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On the Economics of the Kindle

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the how-much-is-cool-worth dept.

Books 398

perlow writes "Just how many books a year would you need to read before the cost of Amazon's Kindle is justified? The answer is not so cut-and-dried. If you're a college student and all of your texts were available on Kindle (possible but unlikely), you could recover the cost of the reader in a semester and a half. For consumers to break even with Kindle's cost in that time, they would have to be in the habit of buying and reading four new hardback books per month — if the convenience factor wasn't part of the equation. At two books per month, breakeven would be in three years." Here is the spreadsheet if you want to play with the numbers.

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i like the idea of the kindle (4, Insightful)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779873)

but I want something with a color screen at least (i know its too much to ask but oh well)

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (2, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780037)

Why? Why does it matter if the screen is color or not? Are that many of the books you normally read "in color"? While I enjoy the smell and feel of a yellowing used book, I don't think an eBook reader is going to mimic that.

Personally, while I see the fucking thing Slashvertised here frequently and I hear about the grand sales that Amazon vaguely reports, I have yet to see one in action. Even though I see a good portion of bus riders every single day with normal old books, magazines, newspapers, laptops, and mobile devices (mostly Blackberries and iPhones), I have yet to see a single Kindle. I guess everyone else, very much like me, cannot justify the price of the device on top of the price of the reading material when there are better options available (the $1 rack at Half Price Books or the local library).

The economics for me are simple: Slashdot gets paid per plug and no one else is really going to care about the device until libraries start loaning out the materials. Until then, if I really want to read an eBook, I'll use what's available to me from my local library system via the web and read it on my already purchased mobile device.

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780053)

I take it that you've never taken biology or chemistry. The books use color illustrations for a reason, and it's not to justify the price gouging.

Or that you've not read many books talking about basic art concepts or novels that have illustrations in them. Sure they cost more, but there's definitely a reason why the illustrations are there.

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780131)

Uhh, economics. Mass marketed devices are going to utilize mass market material (e.g. mass market paperback content) and thus they don't need color.

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780079)

Should we assume that people who have anough money to blow on a Kindle would have laptops as well, and if so, why use a Kindle while many E-books can be displayed with a laptop?

As an added bonus, the laptop route offers many outstanding publications for free [] .

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (2, Insightful)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780091)

Because reading a laptop screen sucks ass if you have to read for any length of time.

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (5, Interesting)

wcb4 (75520) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780343)

If you can ask this question, you have not actually read anything from an eInk based device. I'm not being a smart ass. I thought the same thing and I used to read books on my Toshiba e805 which has a full VGA screen with a dpi as high as the iPhone (one of the best looking displays ever put on a PDA). Then I saw eInk. Like someone above, I also own the Sony, not the Kindle, and for remarkably similar reasons. If you have ever read anything on one of the eInk devices, you don't go back. You buy a booklight for when you want to read in the dark, and you never look back. I now use the iPhone as a PDA, and the eReader to read books. The Toshiba is in its case, sitting on my shelf somewhere.

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780319)

I don't own a Kindle. I did not need the web browsing and considered it a distraction so I went with Sony's eReader PRS-505. I can go to my local library's web site, hit the ebook section and download books in Acrobat format (Adobe Digital Editions) These transfer to my reader with just a click and I keep the books there for 2 weeks, just like from the library. I also download eBooks from all over the net, sometime a classic from Gutenberg (open it in Word, takes about 5 minutes to strip the hard returns and save as RTF for import to my reader), sometimes Its a web page that I save (snagged lots of Lovecraft that way) and soemtimes its a mobi file from someplace else, which I convert to the native format with a single command line Mobi2LRF call or by using Kovid Goyal's Calibre software.

I never seem to have time to make it to the library. Killer commute, full time job, on and off school and 3 kids leaves very little time for anything else. I also hate finishing a novel someplace (like while eating lunch at work) and not having another book at the ready. I also find it a bit of a pain to carry a bunch of novels (even paperbacks) around with me. As a consequence, I did not read a lot for fun until the first of this year, when I found that with all of the free CDs from Baen, I had about the entire Honor Harrington Series, and a friend recommended them, so I bit. I bought the $279 PRS-505... Well, I read all 17 of those novels, and the text books for schools were available as ebooks, so I read all the material from my last 2 classes on it, then I found out that Tor was giving away novels before their new web site went live, so I snagged those and read them and the library had a few good books that caught my eye, etc, etc, etc. I've read about 100 novels or so so far this year, and I am now starting reading some of the old Shadow and Doc Savage novels that I found online. You CAN'T discount the convenience factor. I carry my PRS wth me just about everywhere I go. It slips nicely into the out section of my laptop case. I charge it about once per week, It is the single best investment I have made in a long time and I have recommended it to several people who are considering but are still unable to decide between the Sony and the Kindle (unless you plan to buy books from Amazon while on the bus because you can't stand to download a file before you leave the house, or unless you really need another internet device, but one without all the interactivity, I recommend the much cheaper and nicer looking Sony).

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (4, Informative)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780359)

when there are better options available

Like the irex iliad [] ..

Open source; drm-free; supports non propietary formats including pdf, text, html, mobi, etc..

It's not perfect but it's a joy to use. Check out the thought that's gone into the (physical) user interface. A conveniently-placed flip-bar vaguely mimics the action of turning a page in a dead-tree book. Has a built-in wacom tablet so you can point, annotate. Has wifi allowing downloading of updates and books from their servers or from a share at some ip address you specify. Should you find some vast source of drm-free books (one example of which is project gutenberg [] ) the hardware (which incidentally has a great look, feel and somewhat bizarrely, smell) may be your last book-related expense!

