Are e-books cost effective? The pros and cons of e-books

Yesterday, Google opened its ebookstore for business. The search giant joins Apple and Amazon (and Barnes & Noble) in a fast-growing field. Electronic books will never completely replace paper books, but they’re going to make up a sizable portion — and maybe even the majority — of the market sooner than you think.

Naturally, more and more GRS readers are moving to e-books. In fact, I’ve had a couple of people ask me about them recently. For example, Peggy wrote last week to share her experience:

Amazon Kindle eBook Reader What do you think of Kindle books? Do you have a Kindle?

Our family members are all avid readers. We live overseas and move every three-four years. Books are a major weight factor for us, so we started downsizing during our last move and kept only those books we enjoy re-reading or which have sentimental value.

This year we bought several Kindles, and I have to say, I really like it for its portability and that we can travel on R&R and have all our reading material in one small ‘container’. But when we retire and settle down, it might lose some of its attraction. I also wonder how it will hold up over time…but I guess it’s too early to tell about that.

I’m a die-hard bibliophile. I love the look, feel, and smell of an old paperback. I used to have several thousand books, though I sold many of them to pay off debt. Still, I have a modest library, and I love it. I cannot imagine a world without books.

Having said that, I did own an Amazon Kindle. I bought one in early 2009, and used it for just over a year. When I bought my iPad, I sold the Kindle to a friend. I switched to the Kindle app instead. (For those who don’t know, you can download the free Kindle app for iPad, smartphone, and computer, which means you can read e-books from just about any web-enabled device.)

Checking my Kindle account, I see that in the past two years, I’ve downloaded 54 books. Twelve of these were free, but the rest cost about $10 each. If I had to guess, I’d say that about half of my book dollars are now spent in the Kindle store.

The Pros and Cons of E-Books

I agree with Peggy’s assessment: It’s great to be able to have many books in a small “container”. It’s awesome, really — like living in the future. To the extent that e-books help me reduce clutter, I love them. But I’m not wholly sold on e-books yet for one very simple reason: cost. Buying e-books usually isn’t cost-effective. Not for me, anyhow.

First, you can only read an e-book on an electronic device. That means you have to own the electronic device, which itself costs money. Admittedly, most folks own an iPod, a smartphone, or a computer, which means they don’t have to pay anything new for an e-book reader. But still, you’re using a device costing hundreds of dollars to read a book. And that device generally isn’t as portable and/or convenient as a paperback.

Second, e-books aren’t cheap. In fact, depending on what you read, they may actually be relatively expensive. Perhaps to protect the paper-book industry, publishers have set what seems like obnoxiously high prices for most e-books.

Here’s my assessment after two years of buying e-books:

  • E-books are great for new releases. For new books, the electronic version is almost always the cheapest way to go. At a friend’s house the other day, I noticed he’d paid $29 for the latest John Grisham book. $29!!! That’s insane. That John Grisham book costs $16 at Amazon, and the Kindle version costs $10. In fact, most e-books cost between $10 and $12. When the cost savings is combined with the space savings, e-books are the clear winner for new releases.
  • E-books are okay for classics. Anything that’s in the Public Domain (published before 1923) can generally be downloaded to your e-book reader for free. Sometimes the formatting is goofy, and there usually isn’t any supplemental material (like essays and notes), but you do get the books at no cost. (Searching for free Kindle books? Here’s Amazon’s list of free eBook collections, and here’s their best-sellers in the Kindle store, including free books on the right.) Of course, these books can usually be had for cheap (or free) in their dead tree versions, so there’s not a huge savings here.
  • E-books suck for most titles published between 1923 and, say, 2008. Books from the past century are still priced between $5 and $10 in electronic editions. This is ridiculous. You can borrow these for free from your public library. Or you can go to a used bookstore, a garage sale, or a thrift store to pick them up for less than they cost in digital format. Plus, tons of popular books aren’t even available electronically. (A real-life, typical example: Cry, the Beloved Country costs $12 on the Kindle. A brand-new paperback copy from Amazon? $9. The mind boggles.)

Finally, this is both a pro and a con: With electronic books, you can download something you want to read right now. Buying a book for the Kindle is an almost instantaneous process. The morning we left for Europe, for example, we were seated on the plane just before takeoff, when I decided I wanted to read Eat, Pray, Love. In the two minutes before we were required to switch off electronic devices, I was able to download the book. It really is that easy. But, as I say, this is both a pro and a con. It might lead some folks to buy too many books on impulse.

End Notes

What about the reading experience itself? Some people prefer e-books to regular books. I don’t. I tend to be a synoptic reader — I read several books on a subject at once. And with non-fiction, I’m often a non-linear reader — I jump around from chapter to chapter. Plus, in all books, I like to dog-ear pages and take notes. E-books suck at all of these things. Yes, you can add bookmarks and take notes, but it’s a tedious process.

To summarize:

  • The part of me that hates Stuff loves e-books.
  • I use the Kindle app on my iPad often (it resides in the taskbar), especially for new releases. In fact, as soon as I finish this post, I’m going to spend a couple of hours reading Jayber Crow on the iPad.
  • But I think e-books are expensive.

My advice? Unless you’re an avid reader of new books, I’d avoid the Kindle itself. Stick with the free Kindle app on a device you already own. And be careful choosing which books you purchase. Stay frugal!

Do you read e-books? What do you think? Do you find them convenient? Do you find they save you money? Do they cost more than the printed page? If so, are you willing to pay the price?

Photos by goXunuReviews.

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There are 143 comments to "Are e-books cost effective? The pros and cons of e-books".

  1. Kevin says 07 December 2010 at 12:19

    Like JD, I use the Kindle app on my iPad to read books. I’m relatively new to this experience, but it seems like JD hit all the major points, and I agree with everything he wrote.

    However, I would have liked him to expand the discussion a little to include magazines. I find I’ve completely moved from physical magazines to the digital versions. The difference between reading books and magazines on eReaders is much bigger than I would have imagined. Here are some of the reasons I’ve found this to be so:

    – Magazines frequently reference previous issues, making electronic versions much more useful than physical versions (because you already have the issue being referenced on your eReader, instead of having to dig through the basket next to the toilet to find the older magazine being referenced).

    – e-versions of magazines tend to employ hyperlinks in the table of contents, making it easier to jump around to whatever article you’re interested in.

    – The cost issue for “legacy material” is much less relevant for magazines. While it may be problematic to find a Stephen King classic for a reasonable cost, nobody really cares to read a Newsweek from 1995. Magazines, being much more now-oriented in nature, avoid this issue.

    – Expanding on the immediacy issue of the previous point, magazines are downloaded to your eReader immediately, as soon as the new issue comes out, so you don’t have to find a time to go to the store and pick up the issue. Books have a similar problem, but it’s much less urgent that you read “Eat, Pray, Love” the same month it comes out. With magazines, if you don’t get it right away, then the information in them will soon be out of date.

    I find the eReader interface for magazines much more intuitive than for books. The specific app I’m using to read magazines on my iPad is called “Zinio,” and I’ve been quite pleased with it.

  2. Tracy says 07 December 2010 at 12:21

    They actually do save me money, but that’s because I’ve always been a huge reader – but I also have always had a combination of fear that I’d have nothing to read, or when I bought books, I’d always do it in splurges. I’m not capable of buying a single book at a time!

    But with my Kindle, I find it easy to just send myself samples of everything I’m interested in, and it satisfies the book buying urge – and then I only get the book if I’m really wrapped up in it.

    Plus I do read a lot of public domain books. Some of the free-for-Kindle books are decent as well, particularly the ones that are meant to function as a teaser for the rest of the author’s works.

    Keep in mind that if you have a reader that epub format (like sony, nook, etc) you can actually rent library ebooks at a number of libraries. Sometimes the selection isn’t great or the waiting list is long, but it’s still another option.

    And I find the ability to adjust the font to the size that’s most comfortable for my eyes just wonderful.

  3. Peter says 07 December 2010 at 12:22

    I sometimes read ebooks on my ipod touch. Kind of small, but extremely portable. The only thing I would say to be careful of is that sometimes the ebook version is actually more expensive – for some weird reason. I bought a book recently and checked for an ebook version before i bought. I found that it was actually $6 more (for a new release) for the ebook. Doesn’t make sense.

  4. Will says 07 December 2010 at 12:27

    I just got a Nook, Barnes & Noble’s answer to the Kindle, and one of the things I love about it is instantly checking books out of the library. Not all libraries have ebooks, but if they do it’s a very convenient way of reading books for free. Unfortunately, the Kindle doesn’t support this, but most other e-readers do.

  5. Wesley says 07 December 2010 at 12:29

    Don’t forget to include the cost of gas or delivery charges when considering the difference in price for physical vs. e-book.

    Yes you could go to a used book store, but if it takes you say an hour and 1 gallon of gas, you aren’t really saving much money.

  6. keeper says 07 December 2010 at 12:34

    In somewhat of a defense, older books are expensive to turn into e-books. Usable electronic versions of the final retail product may simply not exist. In many cases, someone has to literally scan every page, then it has to be proofed. Sure, it only has to be done once, but it is not a trivial task. Furthermore, old contracts with authors did not have any e-book provisions, so a new deal must be struck, with all the headaches that entails. On top of that, because of all the old copies exist as you say, the number of people who will actually pay for an e-book is smaller than with a more recent title, so those costs have to be spread over fewer buyers. I imagine that in a decade, those old titles will eventually appear in the $1 download area, but it will take time.

  7. Bryan says 07 December 2010 at 12:37

    My preference depends on the type of book. In any case, a dead-tree book is my last choice. For entertainment type reading, usually the of the epic fantasy Lord of The Rings type books, I actually prefer unabridged audiobooks. I have a premium account. I’m currently working my way through Robert Jordan’s Wheel Of Time series. If an audiobook isn’t available for whatever it is I’m wanting to read I’ll go for an e-book, preferably Kindle via a Kindle App on my PC (or soon my Windows Phone 7). Then as a last choice, I’ll go for dead trees. For educational/work related stuff, usually technical reference type books, I prefer e-books (Kindle again) followed by dead trees. Those type books do not lend themselves to audiobooks

  8. Tara says 07 December 2010 at 12:37

    I own a Kindle. I use it mostly when I’m traveling and I will buy the paperback book if it is cheaper than the Kindle book. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I save money, but the convenience is definitely worth it to me. I tend to read non-fiction books chapter by chapter at random, between fiction books, so having the Kindle allows me to do that quite easily.

