All the major news sites in the last couple of days have carried the story that Amazon has just bumped its minimum order amount to qualify for free shipping for non-Prime customers. It used to be just $25, then it rose to $35. Now it’s a $49 minimum, or just $25 worth of books—and any order with $25 worth of books included will ship free even if it doesn’t otherwise reach $49.

It makes a certain amount of sense, when you think about it. Shipping is one of Amazon’s biggest expenses—a whopping $1.8 billion in 2015, up 37% from the year before—and since Amazon Prime members get free two-day shipping, and are considerably more frequent customers than non-Prime subscribers, it kind of makes sense. Amazon’s already bumped the price of Prime membership to $99, and now it’s passing on a share of the expense to non-Prime subscribers, too. (Small wonder Amazon is looking at going into the air cargo business. As much money as it spends on shipping, it might be considerably cheaper for the company to do it itself.)

Given how many Prime subscribers Amazon has by now, it’s probably not too worried it might lose that much revenue from non-subscribers—especially since at least some of them will be moved to upgrade to Prime membership rather than continue having to play games with their order totals.

Meanwhile, this is a potent reminder of one of the big advantages that e-books have over paper books—you don’t have to order $25 worth of them at a time to get “free shipping”!


  1. My buying directly from Amazon went down when free shipping went from $25 to $35. I suspect it will go down even more now. It’s increasingly not worth the trouble of patching together enough things I don’t really want to hit that free shipping point.

    For me, Amazon is becoming what physical stores used to be for Amazon. I go there to find a product, read the reviews, and then hunt for it somewhere else with a better price or shipping terms. I shop thrift stores every week and recently picked up a cable modem at 1/10 Amazon’s price. I use to buy from Amazon only when a price briefly becomes exceptionally low. I use AliExpress, with its free shipping, to buy cheap, made in China stuff direct from the source at about 1/3 Amazon’s price.

    Almost all I’m getting now from Amazon are used books and, since I have to pay $3.99 for shipping direct from the bookstore, free shipping isn’t an issue.

    I’m no more interested in signing up for Prime than I’d take a discounting “deal” from a crack cocaine dealer. The best way to avoid addictions is to stay away from anything that encourages them. Prime is the crack cocaine of shoppers. It’s being penny-wise with shipping but pound-foolish with buying.

    –Mike Perry

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail