There’s nothing like free advertising and Amazon is getting plenty of it for its upcoming July 12 shopping Bacchannalia. It will be promising more than 100,000 exclusive mega deals in nearly every product category for Amazon Prime members, who pay $99 a year or $10.99 per month for the privilege. Amazon Prime Day, which debuted last year, was so successful that Amazon reported record sales of 398 orders per second, eclipsing even Black Friday transactions. The promotion won Amazon more new Prime members than any other day in company history.

Amazon Prime began as a fast and free shipping program for orders of any amount. Though swift, two-day delivery on more than 30 million items remains the cornerstone of the service, the company, which accounts for around one quarter of all online sales, has moved into video and music streaming, and cloud storage, which enhances the overall value proposition for those who actually take advantage of Prime's extras.

Reasons to Sign Up

The case for Prime has actually become stronger recently if you’re still in it mostly for the shipping. Over the years, the minimum purchase amount required for free standard delivery (5 to 8 business days) has risen. It’s up to $49 (and $25 for eligible book purchases). So you either have to spend more to qualify for free shipping, pay for expedited delivery, or be more patient for your order to arrive.

But there are other incentives to become a member. Prime members now qualify for free same-day delivery on more than a million items in 27 metropolitan areas, and one- and two-hour delivery with Prime Now on tens of thousands of items available in more than 25 metro areas. Among other key or recently enhanced Prime benefits:

Instant access to video streaming. Membership includes instant access to tens of thousands of movies and TV shows, including Amazon original series like the Golden Globe-winning Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle, the drama Bosch, and Doctor Thorne, from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. You can watch at home on your computer, Fire TV, or other compatible devices.

Music streaming. Prime Music offers unlimited, ad-free access to over a million songs and thousands of playlists and stations.

Prime Photos. Secure unlimited photo storage in Amazon Cloud Drive.

Access to Lightning Deals. Members qualify for early (30 minutes before everyone else) access to short-term, deeply discounted Amazon Lightning Deals that often feature high-tech and fashion goods.

Kindle Owners' Lending Library. Access to more than 800,000 e-book titles. You can borrow one a month, with no due date, along with one pre-released book a month with Kindle First.

Prime Now. A mobile app that allows customers in most parts of the country to shop from early morning to late night, seven days a week, for groceries, gifts, and food from neighborhood restaurants. Delivery is within two hours for free, or within a hour for $7.99. For restaurant orders, delivery is free within an hour of ordering, and the service is available from Amazon-affiliated restaurants in Manhattan, Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, Austin, Atlanta, Miami, Baltimore, and Portland, Ore.

Amazon Family. The benefits include 20 percent off diapers through its service, Subscribe & Save, and 15 percent off eligible products from your baby registry.

Membership Sharing. Two adults living in the same household can create an Amazon Household to share certain Amazon Prime benefits.

You get all kinds of benefits from Amazon Prime

Why You May Not Want a Membership

Of course, not everything about Amazon Prime is worth the membership. If it's the bargains you're after on July 12, it's worth remembering that while the current deals leading up to the big day look good, keep in mind that last year, Amazon Prime Day wasn't a hit with everyone.

Amazon was pummeled on social media, with critics taking to Twitter likening the event to a cruddy garage sale. The main complaint: The roster of discounted goods was random and uninspired, and many of the items that were worthwhile sold out early.  

There's also the question of how often you shop on Amazon. If you aren't online much, or if you don't think you'll take advantage of all the services membership offers, you might as well pass.

If you’re unsure whether Prime is right for you, consider signing up for a free trial. You’ll have 30 days to give it a test drive. But take note: At the end of the free trial, your credit card will be charged the membership fee automatically for the next period unless you cancel in advance.

Paid members who haven't used their benefits are eligible for a full refund. You can't receive a refund if any of the household members have placed a Prime-eligible order.