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On the Economics of the Kindle 398

Posted by kdawson
from the how-much-is-cool-worth dept.
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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On the Economics of the Kindle

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  • by ionix5891 (1228718) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:20PM (#25779873)

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

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by garcia (6573)

      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, an

      • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:45PM (#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.

        • by Glendale2x (210533) <slashdot@@@ninjamonkey...us> on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:49PM (#25780485) Homepage

          An electronic reader could be a killer application for education. Textbooks are large, heavy, and you usually have more than one per semester. (For the sake of this argument, we'll assume engineering/science/bio/med students.) Electronic substitutes fail completely because they're lacking color, suitable resolution screens for rendering technical drawings, and textbook availability. Yes, we all have laptops now, but honestly, reading a book (or 5) on a laptop sucks. I could care less if I couldn't sell books back if it lets me carry an entire semester's worth of material (plus *all* of my other year's worth of references) in a tiny device vs. tons of dead trees.

          • by lysergic.acid (845423) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @06:42PM (#25780793) Homepage

            i completely agree. however, i think there are several things that need to happen before we can take full advantage of electronic textbooks in colleges and perhaps even high schools. first off, like you and the GP have already mentioned, e-book readers need drop in price and employ higher resolution color displays (either e-ink or low power OLEDs), and WiFi capabilities should also come standard. secondly, there needs to be drastic reforms in the publishing industry, or at least in regards to attitudes towards IP enforcement and DRM. lastly, the business model currently employed by textbook publishers of forcing schools and students to buy new editions of books every other year needs to be dropped.

            once these changes have occurred, Universities could simply purchase electronic subscriptions to certain texts, which would allow them to check these subscriptions out to students who need them for classes they're enrolled in. all a student would have to do is connect their e-reader to the school's WiFi network and they can check out the textbooks they need. the subscription would give the school permission to distribute "loaned" copies of the electronic textbooks to as many students as needed (rather than enforcing physical limitations on a virtual commodity) and also allow the school to receive updates from the publisher to keep their digital textbooks up to date. if a student finds a textbook particularly helpful they can pay the publisher for a modestly priced static copy, or they can purchase a single-user subscription that will receive automatic updates.

            this model would save students a ton of money, and greatly lower the financial barrier to higher education. however, i imagine the textbook publishing industry would be strongly opposed to the necessary changes as it undermines their strategy of planned obsolescence, which is the basis of their current business model. and the true financial/economic advantages of using paperless textbooks won't be realized (at least not by anyone except for the publishers) until e-book publishers stop charging print prices for non-printed materials.

            • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Monday November 17, 2008 @04:40AM (#25783711)

              The trouble with "saving students a ton of money" is that it would cost the publishers a ton of money. OK, half that money goes to the bookseller who, as a no-longer-needed intermediary would disappear. But the remainder is lost income for the publisher. The publisher will say that this will produce a dramatic drop in the number of textbooks they publish, to the consequent loss of the whole of academia. Whether that is true or not, if someone's income from a source drops dramatically, they are going to do less of it.

              And if the University us paying a block fee for the e-textbook, they are going to have to get that money from somewhere. So either they will charge students for it or they will drop something, presumably worthwhile, that they are doing now (tuition, library books, formal dinners...).

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by theaveng (1243528)

                One thing this article failed to take into account is the ability to "recycle" books.

                When you buy a Kindle book you can't resell it to somebody else because resale of e-texts is blocked. But when you buy an old-fashioned paperback, you can sell it to anybody you desire. I often buy new paperbacks for $6, read them, then sell them as "flawless/like-new" condition for $5 or even $6. In essence I'm renting the books at an average 50 cents each.

                So for the cost of a Kindle I can "rent" about 800 paperback nov

          • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Sunday November 16, 2008 @07:05PM (#25780913) Homepage

            The problem with that idea is that textbooks are too profitable an industry to risk modernizing.

            Scratch that - education is too profitable an industry to risk modernizing.

            The bottom line is: textbooks are a cash cow for the publishers and schools, and while a lot of people talk about saving dead trees, very few actually care because we don't see those dead trees. We see them on TV, we read about them in craptastic magazines (irony!), but that's always "somewhere else" and the idea fades as quickly as it came.

            If you really want to save the trees, kill a lawyer. I'd bet one lawyer wastes more paper in a year than an entire classroom.

            • by Glendale2x (210533) <slashdot@@@ninjamonkey...us> on Sunday November 16, 2008 @07:18PM (#25780981) Homepage

              Well, I don't care about saving the trees either, just my back. ;)

            • by prestomation (583502) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @09:50PM (#25781831)

              If you really want to save the trees, kill a lawyer. I'd bet one lawyer wastes more paper in a year than an entire classroom.

              Done.