    I tried borrowing books from the library when I first moved here, but I found that I never finished the books before they were due and then I had to return them without finishing them. With the Kindle, I actually finish my books *and* I don’t have tons of books lying around the apartment all the time in “to read” piles.

    I also use my Kindle to check my email when I’m traveling since I don’t have a smartphone and I also tend to travel to other countries quite frequently.

  9. Beckie says 07 December 2010 at 12:40

    My issue with ebooks is that they’re not easily transferable to others. When I was backpacking through Europe, I was meeting new people by exchanging books we’d read. The whole backpacking world became my library – and I didn’t have to lug a large number of heavy books throughout my travels. When I finally settled back in the US, I still exchanged books with friends and would buy and sell books at thrift stores/used book shops – none of which is possible with ebooks.

  10. Amy says 07 December 2010 at 12:40

    One savings with ebooks is the ability to download the first chapter for free. This gives me the opportunity to decide if I really want the book before I spend the money on it. That is worth a lot to me.

  11. smirktastic says 07 December 2010 at 12:42

    I’m old school, I guess. Still get paper books from the bricks and mortar library. However, I’m a fan of anything that encourages more people to read, more often, so if an e-book helps you do that, go for it!

  12. Mary says 07 December 2010 at 12:44

    I love my Kindle. I like reading books on it.

    As to the money side of it…

    I used to go to the bookstore, buy two or three books, and inevitably not all of them would get read. With the Kindle, I’ve been very good at downloading samples and then buying only from the “do you want to buy now” button at the end of the sample. The e-reader forces me to be more honest about how much I can actually read.

    Also, I am finding myself using the library more. I read the sample and then make the decision about wanting to read the rest of the book, and if so, do I want to buy on e-reader or get it from the library. The library is not that convenient to get to for me, so knowing that I want to read something, it’s on the shelf and I have time in the next three weeks to read it, makes the trip worthwhile. This is especially true for non-fiction and “quick reads.”

    I love big, long Victorian fiction, so the free stuff from Gutenberg is a big plus for me. I’ll be able to read the rest of Dickens! And more gothic novels! And Trollope!

    Also, I commute by public transportation, so picking up something to read on the way home was too easy to do. Now I always have something to read in my purse.

    I’m a knitter. Converting my patterns to pdf and putting them on the e-reader makes the knitting much more portable and easier to keep track of for me.

  13. Robin says 07 December 2010 at 12:45

    I have a Kindle, and I am a very frugal person. And I don’t buy very many new books. I got my Kindle on sale (Kindle 2’s, right before they brought out the 3’s, were $110). I have had it 4 months, and have only bought one “full-price” book (Suzanne Collins Mockingjay, if anyone cares). And I have around 800 books. Maybe 100 are public domain. The rest have been free or cheap (less than three dollars, mostly $0.99). Mostly free. Maybe 200 are books I’m honestly interested in. But at $3 (used price), that’s $600! Plus I have a bunch of other books that I or someone else on my account may be interested in in the future. I still use my library and for books that are too expensive on the Kindle. Because, yes, some of the prices are ridiculous. And you can’t resell the books, boo.

    The trick to being frugal and having a Kindle, is to be willing to read different things. And to check blogs for free books DAILY. Books will sometimes be free for only a few hours, but once you download them, they’re yours. For someone like me, who reads a LOT and very quickly (I would commonly take 4 or 5 paperbacks with me for a weeklong trip), the Kindle is wonderful.

  14. J.D. says 07 December 2010 at 12:47

    Only eight comments, and already I love the discussion.

    Like Bryan, I’m a huge fan of audiobooks. Nothing can beat the experience of listening to a well-read book. It’s magical.

    Re-reading my post, I feel like o downplayed the convenience in favor of cost. Just as I’ve digitized all of my music, and am now digitizing all of my movies, there’s a lot to be said for digitized books. As Peggy said in her e-mail, it’s awesome to have a portable library in a small container.

    Kevin, I haven’t explored the world of digital magazines. Where dowse one start? How expensive are they? Are subscriptions available at reduced rates?

    Keeper, you make good points regarding the costs of older books. Thanks.

    Finally, I’m downloading the Nook app for iPad. Does anyone know if this allows the “borrowing from the library” feat? Or is that for the physical Nook only?

  15. Emily says 07 December 2010 at 12:49

    Librarian here. If you have a Sony or Nook, you can borrow ePub format books from some public library systems (especially big-city ones that have huge collections). You can check them out at two in the morning if you like, which removes a big impediment some busy people have with using the library. For me, it’s the best of both worlds–all the portability and no-clutter of the e-book reader, but I get 2/3s of my books, including recent popular stuff, for free from the library.

  16. Nicole says 07 December 2010 at 12:53

    We don’t have one yet, but every year we get closer to buying one.

    Our university library has recently started making a lot of books available online, and their ereader is a pain to deal with, even on a laptop. Every time I’m going through one of their online books I’m wishing I had something like a kindle or ipad to use. Something with less glare that I could lie back in an easy chair with. I have hopes for the future.

    This year we haven’t done much traveling so I haven’t had as much time to pleasure read nor the need for anything other than an actual book for pleasure reading. If I had 10 million dollars this would be one of my first purchases… though it might take a while to decide which reader to get.

  17. Jake says 07 December 2010 at 12:55

    My comment that Library books can be had on many devices that aren’t Kindle has been covered.

    Welsey’s comment about the gas is probably appropriate, and also is a ding against a getting books from a library.

    You address the weight when it comes to moving, but you don’t address the storage. Bookshelves don’t grow on trees, and even the cheap particle board ones are $50+. With eBooks I can store thousands of books.

    I also don’t understand the comment “that device generally isn’t as portable and/or convenient as a paperback”. One of the reason’s I bought my Nook was that it was lighter and more convenient to carry than the paperbacks I read.

  18. Barefoot & Married says 07 December 2010 at 12:56

    You forgot to mention a major plus of some e-readers – checking books out from the library electronically!

    I own a Sony Reader (and I have heard that Nooks have the same feature), and it allows me to read anything in a pdf or Word format (along with many other formats). It is fantastic for reading all sort of things, but best of all, library books.

    Most libraries have an e-book section now, and you just select the book you want and download the file onto the e-reader. It simply expires off of your reader when it is “due” to return to the library, or you can “return” it earlier. No late fees!

    My library doesn’t have the largest selection of e-books, so on a visit to San Francisco I stopped by their library to get a library card and now I’m set with a vast selection of e-books.

  19. Chris says 07 December 2010 at 12:58

    I bought a Kindle recently for reading PDFs (grad student). It’s cheaper than printing everything out, or paying for new glasses because I’m reading so much on a backlit screen. It’ll probably be a long while before I pay for any ebooks, since I’ve got several free novels by the likes of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Melville on it that I’ve yet to read.

  20. Kevin says 07 December 2010 at 13:00


    Like I said, I started with the “Zinio” app, which is apparently favourably reviewed. It has a self-contained digital storefront, through which you can buy single issues of magazines, or subscriptions. Alternatively, you can manage your subscriptions through a regular web browser on your desktop computer. I’ve found the cost comparable, or slightly cheaper, than print-editions of the same magazines.

    The app comes with several free demo issues of various magazines, it’s definitely worth a look.

  21. Steve says 07 December 2010 at 13:06

    I find that my personal reading time is feast or famine. When I have a lot of time (e.g. I am working at a job where I commute by bus), I can get through a physical book from the library before it’s due. When I don’t have a lot of time, I can only get through a book or two a year, so purchasing them used isn’t a great cost in either money or space. Either way I don’t buy a whole lot of books. Also I don’t yet own a smart device. I do have access a computer obviously (since I am posting this comment) but again, when I am reading it is usually on the go so that wouldn’t help me.

    My library does offer e-books as well as e-audio. I’ve used the former once or twice (e.g. to get a travel book in a hurry) and use the latter rather often. In general I don’t like listening to books – I have to listen to them multiple times to catch everything, so it’s only worth it if I’m multitasking, like at the gym or on a long drive.

    If someone doesn’t already own a smartphone or ipad, and only wants it for the e-reading, is a kindle/nook/etc seems a cheaper way to get that functionality?

  22. AB says 07 December 2010 at 13:06

    I’m a fan. I got a kindle recently, and while I feel sometimes like I’m cheating on my giant paper book collection, I love love love my kindle.

    There are tons of good ebooks that are 5 bucks or less, and more are coming out every day as authors are putting up their backlists and publishers are getting smarter about pricing. I almost never pay more than 5 bucks for a book on my Kindle, and many I’ve gotten for free (publishers do promotions and often offer the first book in a series free).

    I think I’ll probably trim down my paper collection and sell off a bunch of books thanks to my Kindle. And prices will likely even out and come down below 10 bucks more consistently for even the big sellers.

  23. David says 07 December 2010 at 13:10

    @J.D. – Does the app let you import your own documents? If so, and if ePub is one of the allowed formats (should be), then you can borrow from the library.

    Borrowing eBooks from the library for my nook is fantastic! The selection is great (overwhelming, if anything), and once you figure it out, it’s easy to do. My biggest disappointment as an eReader is the lack of selection in eBook stores. It’s getting better, but I still often encounter books I want to read that I can’t find in digital format.

    Here’s my recommendation for birthdays / holidays: Instead of getting tons of useless Stuff that ends up as clutter, or in a landfill, ask for gift certificates to your eBook store of choice (Amazon, B&N, etc.). I have about $150 of B&N gift cards accrued that I load into my account and purchase eBooks with at my leisure. So much nicer, and better for the environment.