Disclaimer: I own one so am biased.

Color is hard to do (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780081)

Readability has to be as good as, or almost as good as, printed text. Mono screens are clearer and work far better in bright light and use less power.

Sure, you can get sunlight readable color screens but they chew power and are costly.

Re:Color is hard to do (4, Informative)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780239)

Readability has to be as good as, or almost as good as, printed text. Mono screens are clearer and work far better in bright light and use less power.
Sure, you can get sunlight readable color screens but they chew power and are costly.

Apparently you missed the part where the Kindle uses an E-paper [] display, so it uses power only to change the display, doesn't have a backlight, and is sunlight readable.
A color version would have 1/3 the resolution, if they were able to make red, green, and blue versions of the pixels in the current display.

In general, sunlight readable displays could chew much less power than normal displays if you can turn off the backlight, like in the OLPC XO-1.

Re:Color is hard to do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780317)

The kindle uses a relatively low resolution display. It is only readable because it is a b/w-display. Subpixel anti-aliasing can almost maintain the spatial positioning accuracy on a color display, but the resolution is definitely reduced (compared to a display with a b/w resolution equal to the subpixel resolution of the color display). The 600x800 display of the Kindle would turn into a 200x800 display: Definitely too low-res. That doesn't even account for the fact that there are no commercially available color e-paper displays yet.

Re:Color is hard to do (1)

Fizzol (598030) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780459)

There's also the font size factor. My eyesight is crap and is only getting worse as time goes by. I find the Kindle's adjustable font size to be a real boon.

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780159)

Color isn't important. Most books are black and white. Resolution is the weak spot: 600x800 is quite low-res. I would expect at least 900x1200 (with very good anti-aliasing), especially for scientific texts with indexes, sub- and superscript.

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (3, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780273)

You'll be waiting 5 years at least. I'm probably getting an iliad DR1000SW or PlasticLogic's model next year because they finally got the screen size up to snuff.

The economic analysis in the summary at least is a bit shortsighted. You can save a little on newspaper subscriptions since they don't have to deliver to you or you don't have to waste gas getting one and there are a lot of good free (legally) books online to learn languages/programming/anything but don't want to sit on the computer for. Like this one: []
or []

When I sat down years ago to read those or other books on the computer, it just was a pain. I couldn't use my computer for other things as easily and the eyestrain of a backlighted screen all day. Years back, without a second monitor, it was kinda a pain to follow some programming examples and keep switching back and forth.

Add to that the convenience of having all your books in a memory card or single harddrive. It was a factor driving mp3 music players vs CDs and CDs are much easier to carry around than books.

What is wrong with the current set of books is this:
-screen size (recently solved with the iRex DR1000S - now they have models out big and small good for newspaper/technical_reading/textbooks vs fiction)
-screen refresh rate (too slow on all models)
-only 4 (16 iliad) shades right now
-klutzy software (Apple could exploit this market sooner or later)
-battery life in some models (e-Ink doesn't use any energy once screen is rendered - yet some manufacturers build these things to be recharged almost daily instead of weekly), turn the page and switch it off
-no color

For me, battery life and software and screen size is what I'm not going to compromise on, all others I'm flexible. It probably will be different for everyone. The potential benefits are tremendous though.

Re:i like the idea of the kindle (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780301)

Dude, it's a book reader. If you only read books with color pictures, you need to move on to the young adults section already.

What's the point of this analysis? (5, Insightful)

tyler.willard (944724) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779881)

...if the convenience factor wasn't part of the equation.

Isn't this largely the point? Who the hell is making a decision to purchase this based on book cost?

Re:What's the point of this analysis? (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779965)

If convenience is not a factor, anything more convenient is useless.

Re:What's the point of this analysis? (1)

tyler.willard (944724) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780013)

The point is that ignoring the convenience aspect is completely artificial and ultimately pointless.

Re:What's the point of this analysis? (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780039)

Umm... I thought that's what I said.

Re:What's the point of this analysis? (1)

tyler.willard (944724) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780043)

Then it seems we agree ;)

Re:What's the point of this analysis? (1)

E IS mC(Square) (721736) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780077)

I agree.

Re:What's the point of this analysis? (1)

stevey (64018) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780097)

And real cost too.

I read between one and four books a week. I only buy them used, and a typical price would be 50p.

So to break even at that level of spending would take a lot longer. (Even more so if we include the price of electricity to charge the device).

I'd love a kindle-like device, with wireless access that worked in the UK. But the price is just not realistic for me.

Re:What's the point of this analysis? (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780257)

The economic formula for this is far oversimplified. It needs to include more factors, not something as complicated as cost benefit analysis but algebra-level microeconomics would do. I wish at times Slashdot were more numerate but than I would pry never have stopped wasting all my time here; honestly though, this model should be avoided for any serious analysis.

Get an ebook reader because you can sell many of your books when you do. My last move, I sold over 1500 dollars worth of books over 6 months to save on freight and that is just like 100 books or so, mostly technical and engineering. I have at times in my life had nearly 2,000 books and it was becoming unmanageable before my little Sony ebook reader [] . The Amazon Kindle is circus ugly, I am no aesthete, but it made me grimace to use it.

Re:What's the point of this analysis? (1)

blackest_k (761565) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780269)

I couldn't justify a kindle either, however netbooks are quite good for ebooks more so than pda's or psps.