            • by Garwulf (708651) on Monday November 17, 2008 @12:09AM (#25782515) Homepage

              "Scratch that - education is too profitable an industry to risk modernizing"

              It's a bit more complicated than that.

              Let me preface my comments with this: first, I own a small publishing company that among other things, publishes a textbook (at $32.95 US). Second, there are a lot of academic books that are overpriced, and in some cases absolute rip-offs. There is even a company that will remain nameless whose prices have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with reality, and which has absolutely no issues whatsoever with charging $100 for a book that shouldn't be reselling for more than $60.

              That being said, modernizing the textbook industry probably wouldn't work at this point in time. And that has nothing to do with the companies - it has to do with the students. They generally prefer a printed book.

              I know this because the textbook in question was one I helped write, and we tested it as a free e-book in the class it was written for. At the end of the class, we asked for feedback on the textbook so that we could do some fine-tuning. The comment we got more often than all of the others combined was a complaint that it wasn't a printed book. Keep in mind that these were university students, and we GAVE them the e-book. Not so much as a cent changed hands.

              For all the strengths of the e-book, people have to first want to buy it. And when you're looking for something that you can write notes in, an e-book generally won't fit the bill. For that matter, it's a lot easier to deal with a book printed on actual paper than an electronic copy, and that isn't likely to change any time soon. So long as the e-book adds barriers to entry rather than taking them away - and since an e-book requires a reader, electricity, and has to deal with file formats, those barriers aren't going away - the printed book will remain the standard.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by beelsebob (529313)

              The problem with that idea is that textbooks are too profitable an industry to risk modernizing.

              Not at all, I've worked in publishing, it's a very very low margin area. The reason it's a low margin area? Because printing costs an absolute fortune, especially when you're publishing text books that not many (yes, 50% the school students in the country counts as not many) people will actually buy. A device on which text books could be read, and which the format of became vaguely standardised in schools woul

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Lumpy (12016)

              Exactly. My wife and I save THOUSANDS a year by buying used textbooks instead of new, her last textbook was $580 new I got it for $190 on amazon.com. If a school went to e-texts and e-readers then our education costs do not go up by the cost of the reader , it will go up by thousands of dollars because I can no longer get used textbooks.

              and there are zero chances of them allowing people to sell their used e-book files.

              The other side it would allow the textbook writers to rewite the book every semester f

      • 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 [thepiratebay.org].
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by schnikies79 (788746)

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

          • by vlm (69642) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:57PM (#25780543)

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

            Ah I see it's time for the weekly slashdot ebook article again, filled with the same repetitive comments as last time.

            Every ebook article has at least one person complain they could never look at a computer screen for more than a few minutes therefore they could never read using a computer. Supposedly, everyone on slashdot is either a gamer or a programmer or hacker or whatever. How are you other gamer/programmers doing it without a monitor? Are you guys ALL using braille readers or speech interfaces? If you are, then more power to you dude. But realizing thats probably about 1% of the readership, I laugh at the other 99%.

            Required contents for each weekly slashdot ebook article:

            One guy to complain he can't read anything on a computer screen (dude, you go to slashdot for the pictures, like our old pal goatse?)

            Another guy to complain all his books have brightly colored pictures (see spot run, run spot run?)

            Another guy can't read unless his ebook reader has a built in mp3 player / youtube video player / embedded firefox / etc, you know just like every paperback or hardcover book ever made.

            Another guy, whom apparently bathes more than the sterotypical geek, will complain his ebook reader doesn't work so well in the bathtub. Oddly enough no one complains that they can't read paperbacks in the shower. I don't think I've taken a bath since the mid 1980s (before most slashdotters were born?), but don't worry I use my shower once or even twice a day and I never miss not being able to use a book. My advice is bathe with a member of the appropriate sex+species instead of a book, anyway.

            Then the other guy complains that his ebook reader only holds a 20 hour charge and he hates it when the battery dies during a reading session (maybe he should nap after nineteen and a half hours of bedtime reading, or sleep somewhere within 100 feet of commercial AC power?)

            Then someone else always brings up the "right to read" essay despite the fact that a real slashdotter would never buy a reader that doesn't work with some hack to read plain texts like gutenberg. I waited for that before buying my REB-1150 or whatever its model designation is. Works pretty well. It's a cool story, but everyone here knows it, k thx bye.

            There's probably a few other sterotypical ebook comments that I've forgotten.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Anonymous Coward

              "I don't think I've taken a bath since the mid 1980s"

              Richard Stallman? Is that you?

        • by wcb4 (75520) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:28PM (#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.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:24PM (#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).

      • by easyTree (1042254) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:31PM (#25780359)

        when there are better options available

        Like the irex iliad [irextechnologies.com]..

        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 [gutenberg.org]) 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.

