Amazon.com decided to give me a 4-month free trial to their “‘Amazon Prime'”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/browse/-/13819211/qid=1147053110/sr=1-1/002-7197462-6463219 service. Amazon Prime is a $79/yr subscription service in which members get free two-day shipping on all items with no order minimum (they discount overnight shipping pretty heavily too). By default Amazon already offers free ‘Super Saver’ economy shipping on qualifying orders over $25, but when all you really want is a book that costs, say, $11, it can be pretty annoying to either find something else to add to your order or pay shipping costs that are a significant portion of the item’s total price. The main reason I’m ever averse to making certain purchases online is that after paying for shipping often you’re not really saving any money. Prime takes care of that and makes it a lot more likely that you’ll buy everyday items from Amazon rather than, say, Wal-Mart, so it’s a great idea for them.
I’ve already taken advantage of it a little bit (on items I was planning to buy anyway) but I think once the trial period ends I’ll have a hard time justifying paying the yearly membership fee since I’m not sure I’d still buy enough from Amazon in a year to recoup $79 in shipping costs. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
I don’t know how widely they’re offering the free trial right now, but it might be worth checking out, especially if you are already planning to buy something from Amazon or have just been stalling until you had enough to fill out a $25 order. From what I’m seeing online they appear to be marketing this aggressively, so it seems likely Amazon is doing the same thing widely for many of their customers. The offer showed up for me when I went to complete an order, so look for it when you go to check out.