I've been doing quite a bit of reading lately using an aspire one usually turned on its side with the screen on the right. With the arrows and page up and down keys being on what is now the bottom left outside edge its fairly comfortable to use.

Only annoyance really is you have to use the mouse for the 'next' icon on the page. other that its pretty good. I have used pda's for ebooks but the screen is too small.

running on battery gets about 2 hours, yes I am tempted to get a bigger battery but its not a must have item right now.

Cost estimates off by factor of ten, inconvenient. (5, Insightful)

slashnot007 (576103) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780117)

With a real hardback book I can resell it on amazon for most of what I paid for it. Moreover I can buy it used to begin with. So the cost estimates here are off by a factor of 8 to 10 at least. Of course here is some inconvenience i reselling. On the other hand I can also buy a lot more books at one time for the same price and keep them till I'm ready to read. Conveience to me is being able to toss a book in my airplane bag or beach bag. I'm not taking my kindle to the pool or the beach. I'm not going to leave it outside on the patio table while I go take a pee or refill my drink. And I'm certainly not parking it beside the piss pot, or taking it in the bathtub with me. Besides, being old school, I find there's a great deal of visceral nature to books that somehow is part of the reading. Even being able to dog ear a page or write in the margins of certain kinds of books is a very good way to use them effectively. Not to mention...convenient.

Re:Cost estimates off by factor of ten, inconvenie (0)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780341)

OTOH, how many books are worth your time reselling? Textbooks for one if the next class uses them. But most computer books (outside Knuth's or Kernighan & Ritchies of the world) become obsolete really fast. Many Novels get bundled by my local farmer's market for a $1-3 a piece. And are you really going to resell a book on or amazon for $9 or less and go to the bother of going to the post office to ship it and what not? It's not worth it for the time alone.

Convenience: Some book collections are worth good money. One of my friend is an antique dealer and his 1000s reference guides alone from the 1910s to the 1990s are all out of print and would bring money to the right collectors of their niche. But he uses them for work and because he's rather disorganized, they all randomly take up 3 rooms piled here and there and on book cases. If he had them scanned in on a computer, at least, he could at least look through his collection by keywords instead of spending hours flipping through books because he remembers taking a glimpse of some relevant item here or there years back. Which he often wastes a Saturday doing when he would rather be doing other things.

Your point about the physical nature of a book is valid, but I suspect generational. It's the same lament of those who like vinyl records vs CDs or now mp3s. There are definite up and downsides to both mediums, real and perceived, but the next generation will be more easy to take up the next big thing.

Re:Cost estimates off by factor of ten, inconvenie (1)

Desert Raven (52125) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780437)

If you have a good used book store around, I guarantee you will get more than the difference in cost back.

I poked around on Amazon, and found that when you look at mass market paperbacks, Kindle books are often the same price, and even when cheaper, the difference is pretty minimal.

I'm one of those folks who read a LOT, 3-6 books a week is not that unusual. However, I probably only one hardcover book every other year or so. So for me, an ebook would never pay for itself, If I bought one, it would be entirely for the convenience factor, and as of yet, I don't even find them that convenient. Mass market paperbacks are still smaller, lighter, and a lot less prone to damage.

Re:Cost estimates off by factor of ten, inconvenie (1, Insightful)

darkmeridian (119044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780415)

Convenience is the name of the game for the Kindle. Always having the newest magazines and newspapers available at the tip of your fingers is an amazing feature for commuters. Instead of bringing a book, Newsweek, and the New York Times, you can bring your Kindle. Did you read a favorable book review? Well, download the book! Instant gratification. I also read two or three books at a time. One tends to be intellectual and the others are pop trash. Instead of choosing which books to take, I can just bring them all with me on the Kindle and read whatever I want on the five hour long train ride from New York to Boston.

And when you lose it .... (3, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780465)

When you lose it, drop it, or otherwise break it, you're screwed. Look at how many people lose their cell phones | drop them in the toilet | can't remember where they left them ...

If I somehow lose or destroy a $5 paperback, I'm out $5. How many would I have to lose before I reach the cost of 1 kindle?

Plus books look good on a shelf. I can find the exact book I'm looking for in seconds, and most of the time, with reference manuals, the exact page quickly enough - most reference books come with something called an "index" They even come with a meta-index - though they call it a "table of contents", so the whole "I can search it" is moot. Now, does it blend?

The segway didn't change transportation. Neither will the kindle change my reading habits. And it's a stupid name, to boot. "Kindle" - you can't even burn it

Re:What's the point of this analysis? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780183)

...if the convenience factor wasn't part of the equation.
Isn't this largely the point? Who the hell is making a decision to purchase this based on book cost?

The hard core geek or OCD book reader?

Re:What's the point of this analysis? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780249)

I think this story points out that it has to be a market that values convenience to such a point that nothing else matters, that cost matters not at all. Even then, convenience is traded for convenience, because the book can't be traded, given away or resold. Personally, I don't see the point, not for what I want. It's a nice product, but it's just another very expensive piece of electronics that can easily be damaged or lost before it pays for itself, and it's a bit limited use because it only renders static text very well, I don't think I'd like to use it to read the web. I'm not often away from a power tap long enough that the battery life of a notebook computer to be a factor. I don't carry more than one book at a time.

There is more to it... (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779887)

Some of us actually enjoy having a real library at home, turning through pages and even collecting real books. There is nothing better than going in the library, firing up a premium cigar or my pipe and doing either some actual real book work-reading of leisurely reading.

The kindle cannot replace that experience, at least not for me. So it's not always about money.