      • by MarkvW (1037596) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:55PM (#25780531)

        What, other than your imagination, is the basis that Slashdot gets paid per plug of the Kindle? I am sincerely interested.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Amarok.Org (514102)

        Get on an airplane sometime. I travel frequently (50k miles a year, on average) and see Kindles and the competing Sony product all the time.

        On a recent flight, I could see 4 electronic book readers from my seat alone (passenger next to me, passenger across the isle, and two in the row in front of me). Travelers like them because it's easier to bring along a few books on a Kindle than it is to stuff them into their carry-on. Heaven knows I've got enough junk in my bag without trying to bring along a few

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by hairyfeet (841228)

        Well I can say at the local college,the coffee shop around the corner,the local McDonald's in the morning,etc all I am seeing all over the place is folks reading on Netbooks. Usually if you see something pop up here in BF AR you know it is a hit,because we are far enough behind the curve that fads usually come and go before they ever reach here. So from what I am seeing while the Kindle and that new E-Ink might squeeze out a tint niche,the Netbook seems to be the thing everyone is reading their papers and m

    • 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.

      • by corsec67 (627446) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:11PM (#25780239) Homepage Journal

        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 [wikipedia.org] 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: (Score:3, Informative)

          by naelurec (552384)

          actually you would have 1/4 the resolution .. cyan, magenta, yellow and black and at that, you would need quite a high resolution to make it blend properly to provide a good color gamut -- much more difficult than a simple black and white display.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by vadim_t (324782)

            You're mistaken, all displays use RGB.

            A monitor is originally black, so to get colors light has to be emitted. Colors add up, with R+G+B resulting in white.

            A sheet of paper is originally white, to get colors you have to absorb some of them. Cyan for instance reflects blue and green, and absorbs red. C+M+Y in theory should equal black, but in reality doesn't, so printers have an extra black color.

      • by Fizzol (598030)
        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.
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:16PM (#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:
      http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/LispBook/ [cmu.edu]
      or
      http://www.gigamonkeys.com/book/ [gigamonkeys.com]

      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.

    • by fm6 (162816)

      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.

  • by tyler.willard (944724) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:22PM (#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?
    • If convenience is not a factor, anything more convenient is useless.
    • by slashnot007 (576103) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:53PM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by darkmeridian (119044)

        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 th

      • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@b ... h u d s o n .com> on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:46PM (#25780465) Journal

        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

    • by nurb432 (527695)

      ...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?

    • 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 s

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by davolfman (1245316)
      It still costs more than a Palm T|X which is smaller and can be loaded with the software to read just about everything. Convenience factor is difficult to work with so it's easier to just write it off if you're trying to run numbers on something.
  • 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.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:34PM (#25779983) Journal
      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mista2 (1093071)

        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

    • by sjames (1099)

      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.

  • Convenience (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jamesl (106902) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:24PM (#25779903)

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

    The convenience factor is the equation. The whole equation.

    • 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, c

    • by fm6 (162816)

      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 r

  • by LinuxInDallas (73952) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:25PM (#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.

    • 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"
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by johnlcallaway (165670)
      I just bought a Palm Centro and use it to read. MobiPocket [mobipocket.com] has many free books that I have downloaded, those classics we all dreaded in high school somehow become more tolerable when we don't have to write book reports on them. I've also paid for a couple of electronic books. They have software for Blackberrys, Windows Mobile and Symbian also. Oddly, no software for iPhones. There are also other products like eReader [ereader.com] that do work on the iPhone. But that's not my point.

      It's really nice having my library
  • Next up: (Score:4, Funny)

    by maeka (518272) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:38PM (#25780009) Journal

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

  • by frisket (149522) <peter AT silmaril DOT ie> on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:44PM (#25780049) Homepage

    As I have argued ad nauseam here [tug.org] (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?

  • 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: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Mawginty (882393)
      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.
  • by B5_geek (638928) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:46PM (#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.

    • 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 th

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      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

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by swillden (191260)

      E-books offer almost 0 benefit for casual or 'entertainment' reading.

      I *strongly* disagree.

      I've done most of my entertainment reading on eBook devices for six or seven years now, and it's a hugely better way to read. When traveling I can easily take a dozen or more books with me on the device, and I have a huge library -- hundreds of books -- on my laptop, ready to install on the eBook should I want something different. Since my eBook reader has a backlit screen I can read in the dark, including in bed where the backlight on its lowest setting is plenty of light for me t

  • I think the margins might fill up a little too quickly...
  • by bcrowell (177657) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @04:53PM (#25780125) Homepage

    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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by glwtta (532858)
      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).
  • 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.

  • by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:06PM (#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?

  • 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 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NewsWatcher (450241) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:07PM (#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.

  • 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.