  24. Linda in Chicago says 07 December 2010 at 13:18

    J.D. you can read ePub books with iBooks on your iPad. iBooks is a free app that may already be loaded on it, too.

    I read ePub books on my iPhone with iBooks and love it. I also have the Kindle app, but haven’t used it much since I can find so many things in ePub format. Reading PDFs on the small iPhone screen is not as great, but I do it when I must, such as with knitting patterns I’ve scanned.

    Unfortunately there aren’t many ePub books available through the Chicago Public Library system, and the few that are available have incredibly long waiting lists.

    To keep my book costs down I still use the library a lot. It’s true that I sometimes don’t finish a book within the three week lending period since lugging a big hardcover around isn’t always feasible. But I can always attempt to renew it online. If it can’t be renewed (popular books very rarely can) then I can make a calculated decision run up a bit of an overdue fine. I just had this experience with Bill Bryson’s latest book, At Home, for example. I returned it a few days late and paid a 60 cent overdue fee. It was still much cheaper than buying the book in electronic or paper format. 😉

    While I love the convenience of ebooks, I just can’t see paying more than $5 for them. That’s my threshold. As long as publishers keep the costs over that mark, I’ll buy very few.

  25. DG says 07 December 2010 at 13:20

    eBooks from commercial vendors are (most likely) never going to be an option for me. If those books would be provided in a format that’s not crippled by DRM then, yes. Otherwise, no.

    I don’t like the threats that the vendor can remove any ebook that I have *paid for* whenever they feel like it (something some have already done).

    The “free” ebooks on the Amazon web site can probably found elsewhere on the web. Start here, for example:

    These ebooks exist in a standard format: PDF. And once I downloaded an ebook it’s not going to disappear. Ever.

  26. KM says 07 December 2010 at 13:23

    I’m interested, but I haven’t tried an e-reader yet.

    It seems like a lot of money, and then you have to pay for the books on top of buying the reader. The limited number of books available for each e-reader also worries me. I’m also not sure about the format–I like flipping through books, books with gorgeous pictures (art, architecture, gardening), and lending or giving away my books after I read them. I also read primarily stuff that isn’t fiction or best-sellers.

    Probably I’ll eventually cave and get an ipad. I can’t see spending money on yet another electronic device just to read books. At least the ipad lets you do lots of other things too.

  27. Liz says 07 December 2010 at 13:25

    Note that both Barnes & Noble and Sony allow you to borrow ebooks from your local library – can’t do better than that!

  28. Andrew says 07 December 2010 at 13:25

    When I can buy a ‘book’ and receive both the hard-copy in the post, and download the ebook, I’ll use an e-reader. Until then, I’m sticking to dead tree format.

    There is also no way I will buy something with DRM on it. Totally voting with my wallet on this one.

    I really want an e-reader though.

  29. Megan says 07 December 2010 at 13:26

    I’m a huge reader, but I haven’t yet adapted to reading much on my iphone, or even downloading books from the library onto my laptop. However, right now my library doesn’t link very well to the iphone and if it did, I think I would “borrow” more to read. It does do audiobooks but with a hearing loss, that’s not of interest to me. I think ereaders work for people who are willing to buy books but for me, if it’s not at the library, or I can’t read it in an hour at the bookstore, I find I’m not interesting in spending money for a book. I also agree with the swap comment – with a real book, you can loan it to a friend or give it to the library when you are done. With an ebook, it’s only yours and when you are finished, it just takes up memory.

    So I think once e-readers allow swaps (even if it was like, $1 a swap) and libraries can download to my reader, I’ll be much more interested, until then though, I’m just watching and waiting.

  30. Stephanie says 07 December 2010 at 13:27

    I’ve always been an avid reader, used to take a book a day on vacation. Didn’t leave much room for clothes in my suitcase though! Before our honeymoon this year, my husband bought me a used Sony Ereader off Craigslist. I loved being able to travel so much lighter!

    That being said, outside of travel I still utilize my local library for dead tree books. I vastly prefer free to paying money for electronic versions. When we do travel, I try and pick out the cheapest books on my lengthy list of stuff I want to read and load up the ereader.

  31. Heather says 07 December 2010 at 13:31

    This is a very timely post for me! I was recently gifted a Sony pocket edition reader as a bridesmaid gift and have been spending the last few days poking around the internet looking for free ebook resources. Never would have bought an ereader for myself, as much as I’ve coveted them: at this point in my life I have more important things to save for…like a house.

    I’m an avid user of the library and have severely curtailed my book-buying habit the last few years to save money, and I certainly don’t intend on reversing the trend now that I have an ereader. Some persistent googling has revealed a treasure trove of free ebooks, and my library has a very large collection of ebooks (although they are so popular that most of them have waiting lists). Like so many other aspects of frugality, I’m going to exercise patience and restraint.

    I can’t see ebooks totally replacing dead-tree version for me, but since I tend to read 4-5 books a month (even while writing a thesis) I’m looking forward to being able to carry the majority of my reading around in one small package…particularly when travelling!!

    The ability to upload pdfs and annotate them has huge value for me as a graduate student – I can carry sections of my thesis around with me in my purse for proof reading, rather than lugging a backpack full of paper or my laptop. Of course the ereader will never replace my laptop or printouts for major editing.

  32. Money Maker says 07 December 2010 at 13:42

    “Electronic books will never completely replace paper books”

    Probably what the stone carving tablet guys said when Papyrus was invented and started threatening their industry.

    I seriously doubt paper will exist in 10-20 years. It just doesn’t make to cut down trees and burn valuable fuel to ship words around.

  33. Jeff says 07 December 2010 at 13:54

    I’ve been a consistent detractor of Kindles and e-books since they’ve come into existence. I’ve never purchased an e-book nor a Kindle. My main issue is cost, which I think is unreasonable with libraries and used books. Here are a few additional reasons I don’t like them other than what’s in the article:

    1) You can’t share them easily. Now they are coming out with ways to share, but that person still needs a device to read it.

    2) You still have to carry around the device and that device needs power to run. Granted there is good battery life for a Kindle, this may not be at he case for an iPad or laptop.

  34. Thad says 07 December 2010 at 13:59

    I have two problems with many of the eReaders, but especially the Kindle.

    1) I don’t want ‘big brother’ reaching into my library to remove the items they deem offensive. The DRM on the Kindle means that you don’t own those books that you purchased. In other words, if Amazon or the publisher or the author decides that they don’t want to continue with the eBook, then you can lose your copy. That does not happen with traditional hard copies.

    2) I get my books for free from the library. Sure, I have to go once every couple of weeks to check out books, but my library allows me to hold, renew, and find books online … meaning that I spend a total of two minutes in the library and rarely have to visit the stacks to get my books because they are waiting for me on the hold shelves.

    Okay, maybe I cannot get that hot best sellers immediate, but do I really need it right now? Isn’t there something else that I can read or something better for me to do?


  35. Sasha says 07 December 2010 at 14:01

    I got the B&N Nook because I am in online classes and find that staring at a screen to absorb information does not work for me. At the time of purchase, Kindle did not have a convenient way to read PDFs and the Nook did. The process of reading for classes has been easier with this portable device. For this reason alone, it was worth the investment. A plus side is I can free download books from a variety of sources (Borders has a good list of free stuff) or samples of books from B&N to see if I like a book before I take the plunge to buy.

  36. Stacy says 07 December 2010 at 14:03

    I am a devoted bookworm mostly via library and used bookstore or Goodwill. I debated long and hard and finally bought a Nook when I saw a good price on Craigslist ($80 for the basic with a case). I have a friend who works for BN and he told me what to look for in a used one and checked it over for me. The tipping point was a 10 day vacation across the country and a plan to travel more in the future. I typically travel with a backpack full of books, and it was wonderful to only have my Nook.
    Thus far I’ve gotten only free books and I’m in no danger of running out of reading material. I haven’t experimented with borrowing electronically from the library yet. BN gives away free books every Friday. offers free galleys of some new books in exchange for a written review. And of course Gutenberg is great for older books. I’ve still been checking books out from the library and we still have shelves crammed full of paperbacks but I love having a whole collection of books on something so small and light.

  37. Jessica Bosari says 07 December 2010 at 14:07

    eBooks won’t be my main source of literature until I have the ability to download them, save them wherever I want and hand them down to my kids. The books my father handed down to me are special. You should be able to hand down eBooks too.

  38. RP says 07 December 2010 at 14:23

    My husband got me a Nook for my birthday this year, and I’m using it almost exclusively for my major reading habit (3-5 books a week). I’m doing this while still being majorly cheap by checking ePubs out from the library. The Nook also lets you lend out any books you do buy to anyone with a Nook or the Nook app (for the lending time, you can’t read it, but they can). I’ve tried this out once with my husband and it worked like a dream. Now I just have to find someone who wants to read what I have and who has things I want to read.

  39. Rachel says 07 December 2010 at 14:25

    I want to point out that the actual cost of paper, print, and binding for a book is relatively low. (I can’t speak to distribution; my side of the biz doesn’t sell through regular channels like Borders or even Amazon.) What you’re actually paying for is the intellectual property of the author, and the time & efforts of all the people who edit the manuscript, design the book, and otherwise work to translate the author’s thoughts & ideas into a format that you, the consumer, can read. That expense, that investment on the part of the publisher, is there & reflected in the price regardless of whether you buy the dead-tree edition or the e-book.

    @keeper #6 is absolutely right about the additional cost of converting older editions. In the future, publishers should be producing more content with the digital platform created concurrently to the print edition (if they’re not already), so it would make sense to expect that e-books are some amount cheaper than the print editions. However, the e-books will never be regularly priced at $2.00 per bestseller.

    Working for a publisher has certainly changed my perspective on some of these questions. I can’t say that I agree with all the DRM business, for instance. However, I’ve become very conscious that authors, and artists, and anyone who creates something that I enjoy consuming, depend on their royalties from what I buy to make their living and keep creating new works for me to enjoy. Should there be changes to how “the system” works? Sure. The days where creative people needed the heft of a big music label or major publisher to get their work in front of potential fans are over, and contracts and royalty percentages need to reflect that fact. But for me the bottom line will always be that the people who create the music, books, movies, etc that I enjoy deserve to be paid for what they create, so that they can continue to create more.