Re:There is more to it... (5, Insightful)

James_Duncan8181 (588316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779905)

Also, even if it were not about the experience, I cannot resell books from the Kindle. So the TCO is much higher than the books assuming that I resell all those that do not rock my world.

Re:There is more to it... (4, Insightful)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779937)

And you're locked in to the kindle forever, until they stop supporting it at least:/

Not to be a ra-ra anti-DRM fanboi at every story, but it's somewhat relevant here.

Re:There is more to it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780017)

Bingo. Ask any Apple fanboi.

Re:There is more to it... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780215)

Yup. Not only will I not pay $10 for a sodding text file when I can get a physical thing for the same price or less. I also give away my most of my books to family and friends, or even my library. Can't do that with the Kindle. The Kindle and its ilk need to have their wares for well under a $1, so at least you know you're getting into renting the book field.

Re:There is more to it... (4, Insightful)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780333)

No shit.

Look, give me a black and white epaper device that can display things.

Forward, back, select, exit, it doesn't need more controls or intelligence than a cheap-ass MP3 player. You can probably steal the chip from those 'picture frame' things.

Don't give me one with a damn wifi connection, or a computer in it. A single USB connection, or a single SD card slot, would be fine. Rechargeable batteries would be a bonus, but not required. (From what I understand, those things use almost no batteries.)

Hell, it doesn't even have to display 'text'...if it can just display GIFs with consecutive filenames, and requires a conversion program to put books on there, I wouldn't mind one bit.

Something like that should actually cost 50 dollars, and 45 dollars of that should be the epaper.

Re:There is more to it... (1)

wcb4 (75520) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780373)

I've had mine for nearly a year. I have read a few Adobe digital editions borrowed from the library, but other than that, I have not put DRMed books on mine. I'm not locked by anything.

Re:There is more to it... (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780149)

Also, even if it were not about the experience, I cannot resell books from the Kindle. So the TCO is much higher than the books assuming that I resell all those that do not rock my world.

Right result, but I disagree with the route you took.

First, I absolutely agree you should be able to gift/resell your e-books. However, on a practical note, the resell value of things like books and CDs and DVDs is pretty negligible. Seriously, getting more than a couple bucks for most used titles is pretty tough unless its out of print and in high demand. Hell, even anything new in hardcover that's CURRENTLY on the new york times best seller list can be picked up for $5 bucks on ebay or craigslist.

So the TCO for a kindle isn't really affected by the inability to SELL books. It -is- however potentially considerably higher because you can't BUY or BORROW used books.

Re:There is more to it... (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780461)

Your argument is flawed for the same reason that the original analysis in the article is flawed. The author pickes a new price (lets call it X), and a used price Y. He assumes that a student either pays X or Y for a book, and so compares a mixture of X and Y to the Kindle price.

You choose a much lower resale price and say TCO is unaffected because Y is so low. What you both miss is that a student can both buy and sell books at the used price Y. So most students will buy a book for a course at either X or Y, and then when they have no more need for it they will sell it at price Y.

Hence the overall cost is either X-Y or Y-Y. It doesn't matter how low the resale price is, there is a massive effect upon the TCO. In your example if we assume that any textbook will fetch $5, then the student first buys at that price, then sells at that price. Net-cost is zero. In practice there is almost always a small drop to account for wear and tear, but for a student in a liquid market for used textbooks the TCO is low.

If the Kindle takes off then the lack of resale market will place a massive burden on students. At which point Pirates Bay will becomes the dominant supplier of textbooks.

Re:There is more to it... (5, Insightful)

modestmelody (1220424) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780005)

Amazon needs to offer electronic copies of books I order for a small up charge. I still want the real book. I still want the experience of having a real collection even when the tech is old/broken/unsupported. In bed at night I still want to turn the pages. However, I'd love to have the convenience provided by the Kindle when traveling and even for purchasing. Buy the book now, read instant on the Kindle, get the hard copy in the mail two days later. I'd buy a Kindle regardless of generation/tech in an instance if this plan existed.

Re:There is more to it... (1)

vvaduva (859950) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780175)

You are absolutely right. Indexed word searches are a bit hard to do with paper books, but this is a great idea.

Re:There is more to it... (1)

i.of.the.storm (907783) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780193)

I agree completely, I think the future of e-books should be that they come along with the physical versions, and likewise for other media (music, movies should come with digital versions for PMPs). Format-shifting just makes sense, and physical and digital both have their advantages so it makes sense to combine them.

Re:There is more to it... (0, Troll)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780153)

There is nothing better than going in the library, firing up a premium cigar or my pipe and doing either some actual real book work-reading of leisurely reading.

Oh, there is something better: reading while not inhaling noxious fumes.

Re:There is more to it... (2, Funny)

the-surgeon (764695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780275)

Oh, there is something better: reading while not inhaling noxious fumes.


Re:There is more to it... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780401)

Even better, reading without a giant stick up your ass.

And I say this as someone who has used precisely zero tobacco in my life and lost a parent to a cancer that was probably related to smoking.

I'll stick to books (1)

Arimus (198136) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779901)

I'll stick to books - they have one really big advantage - they are not electronic and give my eyes a rest from a bloody screen - I work on computers all day and spend a fair bit of my spare time in front of one at home - so I like to read to unwind before bed.

Re:I'll stick to books (3, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779983)

To be fair, e-ink is about the least screen-like screen you are likely to find. Like paper, it is non-emissive and works only by reflecting ambient light.

I'm not about to buy one; but the Kindle's screen is one of its major selling points over various other cheaper and/or more versatile electronic reading widgets.

