New subscribers will have to pay the new rate, as will anyone renewing a subscription — although students can get discounted membership for $49.
Folks who sign up or renew in the next week can also lock in the $79 rate for a year.
Amazon Prime has changed a lot in the last decade. When it launched, it was just a free 2-day shipping service for about a million eligible items from the US store. Now you can still get free 2-day shipping, but the plan includes over 20 million items.
Amazon also lets Prime subscribers in the US stream more than 40,000 movies and TV episodes for no additional charge using the Prime Instant Video service. And Amazon Prime members can also borrow a book a month to read on a Kindle using the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which includes about half a million titles.
So it’s not like you don’t get anything for that extra $20… but I suspect folks who only use the service for free shipping or for online video will be a bit miffed that Amazon doesn’t offer an option to pay just for the services you want.
There are alternatives. A Netflix streaming video subscription is now a cheaper option than Amazon Prime, at $7.99 per month, or just under $96 per year. And online retailer Newegg has launched its own free shipping program for $50 per year.
But I don’t think there’s anybody in a position to offer the same range of services bundled with a single subscription as Amazon. Word on the street is that the company also plans to launch an online music streaming service to rival Spotify and Rdio and bundle it with Amazon Prime.
That could help explain the price hike… although the same rumors suggest the service might be a bit more limited, possibly only allowing users to listen to specific songs a limited number of times before prompting them to buy that track from the Amazon MP3 store.