  40. Kyle says 07 December 2010 at 14:26

    I would love ebooks even if they were consistently MORE expensive than actual books because of the convenience factor. It’s well worth the price to be able to carry 20 books on my next flight without having to devote my entire carry-on to reading material.

  41. Shari says 07 December 2010 at 14:30

    You really should have titled this “Is Kindle Cost Effective?” since you didn’t look at how ebooks work outside the realm of Amazon.

    Many commenters have already pointed out that on other devices, you can check out ebooks from many libraries.

    Did you know that Baen Books offers free ebooks? They don’t just offer a teaser chapter masquerading as a free ebook – an act that I find disingenuous. They offer free ebooks as part of their marketing plan. With their release of Cryoburn, every hardcover copy came with a CD with all the ebook versions of the entire series and they encouraged readers to share the CD with their friends. They don’t lock their files up with DRM which prevents ebooks from being moved from one type of device to another. The cost of their books generally ranges from $4 to $6 in their ebook store.

    All of the ebooks that I have purchased so far, I have purchased directly through the publisher. I’ve yet to spend more than $5 for a book.

    My Sony Touch 650 makes it very easy to “dog-ear” pages as well as take notes. I don’t know how the Kindle works. I wasn’t willing to purchase a device that was so limited in file usage and flexibility so I didn’t even bother researching it.

    You said, “And that device generally isn’t as portable and/or convenient as a paperback.” Seriously? The average weight of a paperback is 12 ounces. Then, you have to hold it open (which is a problem for people with hand issues – arthritis springs to mind). My ereader is lighter than most but even the Kindle WiFi is only 8.5 ounces. Plus, if you are going somewhere where you are going to be for a while and you are nearing the end of a book, you’d have to bring 2 paperback books. If you are flying, depending on how fast you read, you might have to bring 3 or 4. How is that more portable or convenient than an ereader?

    I’d agree that there are a lot of problems with ebooks currently. DRM is a big one. So is the inability of the publishing industry to understand the ebook market and embrace it. Those high prices are due to publishing companies not being willing to change their business model. However, to damn the whole market based on your experience with Amazon isn’t a very honest review. It would be like saying clothing is expensive when you only shop in the most expensive stores and have never once shopped when there were sales going on.

  42. Jim says 07 December 2010 at 14:36

    I know a lot of people who keep each book they read as a kind of trophy. Why else would people have bookcases in their homes containing anything other than reference books? They keep War & Piece out there to show you that they read it and that they are cultured, educated people!

    eBooks can’t do this.

  43. James says 07 December 2010 at 14:41

    In addition to the recreational reading, what about college textbooks. Some kids are paying $50, $100 or even $200 for a book that they try to sell back for $20 at the end of a semester (only if a new revision doesn’t come out.) Why can’t they release them in ebook for and then you could have your entire semester in the palm of your hand.

  44. DJ says 07 December 2010 at 14:41

    Hi J.D.,

    Another point that you made maybe not intentionally, is that you were able to sell off a substantial portion of your physical library to help pay down debt. I don’t believe that you can easily sell electronic versions of books. My guess is that it would be a lot more difficult to justify buying a “used” electronic copy of a book versus a well kept hard back edition. Unless of course, e-books with 120 pre-loaded books start popping up on Ebay like World of Warcraft character accounts. But I think is highly unlikely…

  45. Robert says 07 December 2010 at 14:42

    I own a Kindle and I use it mainly for Public Domain and Creative Commons works. I also use it to read PDFs for work. The main benefits for me are the size and the screen contrast.

    I have not bought books on the device. Everything on the device is mine because the Public Domain and Creative Commons works are free to distribute. With any paid material which are read on the Kindle, and any of these other e-book stores, the money spent buys a restricted, revocable, and heavily encumbered license for the material, not the material itself. I like owning a book and having the option to lend it to a friend or resell it makes sense if I’m paying $10 or more. For an e-book I would be paying nearly as much and forgoing those rights and benefits. What happens when the technology moves on to other digital devices and formats; will you lose access to what you’ve already paid for? This sort of problem has already been experienced by users of some of the early online music stores.

  46. fairy dust says 07 December 2010 at 14:45

    @Robin #13 – when you say read the blogs daily to see what ebooks are available free, which specific blogs are you referring to? I think we (the family, but maybe just me if no one else likes it) are getting a Kindle for Christmas, and I want to be as frugle as possible about its use.
    Thanks! Great topic!!!!

  47. retirebyforty says 07 December 2010 at 14:48

    I don’t read ebook because of the cost. There are tons of books at the library and I have a lot of reading left to do.
    If ebook cost $2 each, I might be more interested.

  48. Todd says 07 December 2010 at 15:02

    I have a Kindle and love it. Once purchased, there are no connection fees, the charge will last up to three weeks and, as I travel a lot, it saves a ton of space which is being limited more and more by the airlines.

    I read a lot of odd things so they are sometimes on the Kindle, sometimes not. I love the free public domain books. I like the ease of use, going out to a park on a sunny day makes the Kindle the closest thing to reading a physical book.

    I have no attachment to physical books. I think I miss LPs more than books and I survived the move to digital there. You can too!

  49. emily says 07 December 2010 at 15:08

    My husband quickly found that he ran out of books to read electronically because his tastes don’t run to NYT bestsellers. I hate that I can’t lend e-books to anyone.

  50. J.D. says 07 December 2010 at 15:12

    @Shari (#41)
    Obviously my experience is primarily with the Kindle. However, I think you’re over-reacting. Everyone else seems to understand that I can only write from my experience, and they’re chipping in with their comments on other platforms without complaining that I’ve misrepresented anything.

    Some thoughts:

    * I’m well aware of Baen’s free e-books, but they’re a tiny, tiny fraction of the universe of books.

    * Kindle allows bookmarking and highlighting and note-taking. I didn’t say this was impossible. I said it was tedious, and it is. When I have a paperback, I can see my four dog-eared pages and know which one I want immediately. With an e-book, it takes time to find the right spot.

    * I stand by my statement that individual paperbacks are more convenient than e-books, despite your fringe scenarios. I can read a paperback in the bathtub. (Okay, I read my iPad there, too, but I recognize I’m taking a risk.) Just now, I carried three paperbacks 1/4 mile to my office in the rain, and I didn’t give a whit. If I leave a paperback on a bus or in a restaurant, it’s not big deal. If I leave a Kindle there, it’s a problem. A paperback doesn’t need to be recharged. A paperback doesn’t need to be turned off for takeoff and landing.

    * I’m not damning the the e-reader experience. I’m just saying it’s not perfect. Don’t I say in my post that half of my book dollars are spent on digital books? That’s hardly damning the experience! I like e-books, but I think they’ve got some problems.

    Finally, I don’t think your last analogy is very good. Amazon is hardly the “most expensive clothing” store. Everyone else’s prices are similar. I’ve looked. Yes, there are free and cheap books to be had — many comments in this thread (including yours) name places to get them, and, as I’ve mentioned, I have a dozen free books myself — but these aren’t the norm. To represent otherwise is disingenuous. Most e-books are relatively expensive. (For good reason, as some folks have pointed out.) That’s true whether you’re talking about Amazon, B&N, Apple, Google, or any other seller.

  51. b says 07 December 2010 at 15:15

    One thing I dont like about an e-reader or e-book (I downloaded the Barnes and Noble e-reader to my iphone but rarely use it) is that you can’t share books. Paperbacks if you LOVE it you can pass it onto someone else who may love it. But with e-books it seems that you can’t share them.

  52. Tara says 07 December 2010 at 15:21

    @J.D. in response to Shari (#50):

    When I want to read in the bathtub, I put my Kindle in a ziploc bag. I would *never* read a paperback in the bathtub for fear of getting it soaked accidentally. I also don’t eat near paperback books, but it’s a lot easier with a Kindle since you only need one finger to turn the pages, rather than two hands.

  53. Freddie says 07 December 2010 at 15:21

    I don’t own a reader yet, though I’ve tried Kindle on my laptop. I’ll probably get an ebook reader or iPad at some point, but there are some things I dislike about ebooks. As some other commenters already have said, it is difficult or impossible to lend, swap, sell an ebook. Also, at this point there are still several incompatible formats around. This makes me a bit nervous about the longevity of a personal library consisting of ebooks.

  54. Tara C says 07 December 2010 at 15:22

    I can see the appeal, but so far I am still hooked on the real thing.. I love the feel of a book in my hands. I spend all day on a computer and reading an actual paper book in the evenings is much more relaxing to me.

  55. Amanda says 07 December 2010 at 15:22

    So far, I haven’t been able to find a wide selection of eBooks in Korean. Hence, I stick with regular books. I can find dead-wood Korean books.

    I’ve heard one of the major readers can now read Hangul (the Korean alphabet) but I’ve also heard it looks like junk.

    Dead wood it is!

  56. Panda says 07 December 2010 at 15:22

    I _love_ my Kindle. And for me, it was largely neutral in terms of cost, but is way ahead of paper books in terms of convenience.

    I think you hit most of the points in your article. Whether or not ebooks are inherently cost effective is really dependent on each person’s individual reading habits.

    I found that I operate under much the same financial rules as I did before. I spend my budget for books on books that I think I’ll want to reread and get the rest from the library. In my case, my book budget is comprised solely of “found” money (gift cards, loose change converted into Amazon gift cards, etc) and I’ve found that it goes much farther with ebooks than it did before.

    edited to add:

    Re: convenience – I find my Kindle way more convenient that individual paperbacks, but then I also always have a purse with me that my Kindle fits in.

    For my brother, who carries his mass market paperbacks scrunched into a cargo pocket, an ereader is less convenient on a daily basis.
    And with publishers occasionally offering ebooks free for a limited period of time, I’ve read broader than I might have otherwise and scored some books I would have gladly paid for free!