Re:I'll stick to books (2, Interesting)

Mista2 (1093071) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780331)

I've been reading books with my iPhone and its great at bed time. read with the lights off so I don't disturb my wife, and it powers off if I fall asleep and stop flipping pages. I also have it with me everywhere, so I 've got thought books faster as I can read it anytime.
But content, I cant just loan a copy to my friend, and I cant just mail them a link to the book as hey need the software I use.

E-books need a common format with tags for meta data like MP3s and work on all platforms.
I'd like an e-copy with every paper copy I buy, but copy protection will never allow this freedom.
Oh well.

Re:I'll stick to books (1)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780019)

I'll stick to books - they have one really big advantage - they are not electronic and give my eyes a rest from a bloody screen

Not sure about that: eye problems, especially myopia, are strongly linked to reading. So while books are better than computer screens, they may not rest your eyes as much as you think.

Re:I'll stick to books (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780073)

Indeed, and that doesn't factor in the damage that's done to the neck, back and wrists the way that most people read.

I'd be far more interested in reading books if they came in a form factor that didn't end with me getting migraines.

Re:I'll stick to books (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780057)

I like not having to look for batteries so I can read a book. I also like that my books are unlikely to break if I drop them, or just suddenly and without warning not have any text in them when I open them up. If all else fails in the middle of a week long power failure, I can read at least during the daytime.

I can't think of a single failure mode a book has that an ebook doesn't share.

Re:I'll stick to books (1)

wcb4 (75520) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780435)

my eReader charges from damned near dead to fully charged in under 30 minutes via the USB port of any computer, and they are not lying when they give battery life expectancies in the thousands of page turns (the devices only use power when changing pages, not while displaying them) so a full charge will likely last you 4 or 5 novels, assuming you read a novel a day, if your power goes out on Monday and you are a day or two since your last charge, you will be good until around Tuesday, at which time you carry it to work with you, plug it in, and you are good to go until the power comes back on. I don't know why your device would suddenly have nothing on it either, The data is stored in flash or on SD cards, so that is not affected by the battery running out. I have dropped my reader, and its been okay, tough you are correct, I have heard of problems if dropped hard enough that have warranted a display replacement (they don't repair them) that runs about $30.

Convenience (5, Insightful)

jamesl (106902) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779903)

... if the convenience factor wasn't part of the equation.

The convenience factor is the equation. The whole equation.

Re:Convenience (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780181)

I agree. That's why I like books made of paper, especially paperbacks. I read it and then put it in my jacket or coat pocket or laptop bag and do what I have to do and then pull it out and read it some more. No electricity required, nothing.

For me, the convenience of a paper book far outweighs that of Kindle. I never have to charge my book, i never have to really think about it much. The hardest part is finding a bookmark, which usually ends up being a bus transfer or a used subway ticket.

So, I agree, convenience is the entire equation, which is why I prefer the tree-killer versions.


Re:Convenience (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780283)

It's big factor, but it's not the whole equation. I'd like to have a Kindle, but I'm waiting until it comes down $200 or so. That's probably a pretty common attitude. So to me and people like me, the convenience factor is worth about $150.

The submitter's spreadsheet says that buying the latest bestseller on a Kindle saves you about $4 per book. Sounds about right. So if I were one of those people who just can't wait for books to come out in paperback (or for my turn with the library copy) I'd only have to read 25 books to make up that extra $200.

I'm not one of those people, but millions of people do have exactly that attitude. If everybody they know is talking about a book, or if Oprah mentions it in passing, they have to read it, and they have to read it now.

It's the same economics that makes people spend absurd amounts of money for cable just so they can catch the latest ep of Big Love the day it comes out. I happen to like that show, but I'm content to wait for the DVD. Still, if all my friends were rabid fans...

Kindle? Where are they? (2, Insightful)

LinuxInDallas (73952) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779907)

I just got back from vacation and guess what...I FINALLY saw a Kindle in the wild at the airport. I just don't see this thing taking off. The iPhone or something similar has a much greater chance of making it big as an e-book reader. At least with a cell phone you can justify the cost because you can use it for more than just reading books.

Re:Kindle? Where are they? (0)

Shag (3737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779987)

This is the camp I'm in. I don't need more single-function gizmos piling up in my life.

Re:Kindle? Where are they? (1)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780199)

There's a free e-book App for the iphone and ipod touch, Stanza, that gives access to project Gutenberg and a few other sites. Its nice to carry access to 150,000 free books in the pocket.

I'm sure that there's a pay app or an app that plugs into an e-book store. That being said, amazon, or anybody else, isn't plugging the iphone as an ebook reader, which is why it probably won't catch on.

If you're buying an iphone just for image, chances are that you want people to SEE you reading that new "must-read" book in the airport, not gonna happen with an ebook. If you're buying the iphone because of all of its toys, chances are you're saving your battery for labyrinth or a watching a movie. If you're one of the few people who bought the iphone because of its call reception and awesome phone features... I wish you luck.

This is a story? (0)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779915)

I don't see how basic division is a story. But whatever.

It's clearly not designed for students, because it doesn't have what a text-book replacement machine would have.

It's a very nice recreational book reader -- easy to carry, easy to turn pages, easy to store. Certainly a lot easier than a library or bookshelf in your home.

That said, it's still too expensive for me -- I don't read much, but even if I did, it's just too much to spend on a hobby. At $100, just reading ascii text files, I'd buy it on a moment's notice. At $150, I'll take PDF and images. Beyond that, I'm simply not interested in spending money on reading. There are better things.

