Amazon Prime Day: Black Friday in July?

Wednesday is Amazon Prime Day, with the e-commerce giant claiming that the summertime sale will feature "more deals than Black Friday."

To take advantage of Amazon Prime Day, you need to be an Amazon Prime member and to check in at Amazon through the day, where the company says they will offer a wide variety of exclusive "pop up" sales throughout the day.

Amazon Prime membership costs $99 per year and includes a number of benefits, such as free two-day shipping on all Prime-eligible products, free streaming music and video, unlimited photo storage, and the ability to borrow Kindle books not unlike a lending library. If you're not a Prime member, you can take sign up for Prime using a free 30-day trial membership and take advantage of all the Prime Day deals.

This is the first time that Amazon has conducted a Prime Day, and while it's timed to celebrate Amazon's 20th anniversary, Time asserts that the real reason for Prime Day is to conduct an assault on a potential competitor, Jet.

Jet is an online shopping club in private beta that, like Amazon, offers a wide variety of products at bargain prices. And like Amazon Prime, users need to pay an annual membership fee (expected to be $50, about half of Amazon Prime).

And Jet is not alone in encroaching on Amazon's space with a subscription membership program. Depending upon what aspects of Amazon Prime appeal to you, other choices abound.

The video and music streaming component of Amazon Prime is a nice extra benefit, but it's the weakest part of Amazon's offering and perhaps the easiest for competitors to best. Compared to Netflix and Hulu, for example, Amazon Prime Video is woefully inadequate, with a tiny array of content available for free with a Prime subscription.

Amazon Prime Music also has only has about a million songs in its catalog, with no representation at all from Universal, home to a number of popular contemporary artists. Since there's a good chance that the Amazon prime demographic is also inclined to have a Netflix and Spotify subscription, the music and video offerings within Prime simply aren't compelling.

And now that Google Photos offers unlimited photo storage and synchronization for free -- with a slew of genuinely powerful features -- there's no reason to consider Amazon Prime photo storage, even if you pay for Prime already.

And that leaves us with Prime's bread and butter -- the free shipping on Amazon orders. Even here, you've got alternatives. ShopRunner costs $79 per year and includes free two-day shipping at hundreds of retailers, including popular brands like Toys R Us, PetSmart, Lords & Taylor and many more. And Walmart is getting ready to launch its own version of Prime called ShippingPass, which gives you unlimited three-day shipping on all purchases for $50 per year. You can sign up for the waiting list now.

Bottom line: If you're already a Prime member, be sure to check out the deals on Wednesday; it's yet another perk in Amazon's discount club. But if you haven't committed to joining, check out some of the alternatives first.