  57. Stephanie F says 07 December 2010 at 15:28

    I’ve always been the sort of person who has four or five books going at once, and who feels slight irrational panic at, say, going to the dentist and trying to decide which book to bring because what if I get there and discover I really wanted to read one of the others instead? The Kindle solves that problem. And it was a godsend when packing for our recent trip to the U.K.

    I’ve got a Kindle instead of an iPad or using my iPhone with the Kindle app because I suffer from migraines, and reading on a device that projects light at me is impossible to bear during a migraine, while the e-ink of the Kindle is significantly easier to bear, as it uses reflected light.

    My boyfriend has an iPad and uses the Kindle app on it. We signed it up to my Amazon account, and if he feels like downloading one of mine or buying an ebook for himself, he does it through that and pays me back, but he tends to rely on movies, TV and videogames for his narrative fix instead of books.

    I am also a librarian and am signed up with as Stacy @36 is, and get free e-ARCs to read and review from there. (Librarians, bloggers, and other professional readers/reviewers can all sign up.)

    Editing to add: My coworker bought a Nook, and bought his in-laws one, because you *can* share books between Nooks – if I remember correctly, the loaned book disappears from your Nook and appears on theirs for a set period of time, then disappears from theirs and returns to yours.

  58. J.D. says 07 December 2010 at 15:37

    IMPORTANT! Regarding the convenience factor, I suppose it comes down to my financial mantra: Do what works for you. For me, paperbacks are more convenient. For Shari (and others), e-books are more convenient. I guess it should have been obvious to me from the start that different people will have different preferences. But sometimes I forget that not everyone is perfect like I am. 🙂

  59. Courtney says 07 December 2010 at 15:44

    I have a Nook and just got the Nook app for Android. It automatically added my purchased books, but not the ones I currently have checked out from the local library. I may or may not be able to add them manually (will find out later tonight).

    My main quibble is that I get e-mailed B&N coupons 2-3 times a month for anywhere from 10-25% off a purchase, and they always say “not valid on e-books” so if you have a coupon, the physical book is actually cheaper 🙁

  60. Robin says 07 December 2010 at 16:14

    To the person that asks, here are my sources for free Kindle books (from Amazon, although there are a lot on project gutenberg and the baen site):

    I love my kindle
    kindle review
    daily cheap reads

    There is also a woman who posts in the amazon kindle forum every day with the free books, very early in the morning. I prefer to have it mixed in with my blogs, though. There is some overlap because I follow three, but it helps keep me from missing any,

    Even if you don’t have a kindle yet, you can download amazon’s kindle for PC application (FREE) ands start collecting books.

    Some of the better free books I’ve gotten:
    Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
    His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Naovik
    Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke

  61. Money Smarts Blog says 07 December 2010 at 16:21

    As Rachel said – the printing costs of the book are quite minimal.

    Authors want to get paid, publishing companies want money, Amazon wants money – ebooks are never going to be super-cheap.

    JD – I don’t get the comparison of ebooks to the library or yard sale? You can buy 5 year old paper books as well from the bookstore and I don’t think they are very cheap.

  62. JH says 07 December 2010 at 16:34

    I will wait a while to see how things pan out.
    Kindle has already shown that you are leasing the books, not buying them. As the 1984 by Orwell problem showed, they can reach in and take back anything you have paid them for at any time they want.

    I have Stanza for free in my ITouch and I keep some classics on them. The rest, I will wait.

  63. Barb says 07 December 2010 at 16:45

    In general Im with the minority here. I dont spend money for books unless its gift money or amazon certificates through my rewards program. The library is my friend. Yep, you have to drive there, but its part of my regular errand routine. I prereserve the books I want and generally pick up ten or so every couple of weeks. So for me, the cost simply doesnt compare. The new books I do buy are generally crafting, cooking or reference books, for which I want a hard copy.

    Count me in again with the paperback convenience boks. I read paperbacks and even hardbacks in the bathtub-I also reglarly fall aslweep reading and would hate to drop a device on the floor or roll over on it into the night.

    Obviously it depends on individual perspective-for me not having an e reader of any kind is a no brainer.

  64. bg says 07 December 2010 at 17:01

    I basically live in the Internet and with computers. I read a lot of free things online. But for books – paper rules. Especially as 95% of my current reads wouldn’t be available as e-books.

    Usually trying to save money by buying second-hand at Amazon Marketplace (and sometimes selling, but it takes time).

  65. Blair says 07 December 2010 at 17:16

    I couldn’t imagine life without my Kindle app.

    Despite being obsessed with books, I had pretty much stopped buying them because I had long since run out space to keep, despite having brutally purged my collection repeatedly. Plus, when moving on a regular basis, books were a pain.

    Yes, I could have just gone to the library instead of buying books. It would have been the frugal option after all. However, I love to write in and re-read books. The former is certainly frowned upon with library books.

    Now I can read books on either my iPhone or laptop, I can highlight and makes notes (that I am actually more likely to go back and review now compared to when I was reading paper books), plus the ability to get a sample of books before buying has greatly increasing my buying experience.

    E-books are far from perfect and I can’t wait until I finally purchase DRM-free e-books that I can use across all devices but for all their flaws they have been a wonderful addition to my life.

  66. chacha1 says 07 December 2010 at 17:35

    I am mere weeks away from buying my own Kindle. I downloaded the Kindle app for my laptop to see if I liked the interface, and I do – but I don’t like reading on the laptop, so I’m getting the gadget. Even if I had to upgrade the gadget every 2 years, at $120 a pop, that’s $5 a month for unlimited reading potential.

    I read over 100 books/yr consistently, and about half of those are new-to-me, but there is only so much living space I am willing to cede to books anymore. And being a person who can easily read six books on a week’s vacation, the all-in-one library is an irresistible lure.

    There are some traditional books that I will keep forever, but there are hundreds of titles that I’d like access to without having them fill up my physical space. The cost is not a concern for me since I would be buying books anyway.

    And I have complete faith in Amazon being able to migrate Kindle libraries to new devices as they come out. I do not believe it is a company that would say, oops, our new device won’t read your old purchases. Just as Microsoft Word can still render documents created in WordPerfect ca 1995.

    DRM doesn’t bother me either. If I want complete control of a book forever, I’ll buy the hard copy. But for the latest series novel, read for pure entertainment, the physical entity is much less where the value lies than the content.

  67. JBP says 07 December 2010 at 18:02

    Several people have mentioned the benefit of being able to store and read PDF files (esp. useful for grad students or academics, for example). I was wondering how useful the e-readers are for this. Can you make comments on any PDF files (like articles you get from JSTOR)? Can you save those comments and send the annotated versions to others to read? I’m thinking that that would be a huge savings as compared to cost of printing and storing a file-cabinet full of annotated journal articles.

  68. julianne says 07 December 2010 at 18:05

    My husband was undoubtedly growing weary of my racing through my latest stack from the library then lamenting, “I have nothing to reeeeead” and bought me a Kindle me. Now I always have something to read. And as I enjoy old books, I’ve only purchased one book so far.

    I do feel a bit nostalgic for the physicality of real books, but I’m willing to pay the price for always having something to read.

  69. Edward - If You Can Read, You Can Cook says 07 December 2010 at 18:15

    I own an older Sony Reader. Last year, Sony provided an update which functionally made it a newer model, with support for ePubs, re-flowed pdf’s, and typing in the page number you want to jump to. But my favorite feature is probably resizing of the text. I absolutely love it. It fits in the pocket of (most of) my pants.
    My Reader is also easier for me to hold in one hand, which is a necessity when donating plasma which I do twice weekly.

    As many people have mentioned, a lot of libraries and library consortiums lend ebooks. Overdrive probably has 90% of the library ebook market. Check out their website to see if your library is a member.

    My two biggest issues are 1)the page buttons of my Reader are on the left side of the device but I donate with my left arm, so I have to reach across to turn the page.
    2)Pdf’s still aren’t great. Without re-flowing, the text is almost always tiny. And re-flowing only kind of works; if there is text in the margin, it gets mixed in with the body, and it doesn’t word-wrap properly, with words getting cut in half.

    @57 (Stephanie F). The Nook does have a sharing feature, called LendMe. It only works with the Nook and Nook apps, but it’s a start. There seems to be some confusion over whether a book can be shared more than once; I think the original terms only allowed for a nook-book to be shared once in it’s lifetime, but B&N lifted the restriction. But I could be wrong there.

    @60 (Robin) I loved His Majesty’s Dragon! I just finished reading the second book and will be placing a hold on the third (there are six in the series) from my library’s ebook system later tonight.

  70. Christi says 07 December 2010 at 18:20

    Thank you Rachel for pointing out that only about 30% of books’ costs sit in the paper, binding and printing. The rest of it is in the intangible intellectual rights and pays for “invisible” work of the editors – those people whose craft is to fine tune (or overhaul) the books you love so much.

    There will always be a plethora of vying opinions when it comes to comes to “how-much-should-we-pay” for cultural commodities such as (e)books. How do you place the value on something that is not just sheets of paper and ink? For the most part, we don’t read because it feeds us or clothes us. Rather, we engage with books because we like to.

    I know that this a financial/frugal website, but sometimes you have to pay some for the things you like (or, you know, go to a library).

  71. Elizabeth says 07 December 2010 at 18:26

    I am a very fast reader, which was wonderful in grad school. Now it just means I go through books much too quickly. Since the end of April, I’ve logged 125k airline miles for work. I could not have packed enough books for each of those trips without exceeding the carry on luggage size requirements.

    My husband travels as much as I do and he borrowed mine one week when I was actually at home. Now he has one; it’s linked to my account so we can share books. For us, this is the best solution.

  72. Ulrike says 07 December 2010 at 18:45

    I have an iPod Touch that I can use to read ebooks via various apps (Kindle, Nook, Stanza, iBooks, etc). I like the device in a very limited capacity, but a dedicated eReader is definitely not for me.

    When I’ve crunched the numbers on books I actually purchase, I found that I saved money by avoiding the eBook format. I also tend to buy only books I really love, which are also books I want to lend to my friends & family. B&N’s Nook allows eBook sharing in a limited capacity, but only if my friends and family also have Nook-compatible devices.

