Amazon Prime comes to Canada, but without the bells and whistles

Boxes from Amazon.com are pictured on the porch of a house. (Reuters)Canadians who were looking forward to Amazon Prime finally making its way to us have finally gotten their wish, but it probably isn’t quite what they were hoping for.

In an announcement yesterday, Amazon unveiled Amazon Prime for Canadians, which will include free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase for a $79 annual fee, Cantech Letter reports. It also includes One-Day Shipping rates as low as $3.99, free standard shipping when one or two day shipping isn’t available and no minimum purchase to qualify for free shipping.

What’s more interesting, however, is what isn’t included. For starters, this program is for Amazon.ca, which has a notoriously narrower selection than the U.S. version of the site, with higher prices when you take the value of the dollar into account (or sometimes, just in a side-by-side comparison).

[ Related: Kindle Fire’s Canadian debut not looking likely anytime soon ]

But the biggest pain has to be the lack of access to Amazon’s other services that comes with Amazon Prime, notably Amazon Instant Video and the Lending Library for the Kindle. According to The Toronto Star, Amazon country manager Steve Oliver has said that there are no plans to offer these services in Canada.

It’s almost insulting that Amazon would even offer this service to Canada with so many of the Prime perks unavailable to Canadians, and for the same $79 a year, no less. Instead of access to the thousands of streaming movies and television shows available through Amazon Instant Video, or a free book to borrow every month from the huge Kindle library, Canadians are offered a service that they basically already get for free.

Canadians can get free ‘super saver’ shipping on Amazon.ca orders over $25 on thousands of products in the Amazon catalogue. Sure, depending on how often you’re ordering things in a rush, it would be worth paying almost $80 a year to get all your orders in two days. But much of the time, you’re probably only going to be paying around $10 for rush shipping, anyway. If you’re not ordering more than eight times a year from Amazon.ca, it probably isn’t worth subscribing.

[ More Right Click: How to borrow ebooks from your local library ]

This isn’t the first time that Canadians have received a half-baked product from Amazon, either, as anyone who ever wanted a Kindle knows. When the Amazon Kindle ereader was launched in 2007, Canadians were eager to get their hands on it – but had to wait until 2009 before it was available for purchase in Canada. Even now, Canadians aren’t able to purchase the full lineup of Kindle devices directly from the website; the only model that will ship to Canada is the basic Kindle ereader with Wi-Fi, meaning the much-hyped Paperwhite and Fire HD are still out of our grasp.

If you are interested in trying out Amazon Prime’s new Canadian program, you can sign up now and have your first month free.

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