Amazon Prime’s Free Kindle E-Book List Leans on Filler, Public Domain

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The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library sounds like a good deal, with more than 5,000 Kindle e-books available for free if you have an Amazon Prime subscription. But many of the most popular titles are filler in the form of public domain books, self-help books and video-based workout instructions.

Amazon started offering free e-book rentals through Amazon Prime last week, letting members take out one book at a time in one-month increments. Amazon Prime, which also includes free two-day shipping on most retail items and a Netflix-style streaming video service, costs $79 per year. The top six major U.S. book publishers aren’t participating in the subscription program.

(MORE: Amazon ‘Prime’ Members Now Get Free Kindle E-Book Rentals)

The entire list of free Prime eligible Kindle e-books is now online, as discovered by CNet. After sifting through the top 100 titles, I’ve found that 22 are based on public domain works. In fairness, the rental versions of these books have been abridged by an editor or enhanced with extra features, but the original versions of these classic works—books like Dracula and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—are downloadable from Project Gutenberg,  or directly through a Kindle device without an Amazon Prime subscription.

Toward the middle of the top 100 Lending Library titles, I also found some instructional workout e-books with video components—books like “Hotel Room Workout: The Video Guide,” and “Plyometric Workouts at Home.” These videos won’t be viewable on an e-ink Kindle. Out of the 100 most popular Prime-eligible Kindle e-books, I counted 10 that fell into this category. I also counted 18 books that were of an instructional nature, including cookbooks and self-help books (for instance, Angry Birds: Video Game Guide).

So out of the 100 most popular books in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, roughly half are novels or literary non-fiction.

That’s not to say you won’t find anything worth reading among the Prime eligible free e-books. While sorting through the top 100, I found some gems like Moneyball and Kitchen Confidential. But to find the good stuff, you’ll have to do a lot of digging.

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