    • by blind biker (1066130) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @05:20PM (#25780299) Journal

      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 [amazon.com] to the hardcover version of the same [amazon.com]

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

      • by Dzimas (547818)
        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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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 Manybooks.net, 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/d
  • 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, b

  • by lennier (44736) on Sunday November 16, 2008 @10:53PM (#25782133) Homepage

    When we already have handheld devices (phones, iPods, Blackberries, Palms, Pocket Windows) and cheap notebooks (Asus eee, XO, thousands of Wintel laptops?)

    All of these devices can display ebooks -- and already are, and have been for YEARS.

    My Tungsten E might be old and a little power-hungry, but I read ebooks on it all the time. Heck, even the trendy but otherwise pointless iPod has now morphed into a real PDA. Took Apple long enough, but they finally reinvented the Newton.

    Amazon is way late to the party with a device which does nothing else useful. I just don't get it. These single-purpose dedicated devices are a waste of time, space, and money.

    How come people like the New York Times still haven't figured out that e-*books* have long since arrived, but ebook *readers* are a technological dead end?

  • by kaltkalt (620110) on Monday November 17, 2008 @01:56AM (#25783079)
    I have a Sony PRS-505 eBook reader, and I love it. I love the e-ink, I love having all my books in one place (and it saves lots of space - don't need huge bookshelves). I like being able to backup all my books. There are many advantages to eBooks. But I did not spend $250 on the eBook reader because i somehow managed to convince myself that since eBooks cost a few dollars less than traditional bound paper books I'd save myself money in the long run. Only an idiot would convince themselves that an eBook reader is a way to save money. It's not. You can always buy USED paper books (go to Half-Price Books or another used book store) cheaper than you can buy new-release eBooks. But that doesn't mean it's not a useful device. That being said, many copyrighted ebooks can be downloaded for free on bittorrent sites (not saying one should do this). In that case, it would save money assuming you would otherwise be purchasing the books in traditional format from Amazon or somewhere else. But don't kid yourself, buying eBooks for $14 instead of traditional paper books for $17 is not going to offset the cost of a $250-$300 electronic device anytime in your near future. Hopefully nobody is dumb enough to use frugality as a reason to drop a few hundred bucks on an Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader. People are dumb, but that's the level of stupidity at which people probably are not going to be doing a lot of reading, let alone book-buying in the first place. I love my Sony Reader, but it was a luxury that I paid for, and I have no illusions that it will be saving me money anytime in the near future.
  • My e-book reader (Score:3, Insightful)

    by smoker2 (750216) on Monday November 17, 2008 @07:38AM (#25784423) Homepage Journal
    I don't have a kindle or whatever the sony device is called. I am not at college or any other educational establishment. But I like reading, and I end up in some odd places, and am away from home a lot of the time. So I use my phone. (HTC Trinity)
    Ok, I can see the "screen too small" arguments already, but it does ok for me (320x240 or 60mm x 45mm). With font smoothing turned on, and the backlight set just as I like it, and using my preferred font at my preferred size (all these are fully adjustable), I can read just as well as I can a normal book. I'm only reading truly literary stuff, no diagrams, although things like the maps from LOTR display fine. I only need to gently touch the RH of the screen with my thumb to turn the page, and can annotate, bookmark, highlight and refer to a dictionary where necessary. I have hundreds of ebooks on an SD card, some bought and others from manybooks.net which has the gutenberg library available in all the main formats.

    My phone fits in 1 hand, if I get a call it switches to that mode by itself and doesn't "lose" my place. In fact I can have several books on the go at once. As soon as I open any book, it returns to the page I was last on, I don't have to enable that or specifically bookmark anything. The kindle type devices apart from being too large (for my purposes) and being single purpose, have one major flaw when compared to real paper books. You can only have 1 book open at once. I'm not sure how it goes these days, but when I was at school, I would normally have at least 2 books open at once when doing any kind of research. Unless you buy two (or 3) kindles then you will never have that capability. Also, I don't think paper books are replaceable by electronics. The library would becomes a fairly empty souless place once that happened. Part of the appeal of a library to me, is being surrounded by millions of documents that contain the majority of the worlds knowledge and dreams. A couple of servers wouldn't have the same gravitas.

    Viewing a single page of text is an unusual way of reading (for me anyway), and if I were to get a full size document reader, it would have to display 2 pages at once, just like a real book. But then it would likely not fit in my pocket, it wouldn't play games, mp3s or movie files, it wouldn't have GPS or 3G internet or a calculator, or stereo bluetooth, or SMS, or email. I would need SSH access to my servers, and be able to program my own software and be able to access just about all of the devices hardware with my own code. Maybe convergence is a bad thing for some, but I have all that in one device that fits comfortably in the palm of one hand. It cost a little more than the kindle, but I bought this device 2 years ago and if I were to have individual devices for music/movies and GPS, and reading and programming, then the individual costs would be prohibitive.

    But that's just me, YMMV.

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