The short answer is – No. Don’t buy a Kindle hoping you’ll magically earn back the $359 in a year.
Truth is, you are never going to get back that $359. All the fancy projections you are hearing about how buying x books a month will get you your $395 back in a year are nonsense. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the ramifications the Kindle would have on user behaviour and the truth is that a lower book price point and the ability to make purchases so easily points towards you spending as much, if not more, than you spent on books earlier. That little mini-analysis too, is just conjecture. Any analysis is meaningless in the face of actual events and actual human behavior – as the current market crisis is so acutely pointing out.
In fact, the only analysis you should pay heed to, is this specially commissioned one –
In the rest of this Kindle Economic De-Analysis post I’m going to do two things –
- Explain why justifying Kindle’s $359 price point based on lower book costs is a wrong line of thought.
- Walk you through an alternative way of looking at your current or prospective Kindle Purchase.
1. The Kindle is going to increase the book bang for the buck you get, and not save you any money.
Mr. Bezos himself said that Kindle owners make 2.6 times the number of purchases they used to –
He also said that Amazon has observed no decline in the number of traditional books purchased by Kindle customers after they got the device. In fact, Bezos said that Kindle customers now order 2.6 times as many total books — both print and electronic — as they did before purchasing the e-book reader.
Edit: Corrected this after persephone’s comment.
Even if you factor in that some of that increase is in lieu of books bought from Non-Amazon sources, and that Kindle books are usually half the price, that doesn’t point at great savings overall. You are not going to be spending less money on books. A big foundation of reckless consumer spending is the delusion that sales and deals save you money. Buying an item at 25% off still means you’re paying the 75% part that isn’t discounted. Market Research shows that people tend to spend much more during sales and when offered deals. There’s a reason that 75% of annual retail profits are made during Christmas shopping season – in the midst of Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s sales.
I’m sure no one wants to hear that they’re not going to make back their $359 – because you want to justify buying the Kindle based on imaginary future savings. Well, it’s not going to happen. For every one comment I hear from a Kindle owner about how they’re saving money with cheaper prices, I hear three about how they’ve been buying way more books.
An advertisement I love is Peyton Manning telling the viewer – ” Face it – unless you’re 21 or a professional football player, you’re probably never going to have washboard abs”. It’s time to face the fact that unless you’re buying the Kindle primarily to practice thrift or you have insane willpower you are probably not going to reduce your spending on books.
It takes a lot of willpower to have a Kindle and have all these books at your beck and call and cut your reading budget. Its doubly tough if you love books and at any level prescribe to this sort of thinking –
If I have a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes. – Erasmus.
Having a Kindle with half priced books, instantly available – I find it hard to imagine anyone who loves books being able to reduce their spending on books in this situation. And the official word from Amazon seem to support this hypothesis.
2. Have the Right Expectations about what that $359 is buying you, and how to get the most out of the Kindle.
The good news is – Once you have your Kindle, you’ll probably spend the same or a little bit more, and get nearly twice the amount of books and reading. That’s really good value for money. Here are a few tips to help you get even more book bang for the buck –
- Have a monthly budget. At the minimum review your purchases.
- Use sites that provide free books for the Kindle – use my post on free kindle books. It’s the most popular post on this blog for a reason.
- If money is tight, read blogs for free, rather than paying for them. Tip #5 in this list of Kindle Reader Tips & Tricks gives you a variety of options to get blogs for free on the Kindle.
- Search around on forums (there are links on the top left of the page) for free books, and such. We even have a section on this blog updated with free book offers.
- Use much more of the browser and Wikipedia. There is a lot of good and fascinating material hidden in the pipes and tubes of the Internet.
There are a lot of other benefits that come about as a result of reading in general, and reading on the Kindle in particular –
- It’s easier on the eyes than TV and PCs. If you’re using a larger font size then its probably better for your eyes than physical books.
- You’re saving a lot of trees.
- You’ll probably be reading significantly more, and if you love reading, more is definitely better.
- You get back a lot of your time – waiting at the doctor’s, on the bus, in between other activities.
- As opposed to watching TV which dumbs you down, reading actually makes you smarter. My middle school library had a quote similar to this one (it also had the Erasmus quote – guess education is worth something after all) –
It is chiefly through books that we enjoy the intercourse with superior minds… In the best books, great men talk to us, give us their most precious thoughts, and pour their souls into ours. God be thanked for books. – William Ellery Channing.
I’m hoping people can have a more realistic set of expectations about the Kindle, and that you can make a more well informed decision regarding buying the Kindle. Telling you you’ll save more than the cost of the Kindle in just a year or two, might tempt you into making a purchase today. However, the wrong expectations would actually take away from all the great value you can get from this device. More importantly, it might show you that perhaps the Kindle isn’t the device for you, or perhaps that now isn’t the right time.