I can sell my paper books. (0)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779933)

In fact. Ebay is a great source of books, and once read, it's a great way to get rid of them. The same for CDs and DVDs.

Wrong premise (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25779945)

All the books you can read on the Kindle, you can read with a book reader sitting at your computer for essentially the same price. If convenience isn't part of the equation, the Kindle will never pay for itself. (assuming you already have to have a computer to interface with the Kindle)

That said, I have a non-kindle but similar book reader, and feel it is more than worth it. Half the reason that the Baen Free Library increases sales of the books in it is that people don't want to sit at their computer to read books. Having hundreds of books (currently have 264 books on my book reader) in the palm of your hand, in a consistent size (no hardbacks you can't stick in your pocket) and readable anywhere with a 2 week battery life is just hard to beat.

Kikle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25779955)

My verdict is that the kikle is greedy with the color and generally untrustworthy.

I like the kindle but (1)

Roland Piquepaille (780675) | more than 5 years ago | (#25779979)

the thing I carry around all the time with me, despite my cellphone, is my EeePC. So, while not as nice as the Kindle, my solution is

EeePC + FBReader/PDF reader + eeerotate [] = instant ebook reader

Since I already use the computer for other things, my "Eeebook" costs me zilch and I don't have to lug around yet another device that I have to charge with yet another charger, etc...

Re:I like the kindle but (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780021)

You are a cunt, Roland.

I hate reading your shit.

No we haven't forgotten all your pointless and annoying spamming.

Eat a fat HIV+ dick.

Re:I like the kindle but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780045)

He is not Roland Piquepaille. The man you hate is here: [] .

Wait. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780003)

In a couple of years, you will be able to buy one for less than $50.

vidya books (1)

heptapod (243146) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780105)

Amazon should've made the Kindle into a loss-leader much like video game consoles. This strategy would bring down the price of the Kindle so its accessible to everyone. Also they should really ditch DRM support. Books are meant to be shared.

Re:vidya books (1)

wcb4 (75520) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780467)

for that to work, there would have to be complete lock in. You can read HTML, txt and probably doc files on the Kindle. The SOny device can read PDF/BBeB/Txt/RTF/HTML and with some help from available software CHM/MOBI and a half dozen other formats.

Next up: (3, Funny)

maeka (518272) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780009)

Next up a spreadsheet detailing the break-even point of your iPhone one 25 cent pay phone call at at time!

Re:Next up: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780083)

You joke, but the iPhone is a even more capable book reader. Plus it doubles as a cell phone, a web device, a gaming platform, a cheap camera, and thousands of other things. I'd say the break even point of the iPhone is fairly soon after purchase. That is contingent, of course, on if you truly bought the iPhone to enhance your productivity or if you bought it merely as a fashion statement.

Who cares? (0, Redundant)

grogglefroth (461680) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780023)

I didn't buy a Kindle to save money. The fact that books are cheaper help make it easier to make the decision to buy the Kindle, but.. the primary reason I bought it was convenience. Anywhere I go, I have a library of books to read; they remember where in the book I am (no dropping the book); the font size is variable (my late night reading font is bigger than mid-day); and lastly, the built in modem.

Sure, I can carry a dead tree book or two at the most, but they start to get annoying to have anything more than that. And, late night, reading dead trees is hard on my eyes.

INconvenience factor (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780029)

So you take a nice, analog book, that you can throw in a backpack, and replace it with an expensive, oh-God-dont-scratch-the-screen, keep-the-thing-charged, single-purpose PDA ? Um, no thanks.

Dead in the water until file format sorted (3, Insightful)

frisket (149522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780049)

As I have argued ad nauseam here [] (PDF) and elsewhere, Ebook readers sinply won't take off big-time until the manufacturers forget their proprietary formats and go for something sensible.

Unfortunately, "something sensible" doesn't mean some HTML bodge, RTF kludge, or non-reprocessable binary like PDF, but a persistent, parsable, non-proprietary, standard. Gosh, isn't that what XML was supposed to do?

Newspapers and such (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780051)

I am surprised nobody has mentioned newspapers and such. I have looked at a Kindle so I can get my subscriptions in a timely fashion without worrying about the weather, travel, and the such. And honestly, I am not that worryied about DRM and lock in issues for yesterday's paper. Doing the math in my head I think my break even point would be something under 18 months.

Kindle will never replace textbooks (2, Interesting)

Ripiket (308318) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780055)

As an engineering student, I think this idea is impractical. When I'm preparing for a midterm, I'm usually burning through practice problems at the end of each chapter. The ability to glance at the last few pages of the book (physically) to check my answer, or to flip back a few pages to reread a concept is invaluable. I'm sure I would get annoyed rather quickly with the electronic equivalent.

Now on the other, for light reading. I can see how it's practical.

I would never replace my textbooks with it.

Re:Kindle will never replace textbooks (2, Interesting)

Mawginty (882393) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780145)

I'm a law student, and I don't have practice problems. I would replace my textbooks with it in an instant. Even if I had to pay more for my books I would rather use the kindle. I bike to school, and I am easily bringing 30 lbs with me every day. If I could get that down to 10 lbs, boy would I be happy camper.

Value over Lifespan not ROI (3, Interesting)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780059)

The advantage e-books have over dead-tree versions is in technical material. Shop manuals, technical schematics, medical journals, etc. Any material where being able to 'search' would be a benefit. E-books offer almost 0 benefit for casual or 'entertainment' reading. But that isn't the point. Source material longevity is the key. A good quality hardcover can last HUNDREDS of years! Try that with any electronic device or file-system. I remember a time not too long ago when 16 registers on a CPU were a big deal, and DOS apps couldn't read Mac files (even the 'simple' ASCII txt files) and there were different file-system structures 7bit vs 8bit vs *. We think that .txt is the safest solution for portability and longevity but IBM used to think the same thing about punch-cards!