  73. Kristen says 07 December 2010 at 18:49

    I’m with Peggy. I live in a non-English-speaking country, and if I want to read books in English, I have to order them online at a high cost (because they ship from overseas), and then when I’m done with them I can’t sell or even give them away most of the time. Local libraries don’t carry English books, as there are few English speakers in this country. I have a closet full of English books that I will never read again and I have no way to get rid of them other than throwing them in the trash, which I am loathe to do. But I also have to move semi-frequently for my job, so I can’t haul 200 lbs of books with me every time.

    E-books allow me to enjoy books in English at a lower cost and without cluttering up my life. My iphone fits in my pocket and I can read books on the train, in the bathroom, while waiting in line, etc. I do use libraries and second-hand stores for books in the language of my host country, but I like to read English books as well, and ebooks allow me to do that at a reasonable cost. I wish they had been around when I first moved to this country 7 years ago, because then I would never have bought all the books that are cluttering up my house at the moment.

  74. Samantha says 07 December 2010 at 19:03

    @73 Kristen

    Sell them online! If that takes too much time, I think Amazon has a service where you just send them the books and they sell them for you.

  75. Sonja says 07 December 2010 at 19:05

    Don’t forget that ebooks are not the only think you can put on a e-reader or a Kindle. You can also use the Kindle to read pdf files and then you don’t have to log papers around or remember to bring with you a certain paper.

    I don’t have a Kindle, but I have been thinking about getting one and the ability to read and annotate pdf files is a big motivator. It would be nice to get other people opinion on this.

  76. Jaime B says 07 December 2010 at 19:29

    Unless someone buys one for me, I’ll still probably not get an ereader. Even with 70% of the cost of a book tied up in editing, intellectual property, etc I still find many ebooks too expensive. If I’m just “renting” the book, then it should be commensurately cheaper. I don’t like the idea that the entity I buy the book from can take it away from me later. I’m especially leery of that since there appears to be no notice required of that kind of action beforehand.

    Replacing my current paper collection would be severely cost prohibitive as well. Even if only at $2 a book, that would still be over $1,000! Sure, I’ve spent way more than that buying it in the first place, but why spend it again just to own it in e-format?

    I haven’t really studied it much, but I’m also curious about the actual storage. Is it on the reader itself or does a virtual copy of your collection exist somewhere online? How easily can you switch your collection to a newer reader? When your battery eventually wears out, could you be at risk of losing all of your data? (flashbacks to an old pocket PC of mine where this happened – all current data was lost, though I did have everything backed up on my regular pc it was just not the most up-to-date) This question is probably answered on an FAQ list somewhere, but I haven’t been interested enough to go look.

    That said, if I traveled more I would get an ereader for the convenience. Just like I bought an MP3 player to replace my portable CD player after lugging around a bunch of CDs on a trip overseas and a newer digital camera to replace the free one my dad gave me that needed disks instead of a memory card.

    But until I’m gifted with one, win the lottery or start traveling significantly, I’m content to use my library and/or buy paper books.

  77. Terry says 07 December 2010 at 19:56

    E-books save trees. Lees paper…more trees.
    in this world of over consumption and global warming, should not this be your first reason for buying an E-book. Took take a step to helping saving the environment!!

  78. KC says 07 December 2010 at 20:10

    I’m a non-fiction reader and I keep few of my books. The ones I do keep are ones I’ll re-read and usually make notes in. Once I read something and know I won’t keep it I resell it on I can certainly see why e-books would be attractive to some – many of those reasons have already been mentioned. But from my standpoint I don’t see any financial advantages to a e-reader. But then I own a lot of devices I love and enjoy (my iphone, my XM radio) that aren’t financial decisions, but rather enjoyment decisions. Nothing wrong with that if you’ve got your financial ducks in a row.

  79. random walker says 07 December 2010 at 20:18

    I wanted the Kindle for technical articles in PDF. Should have got the larger Kindle instead of the $139 version. Getting tired of using landscape mode and the zoom feature.

    For publicly available books on the Kindle, download the Magic Catalog from

  80. Matthew Peters says 07 December 2010 at 20:21

    I like my iPhone as a handy e-reader. When I am stuck somewhere, I always have a good book with me to read. I have only bought several $.99 or $1.99 books for that very reason. I enjoy the interactive elements and use the notes, highlighting and bookmarking functions-many times lifting a quote right out of what I just read and pasting it into Tweetdeck to share.

    I received a half off coupon for Boarders the other day and bought Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin. It’s a great read, but at $25 for the hard cover, the only way I would buy it was a half price sale.

    I like to support authors, but tend to use the library for reading material. If I just love a book and want it as a reference, then I will go out and buy it for myself.

  81. imelda says 07 December 2010 at 20:22

    I have an iPad with a Kindle reading app, and I kind of hate it. I currently live in Japan so it’s GREAT to be able to buy English books whenever I want; I am an avid reader. But I hate not being able to check books out of the library. Back home, I probably checked out an average of 2 books a week. The Kindle, with it’s instant-gratification and inability to borrow books, is a money-suck.

    Also, I hate the glare of reading on the iPad, and I hate not having a book in my hands. I find myself much less able to lose myself in the books I’m reading than I am with a physical copy. The iPad also weighs a lot and is very large, which makes reading inconvenient. Just my two cents on the matter.

    All this, plus the issue of not actually owning the books you own? I sure hope paper books are here to stay.

  82. Joy says 07 December 2010 at 20:36

    iPad and iPhone owners can read library epub and pdf ebooks (for free) using the free Bluefire app. It’s the first iOS app that works with library ebook DRM, though supposedly Overdrive has its own app in the work that will allow for direct download onto the device. With Bluefire you need to email the checked out ebook’s .acsm file to yourself as an attachment to get it on there.

    Selection is still limited compared to print, but they are free. And unlike print library books, there aren’t fines to worry about–the books expire when your checkout period is done.

  83. D says 07 December 2010 at 21:18

    I’ve been reading on a dedicated ereader for about 10 years at this point. I HATE reading on paper, and a lot of that has to do with small font size. But also the nasty chemical smell of new ink and paper, and with library books the smell of peoples cigarettes and perfumes that make me sick.

    I read 20 books in November. Between paper, library books and only when I have to, and ebooks on my Sony, I’ve read 24,222 pages so far this year.

    Most of what I read are LGBT fiction books that I can’t get from my local library, and at nearly a book a day I can’t use InterLibrary Loan for that amount and I know from looking that a lot of what I’m looking for isn’t even available. My options are ereading or not reading at all. Not reading is NOT an acceptable option.

    I don’t buy from the main publishers because they don’t publish what I want, and I refuse to buy anything with DRM. Most of what I buy is in the $4-$5 range, I buy from independent ebookstores or directly from publishers. At this point, my newest ebook reader has cost me just over $7 a month, and that’s dropping every month.

    There are times where I’ve decided that cost effectiveness doesn’t matter, and do things for other reasons, quality of life, principles, things like that. For me, ebooks are one of those things.

  84. MIchael says 07 December 2010 at 21:41

    Obviously the convenience factor of the Kindle is a major selling point, but I still personally would prefer to read the dog-eared book I bought 5 years ago, or a new hardcover book.

    E-book Readers seem to take away the ‘atmosphere’ of reading.

    It also comes down to how many books you go through, if you like having a book library (like myself) etc

    If you only buy mass paperbacks and you don’t really care for the physical book, an e-book reader would probably work out to be more cost effective over time as generally the books are cheaper.

    Also from an environmental standpoint, e-book readers are very good too.

  85. krantcents says 07 December 2010 at 21:46

    Thanks for the post. You confirmed what I thought. I think the major reason to get an ebooks device is for convenience. You will spend equal or more on books.

  86. Helen says 07 December 2010 at 21:53

    I love my Sony e-reader! And while I find myself spending more on reading now than I did before, I’m reading more than I did before too, so that’s only logical.

    I recently read a paperback for the first time in a year – I found it so cumbersome! And during a particularly long commute, I finished it – and didn’t have a new book waiting in the wings, which was annoying. I always keep an extra book or two in reserve on my e-book reader – and no more than that, because that keeps my spending in check.

    When I first got my e-reader, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to get used to it, and I argued the “but I love the feel of a book” argument. But I soon discovered that I didn’t love the feel of the book as much as I thought I did – no one sits and thumbs through a book of blank pages for the pleasure of it after all! You get lost in the story, not the paper – and once you’re used to turning your pages electronically, you get lost in your e-book story just as well as you do with a paper book. For the first 25 page turns or so, I had to consciously think about turning the pages, but now I don’t think about turning an e-page anymore than I would think about the act of turning a physical page – you just know when to do it without thinking.

    The reduction in book-clutter is amazing – for me the e-reader’s advantages far, far outweigh its disadvantages.

    Thanks for the post!

  87. saro says 07 December 2010 at 21:57

    JD, do you find that your eye strains from reading on the ipad? I really like the kindle for that reason (not backlit).

    I think I would have your mind-set if I had a home-base in the U.S. I share the same frustrations with it (highlighting non-fiction & etc) but the key difference for me is that I live abroad. The Kindle for me, living in a developing nation, has been a God-send. Used books in English here are super expensive and I used to stockpile books before I came and then just scrounge around for whatever available. Now I just download classics (read all of Willa Cather, All of Alcott and am now trying to decide what to read next) from Feedbooks, which has been great for me, easier to navigate than Amazon or Project gutenberg).

    It’s also helped save me the trouble of printing & lugging paper copies of research that I have to read home.

    Money wise, I’m saved from spending because I have financial goals (so very limited spending on ‘fun’ stuff until my school loans are paid off). I completely avoid the Amazon website because I know I would probably go crazy. This is where it’s good to be here, I mostly avoid advertising and am not tempted by too many things (as I am when in the U.S.).

    My husband got the Kindle for free as part of a pilot program for his school and then gave it to me when he graduated. Once we reach our financial goals, I will set an amount I’m allowed to spend on a monthly basis and then not go over that amount.

