The Kindle saves space, but can it save you money

A ZDNet article that ran on November 16 asked the question “Is the Kindle electronic book reader worth its current price of $359.00?” The article explores the answer to this question for college students and average readers.

For students in college and graduate school, ZDNet concludes that a Kindle is worth the expense:

However, a more realistic scenario [of student textbook purchasing] would be a blended cost, with half new and half used [textbooks], at $366.00 per semester. If they had purchased all of the books on the Kindle, they would have spent $234.00, or a savings of $132.00 per semester. Over a period of 8 semesters, that’s $1056.00, which if you subtract the cost of the Kindle at current prices, we’re talking about a net savings of $700.86 over four years, which is not insignificant. To put this another way, if college students had the ability to buy all their textbooks on Kindles, they could wipe out the cost of a Kindle with their savings over printed books in 3 semesters, or a year and a half.

However, the the article states that for the average reader, a Kindle is not a wise economic choice:

… we took a look at twelve New York Times best sellers, and totaled up the prices, assuming mostly hardcover with some paperbacks — this came to $168.15 if we bought them on Amazon. The Kindle cost would have been $109.11. In other words, if you read one book per month, and you subtract the cost of the Kindle, your net savings per year is approximately $59.04. To wipe out the cost of the Kindle completely, you have to buy and read six books per month to wipe out the Kindle’s cost over the course of one year. That’s a pretty voracious reading schedule — and if you’re reading that many books, you’re probably spending most of your time in a library and not purchasing them on Amazon.

So it would seem that unless the convenience factor of the Kindle currently outweighs its costs, the Kindle is not a huge value proposition for your average consumer today. But if its cost were to drop approximately in half – say, between the 3 and 4 book per month level — at around $200 per unit – then we might start seeing greater e-book adoption by a larger segment of the population. At the two books per month level, it’s going to need to cost around $125.00 or $150.00 or so.

I agree that it would be nice if a Kindle reading device would be at least half its current price, but I still think that it is a good investment over the long term. Additionally, you don’t have to pay to store paper books, which shaves off a little bit more from the equation.

What do our readers who own Kindles think of the article? Is the author right about it being about convenience and not cost? Let us know your opinion in the comments.

Previously on Unclutterer:

69 Comments for “The Kindle saves space, but can it save you money”

  1. posted by Jan on

    I, too, have a long love affair with books–love the feel and smell and the way they look on the shelves.

    But, I also have developed an allergy to old books, robbing me of the pleasure of browsing in second-hand bookstores and forcing me to recognize that I could no longer read most of the books I owned. For the first time in my life I did a major purge of my books, an emotional experience, to say the least.

    I’m also accumulating chronic ailments as I age, and reading in bed can become painful. The back-lit Palm is a strain for me to read on.

    I look forward to owning a Kindle. I don’t see that it has to be an either/or commitment, unlike many of the responses I’ve read here. None of the joys of “real” books have to be foregone because of the addition of being able to read on a Kindle.

  2. posted by Katie Alender on

    I have a Kindle. The main advantage is convenience for travel–if you’re like me, it avoids the last-minute stuffing of 4-8 heavy books into an already overloaded suitcase.

    It’s also a great uncluttering tool, because there are so many books I held onto “just in case” I ever wanted to read them. The Kindle is almost an emotional crutch here–and in the case of classics, it’s definitely cost-effective.

    Also, since I sold my book, I’ve become a lot more aware of how the used book market hurts authors. So on principle, I’m buying more books new. But I would say I’m still saving money, because reading the free first chapter has kept me from buying a lot of books that I would otherwise have bought and hated.

  3. posted by LeAnn on

    I’m a fairly new Kindle owner, and have to agree with Mary and the others above: it’s not about how many best sellers I need to buy to recover my costs – I rarely read best-sellers, anyway. I read sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, and a lot of classics; a book a week, on average. I can get the classics dirt cheap ($.80 for Robinson Crusoe for a book discussion group), and there are plenty of back-listed books in the paperback range: $4 – $6 each. Now I can support my favorite local sci-fi authors by purchasing their books, without taking up space in my very small house.

    Yes, it’s convenient. Our main reason for buying them, however, is to pare down our extensive collection to the books we really love and treasure, and send the rest of the books to be loved by someone else.

  4. posted by Sara on

    I would buy a Kindle in 2 seconds if I could rent books in a Netflix type scenario. If I had the option to buy and rent/check out books, it would be ideal. I broke my Barnes & Noble/Amazon book buying habit due to space and money constraints, but I would be willing to subscribe to a cyber library service. Good luck w/the rights management issues – probably won’t see it in my lifetime.

  5. posted by JaneL on

    I had wanted a Kindle since they came out last November but kept putting it off waiting for prices to go down and book inventory to go up. When the Oprah discount came through, though, it pushed me over the edge.

    I’ve had mine for nearly a month now, and you would have to pry it from my fingers to get it away from me.

    I’ve read 5 fiction and 1 non-fiction books as well multiple PDF and Word docs for work so far. I’ve loaded several PDF manuals so that I have them for easy reference or study. I’ve used it to check my e-mail and to do the occasional light web-surfing.