If you are going to invest enough money in a Kindle to make it a 'worthy' purchase, then you are that-much-more going to benefit 50 years from now with your library of real-books and a pair of eyeballs as your interface to them.

Re:Value over Lifespan not ROI (1)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780259)

A good quality hardcover can last HUNDREDS of years! Try that with any electronic device or file-system.

Indeed. Archivability is the sticking point in most forms of modern media. Hard drives are especially fragile, which is yet another reason why I won't buy something that isn't available in a physical form. Ease-of-use, durability, and especially archivability are what books do well. E-books are well past a solution searching for a problem, but they've got too many disadvantages (especially with proprietary file formats) compared to good old paper.

Re:Value over Lifespan not ROI (1)

Apparition-X (617975) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780263)

If I am not mistaken (and I might well be) most books these days are not manufactured on acid free paper. Given that, they will probably last 50-70 years at best. Unless you treat them to prevent decay, and store them in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, or sealed.

Having said that, I agree with you that longevity is key. We don't need material to be lost because data portability isn't available. However, given increasing power, the ready availability of tools today that let you strip out the text from proprietary formats, and virtualization (who cares if you can't read the file if you can virtualize a machine that can?) I am not terribly worried.

There are good and bad reasons for not buying an ebook reader, but I don't honestly think this is one of them. (And yes, I am a convert. I have had a Sony PRS-500 for 2.5 years, and just bought a 505.)

Re:Value over Lifespan not ROI (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780407)

If you are going to invest enough money in a Kindle to make it a 'worthy' purchase, then you are that-much-more going to benefit 50 years from now with your library of real-books and a pair of eyeballs as your interface to them.

While I'm not arguing the simplicity of your future-proof interface (eyeballs and paper), I'm wondering how you'll feel when you're handed the insurance check from the [insert favorite natural disaster here] that just wiped out your 50-year old "au natural" library.

There are some advantages in having archives of reading material backed up in several locations. That being said, I think the cost of a Kindle is nothing short of insane, so I guess I'll continue to take the risk that my collection of "archival quality" Win9x Admin Guides might not survive me.

textbooks on the kindle? (1)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780111)

I think the margins might fill up a little too quickly...

college textbook analysis doesn't work (4, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780125)

His analysis of the kindle as a vehicle for college textbooks doesn't work.

Most students buy their books used and sell most of them back to the bookstore at the end of the semester. If publishers started offering textbooks for the kindle, they'd presumably be DRM'd, and you wouldn't be able to sell them back. The publishers hate the used textbook market, and they do anything they can to kill it off (e.g., a new edition of a calculus textbook every 2-3 years), so there's no question in my mind that they'd use DRM to eliminate it.

Most lower-division textbooks in most subjects are in a large, color format with a layout so complex that it makes every page look like the cockpit of a 747. This doesn't work on the kindle.

He seems to assume that the cost of a college textbook mainly has to do with paper, printing, and binding (ppb), so that it would be much cheaper in electronic form. Actually, ppb is no more than a small fraction of the cost of most textbooks.

He seems to assume that the only way to read an electronic book is on a special e-book reader, and then he goes on to calculate how long it would take to earn back the high cost of a kindle. But nearly all college students either have a laptop or a desktop machine, so the only logical reason for them to buy a kindle would be the same as for anyone else: convenience.

Re:college textbook analysis doesn't work (2, Insightful)

glwtta (532858) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780179)

Most students buy their books used and sell most of them back to the bookstore at the end of the semester.

Yeah, you buy them used at 90% of the original cost and sell them back at 10%.

But yeah, I agree with both points: the Kindle can't handle the requirements of text books, and the publishers have no interest in changing the status quo (especially not by making things easier for the students).

xls? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780137)

Oh cute an ".ods" file. Oh no, it is an .xls file.

Read or Purchase? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780165)

What about those of us that use it to read *free* materials? ( be them truly free or "ip infringed" )

In my case its 100% convenience, though you can factor in the eliminated need to print them so i'm not tied to my desktop.

What about the economics of the Kindle for Amazon? (3, Insightful)

RalphBNumbers (655475) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780197)

It's consider that a much more interesting topic.

The idea of giving free cellular data service away with a device is basically the exact opposite of what the rest of the industry does.

You can get an iPhone for $200, but then you're obligated to pay ~10x that amount for wireless service over the next couple of years. A Kindle costs $350 and has free wireless for how long? forever?

Can that business model really be profitable in the long term? If so, I'd say it's a great deal for the consumer. But I have to wonder how many people have to do a bit of web browsing on their Kindle before Amazon starts losing money on wireless bills, and decides to remove features or connectivity?

Re:What about the economics of the Kindle for Amaz (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780411)

You can't surf on the web, you can only buy books on it from Amazon's store.

Skipped something.. (1)

SMS_Design (879582) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780201)

What this seems to completely forget is the fact that you still have a BOOK after you're done reading paper. This is good for trading in or passing on to others who will take the class.