    But yes, three years ago, I would’ve purchased the kindle right when it came out and then probably spent at least $1200 a year on book purchases.

  88. E says 07 December 2010 at 22:12

    I haven’t seen anyone mention it, but you can do more than read books and pdf files on the Kindle (and presumably, other devices). I got a Kindle DX in March and now have about 200+ books, many free, many not. The cost was racking up- mainly due to both convenience and novelty. Nero Wolfe available at 4:30 am! Yes. Anyway, I’ve started reading my rss feed on the kindle. I use the Google rss feed manager and add or delete feeds from there. Every day, I read Pearls before Swine, Get Fuzzy, Peanuts and a few other cartoons, Get Rich Slowly, The Simple Dollar, Language Log, and few other blogs that show up on my kindle like magic and for free. Just open the web browser and type in the url for google reader; bookmark it for next time and enjoy. Because I have fresh content daily, I’m buying fewer books. Check out mobiread and akindleworld for info at both sites on all types of ereaders.

    I can access my bank websites to check balances. Internet access on the kindle is unlimited and free, although slower than you’d be used to on other devices. Sometimes I have to reboot it when doing this- but hey, free internet.

    If you don’t have GPS, use google maps to get directions on the kindle. Email your plane boarding pass to your kindle as a pdf and let the airport scan your kindle to board your flight. (I haven’t done this, but apparently it works.)

    Although I haven’t used it for audio books, the kindle plays music (or audio books) too. When you connect via wire to the computer it functions like a hard drive. I’ve also emailed my excel budget spreadsheet to the kindle as well as some other personal files (word and excel files). You can’t edit them, but you can read them.

    Finally, if you’re worried about Amazon removing books from your kindle, just back them up on your computer. You should anyway, because Amazon only keeps copies of books and games you buy from them. The books I have from other sources and those documents I made myself I back up so I have a copy in case my kindle is lost or stolen. Again, I’m saying ‘kindle’ because that’s what I have. My sister has an iPad and loves it, using the B&N app. One last thing- I so loved my kindle that I bought my parents one each. My dad is tech savvy, but my mother is not. They both love their kindles and use the heck out of them!

  89. FiveSigmas says 07 December 2010 at 22:23

    The Kindle’s biggest selling point for me wasn’t the potential for cost savings or even the convenience of not having to carry/store bulky books (although the latter did factor in). For me it was the ability to quickly search for terms mentioned previously in a book. I don’t have a super-strong memory, and being able to search for e.g. “Noldor” and “Teleri” was super-helpful in following some books. I find the scroll-over dictionary to be surprising helpful, too.

    I don’t even try reading technical books on my Kindle, though. I’ve read comments that tables and other structured formatting tend to be optimized for the dead-tree versions and end up a horrible mess on the smaller Kindle screen.

  90. reeder says 07 December 2010 at 22:47

    One thing I’ve enjoyed with eBooks is the reclaimed time from the book store and book store parking lot. Especially the parking lot. There are quite a few new books I want between now and February and honestly, if I do want them, I will think twice before driving over to Borders with a 40% off coupon simply because of the holiday (and post-holiday sales) traffic.

    Also, I was able to get online to briefly check email via my Kindle’s GSM and experimental browser for free in both Indonesia and Singapore. Hotel wifi costs peaked at $20+ per day or simply didn’t exist in my hotel room. That’s a great feature of the 3G+wifi kindle with real cost savings!

  91. Sylvia says 08 December 2010 at 05:35

    I always have about 100 books/cds/dvds/audiobooks on “my list” at the library. Generally it just works itself out that I get a book or two, maybe 5 cds and one DVD a week, sometimes it doesn’t and I end up with more books than I can read. Then I just return the books that had the shortest list and stick with the one that I have waited the longest for.

    If I don’t have time to finish the book before it comes due, I return it and figure that it wasn’t that good anyways. If I hardly had time to start it then I put it back on my list.

    Sure, I don’t always get THE book I want when I want it and new releases/best sellers are slower but I’m not going to kid anyone and act that I’ve read every one anyways. So why do I need THE most recent release when I still haven’t red the BBC’s list of classic must-reads. I don’t understand why this is an issue for people with the library when there are SO MANY books that are just as good that they haven’t read yet

  92. lostAnnfound says 08 December 2010 at 06:18

    I have the Kindle app on my laptop and have downloaded a few free classics to read. I also just ordered a Kindle as a Christmas present present for my 17 year-old daughter who is a huge reader. Hopefully she will also be able to use this for school for textbooks.

    I like the format and I can see myself buying one at some point. We go camping (frequently) and the less weight in the camper when hauling it, the better. I really foresee this being handy when we retire, as we plan to go to full-time RVing and some places we will be traveling to will not likely have a library around corner. For me it will be more for the convenience than the cost, although as time goes on and more eReaders are on the market, we may find that the cost will be less of an issue.

  93. Dink says 08 December 2010 at 06:22

    I now use my iPad for reading and I must say it’s changing my life. Sure, you can’t get everything in an ebook format yet but it’ll happen eventually. And if you can’t wait to have your library digital, start scanning! I really thought I’d hate reading on it, that it would hurt my eyes, but it’s great. My only complaint is that I wish it was lighter (like Kindle or Nook), but that will come in time and the trade off for having an iPad over the others is I can do, well, pretty much anything with it. We’re on the cusp of an awesome new era in literature; I used to be anti-ereader but I’m a convert.

    I see a lot of complaints here about DRM; with a little Googling, you can find out how to break the DRM and convert the different DRM file types (AZM for Kindle, for example) into ePub or PDF. It’s pretty simple, really. Hey, you bought it and you can do whatever you want with it. Empower yourself with a little research.

  94. E says 08 December 2010 at 06:25

    I am a fanatic reader – I can easily read several books a week some weeks – and I used to spend a fair amount of money on books. When I started looking for ways to cut back on spending this was one of the first things to go. Our town library is fairly small but I can get 99.9% of the books I want by requesting them online through the regional library system our library belongs to. Occasionally I have had to wait a couple of months for a really hot newer book like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or the newest Malcolm Gladwell, but generally I can get everything I want within 1-2 weeks. Now I only buy a few books a year, and these are new releases by my absolute favorite authors that I don’t want to wait for.

    So, I refuse to get a Kindle or Nook because I know I would be spending tons of money on books again – it’s so easy to download and since you’re paying electronically you hardly feel like you’re spending money. Yes, when I go on vacation next week I’ll be hauling 8 library books with me in a backpack, but so be it.

    The only way I could see myself getting a Kindle is if I traveled a lot for work. Then the convenience of not having to carry books would be worth it to me.

  95. Keith Brawner says 08 December 2010 at 06:28

    I have a Sony Daily Edition. I made a pledge to read one research paper daily, and had the option of either:
    a – printing out 60+ pages of research for a week long work trip (or printing out a paper for the day)
    b – reading on computer (induces eye strain, forced to sit up, generally unpleasant for longer reading)

    The ebook reader has already replaced my daily demand for research paper, and functions well for a general purpose book reader on travel as well (I would regularly take 3 paperbacks).

    I am surprised that the author did not mention the Gutenberg project, as it is a very large source of a significant portion of the classics. For free.

  96. Kevin says 08 December 2010 at 06:37


    “E-books save trees. Lees paper…more trees.”

    eReaders contain numerous harmful and toxic heavy metals and chemicals that will inevitably end up in landfills and contaminate our water table.

    Trees, on the other hand, are a completely renewable resource. We can always grow more trees. I’m far more worried about the toxic metals in electronics tham I am about the fate of a few trees that will grow back in just a few years.

  97. Luke says 08 December 2010 at 06:49

    ***Literary snob alert***

    I spent what seems like my entire childhood reading and taking a degree in English Literature seemed like the natural choice when I was ready for university (should’ve been a banker!) 😉

    When I got to university, I discovered the world of literature (as opposed to just *books*) and found that I wasn’t the only person in the world who loathed Dan Brown, but was rather fond of some Haruki Murakami, or John dos Passos.

    Life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy and unless you reeeeally like Victorian authors, the Kindle is not for fans of decent literature.

    Unless you thrive on paperback bestsellers or really old content, it won’t meet your needs.

  98. Panda says 08 December 2010 at 07:23

    Funny, I read a lot of Murakami on my Kindle…

    (Admittedly, not every book is available in ebook form yet, but it certainly isn’t divided by any sort of fictional “decent” standard. It’s more about the the differing speeds at which publishers are working on their backlog.)

  99. Emily says 08 December 2010 at 07:29

    I like the Kindle for portability and access to new books. I travel a lot and I’m a super fast reader. A year ago I went to Italy for a week and took four paperbacks with me (this was pre-Kindle). I got through them all before half the week was out and went to buy more books. Predictably, paperbacks in English in non-English speaking countries are expensive! With a Kindle I could have simply downloaded more. Also, carrying enough books to get me through a week would involve a lot of heft, and I like to travel light (I never, ever check luggage).

  100. Dink says 08 December 2010 at 07:29

    @Luke: both Murakami and dos Passos can be had in ebook format. The idea that ereaders are “not for fans of decent literature” was something I too believed before I actually woke up. You really can get a lot of books in ebook format and that number is growing daily. Smaller indie publishers are also getting on the bandwagon. Do you know how easy it is to create a digital ebook for a publishing company? They’ve got all their titles in digital format anyway — how else would they get to the printer’s?

    I will tell you what you can’t get quite yet — literary journals. These guys have got to get their act together. I’m wavering right now on one of my subscriptions and if they published an ereader format, I would have renewed months ago.

  101. Nester says 08 December 2010 at 07:57

    Hardback Books are the New Collectors Edition. Print media is dying and a digital distribution revolution is inevitable.

  102. Gretchen says 08 December 2010 at 07:58

    Thank you, Sylvia (91) for typing out my answer.

    I have a enough items on hold at the library on a regular basis that I’m never out of anything, then I return it.

    There’s always something new so I have little need or time to read (most) things twice.

