread, but well travelled.