Annoying overseas (3, Interesting)

NewsWatcher (450241) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780203)

Kindle's wireless deliveries only work inside the USA. Likewise you can't buy content without a US credit card.
This rules out a large chunk of their potential customers, and one of the huge benefits of buying a Kindle. It also means many overseas book sellers won't want their content used on Kindles.
My mother (in Australia) wanted to get one, largely because she can adjust the text on the screen. Here eyes are not what they used to be and she gets stronger and stronger prescriptions on her glasses.
It is the lack of access and the cost that are the biggest obstacles for her. To me is seems the Kindle is an American-only club that provides a good ebook reader at high cost.
Those at Amazon really need to broaden their perspective if this is to take off.

Depends on the books, I guess. (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780237)

My textbooks are expensive. Some are a third of the price of the Kindle, so I guess I could recover the cost pretty quickly. That said, I really like my hardback textbooks. They just "click" with my brain somewhat better than if they were in electronic format.

On the other hand, I often wish I could have all my textbooks in electronic format so I can search for a certain thing quickly, and then read the relevant stuff from the book. That would be the best of both worlds.

Re:Depends on the books, I guess. (3, Interesting)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780299)

I know it's in poor style to reply to one's self post, but this time I really had to; I must retract what I said earlier - NO I can not recover my costs quickly, at all! The Kindle versions of my textbooks are effing expenisve! So expensive in fact, that I feel 0 motivation to buy them. Compare the Kindle version of this textbook [] to the hardcover version of the same []

That's only US$20 of difference in price. I'm not going to bother gettin e-books.

Re:Depends on the books, I guess. (1)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780439)

Actually, it's only a $14.40 difference in price. And the dead tree version has rapid tactile indexing, easy accessibility through bookmarking, and infinite battery life. More to the point, it can be sold to someone else for for a sizable portion of the purchase price at the end of the semester.

The calculations presume you *pay* for the books.. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780329)

I bought a Sony PRS505 about a year ago and haven't paid a penny for books since, the thing paid itself off months ago when it comes to new release hardcover titles.

Like mp3's and the iPod, piracy will drive sales of this thing - especially with college textbooks.

What happened to Slashdot? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25780383)

Am I at the right website? Has my DNS been hijacked? I mean, my browser's location bar shows "" as the domain, but...

...where the hell is the suspicion that the FBI is plugged right in to the database for these things back at Amazon HQ?

For the first time in my Slashdot-reading life, I'm actually disappointed that there isn't more skepticism and hostile commentary being generated here! Every time the Kindle is brought up, all I see is some weak commentary. What the hell happened to the outrage over Section 215 of the Patriot Act [] that was so abundant a few years back?

From the link I just gave: "Would you know if Section 215 had been used on you? Nope. The person made to turn over the records is gagged and cannot disclose the search to anyone."

Has everyone succumbed to Patriot Act Fatigue or something?

The Patriot Act is still out there, and it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!

Come on Slashdot readers ... there have to be a few of the strong-opinioned variety of you left! Come forward and tell me that you absolutely, unequivocally believe that there's no way, no chance, no how that the government of the United States of America hasn't plugged itself into the back-end of these things, and that they aren't engaged in data mining for "suspected terrorists" by monitoring every download you make with the Kindle. It would be such easy pickings, such low-hanging fruit! There it all is, in one nice location, in a nice corporate-maintained database! Sweet! You want to tell me the FBI is passing up on that juicy little store of information?


Personally I believe anyone who wants a Kindle is a fool. If I were going to buy an e-book reader (and I'm not), I'd actually consider the freaking Sony model first, which is far more offline (i.e. not reliant on communication with a mothership, unlike the Kindle). Yes, Sony! Ain't that amazing!?

Reality check (1)

Dzimas (547818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780391)

I have an excellent library only a couple of miles from my house, giving me access to the latest hardcovers for only $10 per year (plus municipal taxes). It's the best deal going. I occasionally have to wait a few weeks for the titles I need, but it's far more sensible than squandering money on DRM encumbered "copies" that I can't easily share with my wife, lend to a friend or resell.

Hardcover pricing. (1)

Jason Pollock (45537) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780431)

Of course, the author used hardcover instead of paperback pricing for books. If I'm buying a hardcover of a book, it's because I want to put the book on the shelf.

Otherwise, I'm buying a paperback, which is typically cheaper than the equivalent Kindle price.

I recouped my cost but not on the Kindle (1)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780453)

I went to eBay and picked up a used Dell Axim from 2003. $75. I added a hard case and a new battery for an extra $40. The battery lasts for a full week and a half of reading. Then I bought the μBook reader for $15. I went over to, looked through the reviews, and downloaded a bunch of ebooks to read. I put the unused SD card from my camera in the PDA, and now I've got a gigantic reading library, with 8-directional game pad for Nintendo emulation, MP3 player, Japanese word processor/dictionary, etc.

When I go to my public library, I use the PDA's Wi-fi to surf the web and look at book reviews for anything in paper form that I might want to check out or reserve.

No, the Kindle would not be cost-effective for me. With the extra ~$245 I saved, I bought a Wacom tablet and some programming books.

Some of us have more than one hobby and don't like supporting a single, simple hobby like reading with chunks of $400 or more.

Not very useful study here's why (1)

El Cabri (13930) | more than 5 years ago | (#25780457)

Systematically buying everything you read new and hardcover is pretty uncommon anyways, except maybe for people who have amounts of disposable income that make the convenience factor the only that counts anyway.

Reading paperback, pocket-book and other discounted editions, buying used books on peer-to-peer marketplaces, borrowing from a library, from a friend, your spouse, of from your parent's bookshelf, all these are not taken into account. If we divide that value of each book that I've read in my life, by the total number of people who've read that particular physical book too, and take the average, we're most definitely in the sub-$1 area, even counting all of the technical and textbook stuff.

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