Extended Families Not Welcome in Your Amazon Household

We all knew it was coming eventually, and over the weekend Amazon finally dropped the hammer, so to speak. What I’m talking about is Amazon revising it’s Prime rules in regards to “extended families”. Up until now, a paying Amazon Prime subscriber was allowed to include 4 other adults in their Amazon “family”. That meant you could share a Prime account with your family (even if they didn’t live with you), or just friends or roommates. The primary benefit shared was the 2-day free shipping, as many of the other Prime features (unlimited photos, streaming media, etc.) were not shareable.

Back in 2005 Amazon introduced the now ubiquitous Amazon Prime for $79 and at that point it only granted free 2-day shipping. At some point Amazon quietly enabled people to share their Prime membership with up to 4 other Amazon consumers (not sure exactly when, but at least 2010). As they continued to add new features to the Prime service, Amazon began to limit which benefits you received if you were just a hanger-on, as an obvious incentive to get your own Prime membership.

In May of this year, Amazon introduced the Amazon Household, so you could share more Prime benefits such as:

  • Family Library: Share purchased books
  • Prime Instant Video (streaming)
  • Kindle Owners’ Lending Library
  • Prime Early Access
  • and of course, Prime Shipping

So basically, you’re getting to share Kindle purchases and Prime Instant Video. I’d be way more excited about Prime Instant Video if it wasn’t so meh, and what if you don’t use a Kindle? I mean it would be cool if you could share ALL the new add-on features like unlimited photo storage or you could share all media libraries, including purchased music or video.

So over the weekend Amazon specifically restricted the Amazon Household to 2 adults, and those adults have to share access to credit cards used to make purchases – not a big deal for Amazon’s target household, but not necessarily great if you’re sharing with friends/roommates. And of course, the previous Prime sharing program has been retired, at least for new members.

That’s an important distinction for those of us that are sharing Prime – Amazon has stated that they are grandfathering all users that had been sharing prior to August 1, 2015. For now. Not sure what happens when the Prime membership you’ve been sharing comes up for renewal, and Amazon hasn’t addressed that specifically other than to say we’ll get “plenty of notice” before Amazon makes any more changes to our accounts.

I guess for me, personally, I’ve been tempted to get my own Prime membership so that I could take advantage of the new features and I probably would have eventually. But this change leaves a bad taste in my mouth because it such an unsubtle move to force me in that direction. That combined with Amazon’s completely disingenuous claim that the changes were not financially motivated but instead “how do we allow people to share more of their benefits — particularly Prime Instant Video — among a family” (quote from Julie Law, Amazon spokesperson, taken from the excellent CNET article). I’d have way more respect for Amazon if they just came out and said, “Look, you guys have had a sweet deal for 5 years, time to pony up some cash”