Amazon Prime membership is going up almost 17%. That's sudden sticker shock for 126 million people, the kind that makes you take a pause and wonder, "Why am I paying for this?"
Before you dump Amazon Prime, though, listen to me: it's probably still worth it.
I can't lie, my initial reaction was, "What?! Amazon is raising the yearly subscription rate for Amazon Prime by $20? That's insane. Who does that?"
Amazon does that.
It took a beat for me to calm down and realize that amortized across 12 months, it's just $1.60 more a month. Then I remembered how Netflix just raised its monthly rates by roughly $2 a month at its top tier.
Inflation, it seems, is not just for our bread, milk, and gas, it's hitting the tech and media-consumption sector, too.
Now that I've stopped banging my head on the table in frustration, I can step back and think about what Amazon currently offers for $139 a year (or $11.50 a month).
Why Amazon Prime, anyway?
I think back to the days when Amazon was just an upstart online bookseller, staring down Waldens and Barnes and Noble edifices across the country. We thought it remarkable, how one virtual store could house so many books and quickly ship them almost anywhere in the world.
It all seems so quaint now.
Today, Amazon sells almost anything you can think of and most of it can arrive at your home in 48 hours or less. But the benefit of Amazon Prime is that, for millions of items, it ensures two-day free delivery (along with constant email updates about when your product shipped and when someone dropped it on your doorstep).
With our shut-in, pandemic-reliance on having all things delivered, it was hard to put a price on this. When we wouldn't venture outside for a package of toilet paper, we could often find thousands of squares to spare on Amazon.
Beyond anecdotal evidence, we know that Amazon founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos made $75 billion at the height of the pandemic in 2020. That realization can, for many, create some unwanted tension between the convenience of Amazon Prime and the realization that you're making the worlds' richest man even richer.
If you can put that aside, though, there is even more value in Prime beyond a vast online store and almost instant delivery.
15 years ago, when Amazon Prime video launched as Amazon Unbox, no one knew it would become a TV and movie studio in its own right. That it would produce binge-worthy hits like The Boys and Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or Oscar-worthy films like The Sound of Metal.
I admit to watching all of these shows, along with classic content and movies on the platform. It's probably not as deep as Netflix or as IP-rich as Disney+, but it has its charms and is part of the Amazon prime whole. Also, there is the Lord of the Rings thing.
Similarly, I take advantage of the free monthly books, music (I could get more current music with Amazon Music Unlimited, but I refuse to pay for yet one more music streaming service), and ready answers of all kinds of facts and trivia from Amazon Alexa (as well as control over a lot of my smart devices).
I do not shop Whole Foods, but admit I have considered switching to the huge and somewhat granola-ey grocer for the member-only deals. Amazon Prime will even store all of my full-resolution photos (you do need an app).
There are clothes through Wardrobe that let you try before you buy, the new Pharmacy prescription service (I have some to fill and am anxious to try), and, of course, the shopping extravaganza known as Amazon Prime Day - that inescapable e-commerce Festivus that threatens to blot out the online shopping sun. However, it only does so if you are a member. If you don't pay for Amazon Prime, you don't gain access to those deals, especially the wild flash sales that offer some truly impressive discounts.
Yes, I speak from experience and, no, I'm not ashamed of it.
Why the hike?
Amazon will spend at least $11 billion on Prime Video in 2022. But that's just a small part of the Amazon expenses pie. As Amazon noted in its earnings release (where it semi-buried the news about the membership increase), it faces rising costs in Wages (more and more of the Amazon workforce is looking at unionization to secure better wages and working conditions), and shipping costs. On the latter, people around the world have pushed Amazon's shipping infrastructure to the brink, but somehow it hasn't fundamentally broken.
There's no denying that this is a big hike, but few online services offer as many features for the monthly price. Netflix isn't offering to ship you anything in two days. Disney+ doesn't throw in a discount to Disney World. Amazon is, for now, the only online smorgasbord of services deal in town. And it's still worth it.
[Updated to reflect Amazon's confirmation to TechRadar that these rate hikes only affect U.S. Prime customers]
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.