    It fits in my purse and goes with me everywhere so that I always have something to read when I’m waiting. The ability to have a variety of reading material with me all the time in one small package is so wonderful.

  6. posted by WeSeed Writer on

    When are book companies going to get it? These e-books should be MUCH cheaper than the paper versions. Printing is what drives costs up, not distributing them electronically. They’re going to have to learn something from the music industry (and specifically, iTunes) about making this an easy, cheap experience for users.

  7. posted by j flynn on

    One fact for you all. The average number of books read by an American adult in one year is one. For those of you who read multiple books in a week or a weekend it would seem to me that you are speed readers and not the “average” reader out there. So for me, I average about 3-4 books a month, the Kindle or Sony device fascinate me but the feel and look of a book outshines a medal device. For the few times I travel then the Palm works for me. Note: I use paperbackswap, the library, used book stores and a few ebook sites. I rarely buy new.

  8. posted by Joe Smith on

    “There are tons of classic books available for $2 or less, ”

    You should be aware that most of these are a rip off. The books are available for free from various sources on the internet and work great on the kindle. I was able to load up my wife’s kindle with a ton of classic literature (bronte, tolstoy etc) which she absolutely loves.

    http://www.43folders.com/2008/.....zon-kindle

    One thing that amazed us about the kindle and that you can’t put a price on is the free wireless web/wiki address.

    We just took a cross country trip and it was great to use the kindle to look up the history on every little town we passed and find out the history of roadside attractions such as “The Thing?”. We where amazed that even in the middle of no where, when our cell phone dropped off the net the kindle was still able to get a signal.

  9. posted by Tom in Raleigh on

    I am a college professor and would *love* for the Kindle to replace my and my students’ textbooks. I’d love to be able to lug two courses worth of books on planes, to the Starbucks, etc. But the big problem is that almost none of the books I use are Kindle-ready. And I am a political scientist, so our books are not as expensive as those in, say, chemistry or law. So savings is less important than convenience. But until real academic texts are available on Kindle, its utility for students will likely be very limited.

  10. posted by Helen on

    All these people buying secondhand or swapping…. does nobody consider that the authors need to earn a living? And how few authors actually make a decent living? At least authors get royalties, however small, from Kindle sales.

    I’m not, personally, an ebook fan as I my PDA screen is too small, and we don’t have an affordable large-format reader available here in Australia.

    Budget is an issue of course and the solution that works for me is to use a bit of a mix – supporting favorite authors (especially romance authors or literary authors) by buying their work, using the library for the big name authors or for rarely-used reference texts, plus some secondhand novels as well. On my PDA are some classics and a few short stories from an independant epublisher.

  11. posted by Helen on

    wanted to edit my comment above: I see some people have commented on the used book market and supporting authors….. )

  12. posted by Valerie on

    My Kindle is due to arrive on Tues. :-)

    My H got an iPhone as his Christmas present and I wanted the Kindle.

    I have a folder with a lot of free books I have downloaded, and I have purchased 1 @ $6.99 to download when the Kindle arrives. I am a little frustrated that many of the books I want to keep, can’t be purchased for the Kindle, but I have clicked on the link to the publishers, so maybe this will change.

    I am really trying to downsize the amount of books we have in the house for space and dust reasons (we live in TX – dust world). My house is too cluttered after 23 years here, and books are one of the main clutter problems we have.

  13. posted by Alexis on

    Don’t forget that books that are in the public domain can be put on your Kindle for free. The Kindle can handle text, html, word docs, and to a limited extent, PDF.

    So if you like classics at all, try your luck at projectgutenburg.com. Thousands of public domain books in kindle friendly formats. All free.

  14. posted by Valerie on

    Update from 12/01:

    The Kindle arrived yesterday, but I did not have time to open it and charge it up until the evening. I knew I would not have the best network coverage for the Whispernet, but to my chagrin, I can’t use this wireless feature at all from my house. I will have to drive about 3 miles to get a connection to download the things I have purchased from Amazon. For the price I paid, I am considering returning it.

    It also bothers me that it is made in China.

    Otherwise, I like it so far.

  15. posted by Allison on

    Why hasn’t anyone mentioned the ease of reading the Kindle in bed? Big benefit, IMHO.

  16. posted by Vanessa on

    I know the Kindle is probably a great idea, but I can’t ever see myself getting rid of my books (to my boyfriend’s chagrin). My books take up the most clutter in my apartment (my bookcases are filled, plus I have at least 5 storage boxes stuffed full in closets that I swap out every few months), but I love holding an actual book in my hand. I even love the wear and tear that comes with owning books, the creases and folds show character (I know that doesn’t make sense, but I can’t help it).

    Plus, I get all my textbooks for school used and very cheap, then sell them later, so I’m not spending too much money on them anyway (after re-selling, total loss last semester was $80).

    I know I’m not living very simple, but my books are my vice.

  17. posted by Buy Cuban Cigars Online on

    I still love the smell of a newly opened book.

  18. posted by buy green laser pointers on

    Yeah that’s a newly opened book. very interesting.

  19. posted by camalaniugan on

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