    Perhaps this is because we must have a comparitvely excellent library system (esp. with the county interlibrary loan) and I drive by one of the branches everyday.

    Books they don’t have I either use PBS, second hand, or (last resort) buy new.

  103. MutantSuperModel says 08 December 2010 at 07:58

    I don’t know why anyone expected e-books to be cost-effective. Didn’t anyone learn from music downloads? Buying an album to download is sometimes MORE expensive than buying the hard copy at a music store. They charge for convenience and image. Just like mp3’s. Both markets are TOTALLY wrong in this but as long as consumers keep supporting it, they’ll keep doing it.
    For me, a Kindle doesn’t make sense. I haven’t bought a book in ages. I only borrow books from the library. For my Dad, however, a Kindle makes sense. My dad doesn’t use the library but doesn’t like the space books occupy. He recently went on a decluttering rampage and got rid of all the books in his house except the ones for his profession. I’ve noticed my dad has been reading less because he doesn’t want to buy books because of the hassle of what to do with them when he’s finished and he doesn’t want to borrow them because of his perceived “hassle” of dealing with the library.
    If you’re looking for cost-effective reading, e-readers aren’t it. There’s only one solution and that’s the library. But if the library doesn’t suit you for whatever reason, I could understand going for an e-reader. It is definitely preferable to buying up physical books that take up space and sometimes cost more.

  104. cc says 08 December 2010 at 08:07

    i’ve never felt like i was in the minority so deeply! like several of the commenters, i spend all day on the computer- to be able to hold and read something physical and non-electronic is bliss.

    my library is also a 10-minute walk from my apartment, and has a great web system. i’vve checked oodles of books out of the library, and have a hard time figuring out why friends & family spend upwards of $10-20 for a book, digital or paper, when it is available for totally free out of the library.

    it comes out of your taxes, guys. it’s essentially a pre-paid netflix for books for everyone. library power.

  105. Liz says 08 December 2010 at 08:33

    I don’t have an e-reader, and not really sure I want one. Mostly because one of my favorite places to read is the bathtub.
    I have only dropped a couple paperbacks into the water in my almost 30 years of tub reading, but many do get a little damp/splashed.
    And while I doubt that there’s enough juice to kill me if I did drop it into the water, I also don’t want to have to dry it out and then hope it still works.

  106. Deb says 08 December 2010 at 09:08

    At the risk of sounding like a luddite, I’m not interested in a Kindle.

    I will forever be a fan of the printed page, the dog earing a favorite book, of passing the books around among friends and family. And as JD said, if I lose a book, I’m not stricken. If I lost a Kindle, it would be a big deal.

    I know we can’t stop the march of technology, and I like technology a lot. It allows me to earn a living from home. But I have a dear friend who is a manager at Portland’s beloved Powell’s book store, and the recession has hit them too. It’s important to me to support my fave book stores, and I can often find second hand copies at a very good prices. I get a bargain, someone gets to keep their job. And Powell’s often buys the book back when I’m finished with it!

    If I traveled a lot, I suppose a Kindle would be attractive. It’s just not a necessity for me.

  107. Andrea @ Consultant Journal says 08 December 2010 at 09:09

    Ebooks are also great when you need an answer fast. People often buy my ebooks because they can’t wait to go to a bookstore, there’s no bookstore nearby, they don’t want to wait for snail mail or their book store will take too long to order in a book.

  108. L says 08 December 2010 at 09:11

    I received a kindle 3 as a gift a few months ago. The e-ink is easy on the eyes, but most importantly, it is a solution to my dust and mold allergies that make libraries and used books not work for me.

    Sharing is a concern, but I lend the whole kindle! If you read in spurts this works, or have the person who is borrowing lend you a few (for me new) paperbacks at the same time.

    Sure, it takes a level of trust, but it can be done.

  109. Pshorten says 08 December 2010 at 09:24

    Just a quick note, my library carries ebooks, right there with the audiobook downloads you can now get ebooks. Do check and see if you library offers the same service. The books lock up in a few weeks but once you are done with them you are going to delete them anyhow, or at least I am…

  110. Carla says 08 December 2010 at 10:00

    Call me old school too, but I prefer paper books. I’m a huge fan of the Multnomah Co. Library system and can pretty much get anything within a week. I spend so much time on the computer for business and logistical purposes, the last thing I want to to is “curl up” with another electric device.

    Yes, I suppose the Kindle is great for travel, but that’s just another thing I have to buy. :-/

  111. MB says 08 December 2010 at 10:21

    I just bought the new Kindle and received it yesterday (first ereader I have owned). I really like being able to move the cursor over a word and having the definition pop up. One of the reasons I bought a Kindle was to be able to do this with foreign language books in which there are a lot more words unknown to me. I haven’t tried this yet, but I read online before buying that foreign language dictionaries are supported (I think you have to pay around $5 to buy the additional dictionary for the Kindle). This will make reading books in French much easier than switching back and forth between paper book & dictionary, even easier than using Google translate.

  112. Jason says 08 December 2010 at 10:37

    One question I had was how is reading on the Ipad (a general use device) vs. e-reader (specific purpose)?

    Can you read on an Ipad for hours w/o headaches etc? My understanding of the e-readers is the electronic ink is a specialized technology that is meant to help with this problem.

  113. Pistolette says 08 December 2010 at 10:41

    I collect fewer, but higher quality books in hardcover now – things I can imagine re-reading throughout life. I’ve replaced paperbacks completely with my B&N Nook, where I keep pop culture, trash fiction, current events, magazine articles, and anything else I don’t want cluttering my good collection on the real bookshelves. I explain here:

  114. Cat says 08 December 2010 at 11:24
    I bought my first Kindle in December, 2009. I’m a voracious reader, and I’ve never been able to reliably use a library, so my habit was expensive. My Kindle paid for itself within three months. I saved because, for the most part, ebooks are less expensive. I buy from a few independent publishers as well as Amazon, and those ebooks are even cheaper. I keep up with free and cheap book blogs (links at end of post), and take advantage of samples.

    I live in a small apartment, and I never kept books I wasn’t going to re-read–still, my TBR stack took up quite a bit of room, and my books to be donated or sold took up even more. It was a great relief to free up this shelf space permanently.

    I much prefer my e-reader to a paper book. Unlike JD, I do dare to take it in the tub. I made a nice case for it, so I can haul it anywhere without fear. My cat loves the fact that I can read one-handed.

    My big plus is the instant book-buying. I didn’t think about how great that would be until I had it, now I don’t know if I would want to live without it.

    My husband has since inherited my first Kindle, and I now have the latest edition, with even nicer contrast and better font control. He was skeptical at first, but he now reads mostly on his Kindle, including taking it on the bus. We both have the Gutenberg catalog on our Kindles, so we have instant access to tons of stuff, which the husband loves.

    Books on the Knob covers free books for several e-readers:
    Daily Cheap Reads concentrates on books under $5, but usually cheaper:
    Kindle Nation Daily has Kindle news, and a complete listing of free books:

  115. seashell says 08 December 2010 at 12:57

    I guess I am old fashion, but I like the feel of a book in my hands when I am reading. I can find a hardback book for a cheaper price than the paperback, once it comes out in paperback. Bargain bins rock! I use the library more than anything. For newly released books, I can reserve them there and have never had to wait more than a few weeks to read it.

  116. MaryW says 08 December 2010 at 14:16

    I bought the Nook Color for the same reasons as stated in the article. I move at least every 2 years and cost of moving my books not only weighs on my back (moving) but also my wallet (shipping). I also had quite a few subscriptions to magazines and enjoy being able to contain them on one device instead of in several areas of my small home. I travel for work at least a few times a month. I am an avid library user and needed an ereader complies with our system. I am so happy that our state library supports ebooks so the cost of a book is free. For me, the moving, shipping, and ability to borrow my books for free makes my e-reader cost effective. Also the nook has a lend me feature that allows users to share their books.

  117. Stephen says 08 December 2010 at 14:16

    I really love my Nook and eBooks are very cost effective for me. Is it me or has anyone else noticed that Google’s prices are better than Amazon’s and B&N’s? For some books that I’ve recently purchased, I could have saved slightly over a dollar (not a lot, but it adds up) on each of them.

  118. Patti says 08 December 2010 at 14:34

    I’ve begun to add e-books to my reading library simply because they take up a lot less space than hardback or paperback books. Reading is as essential to me as breathing and I have stacks of books as well as bookshelves spilling over with books.

    That said, for my experience e-books are great for the sheer purpose of reading for information and sometimes entertainment. Yet an e-book gives a different experience than reading a paper or hard back book. I have books that are just pleasant to hold – be it for the glossiness of the paper, the intense colors of the illustrations, perhaps raised lettering on the cover, the size or shape of the books, or even an excellence in the method of binding. I often like to highlight or mark a line or two so I can look at it later – and I like the tactile experience of uncapping the highlighter and rubbing it over the favored line. I even like looking at them on the shelf, or showing a page or two to someone when we are discussing something related to the book.

    As for the e-books: the ability to quickly find a book, search for a phrase, or even to carry around many books at once – these are all good.

    I don’t see e-books replacing regular books for myself. I see them as a supplement or a convenience, sometimes as an enhancement. That said, I wouldn’t give up my e-books any easier than I’d give up my other books. I’ll take both, thank you.

  119. marie says 08 December 2010 at 14:49

    Personally, I don’t enjoy e-books. I’ve borrowed my sister’s Kobo reader, and I didn’t like it.

    I read mostly fiction, and when I pick up a book, it is to take a break from technology. From my computer screen, or smartphone screen, or television screen. I find that we spend so much time in front of ‘screens’, and I don’t want to take the only thing left, reading, away from my life.

    I’m sorry, but if you imagine reading on a Sunday on the couch with a cup of tea, are you reading on an electronic device? NO!

  120. Briana @ GBR says 08 December 2010 at 15:58

    I got a Kindle for my birthday and I love it! It’s definitely convenient to have so many books in one place. As far as the price, what I did was get a membership with Borders to get books for a discount, and convert the format to fit my Kindle, so it works out in the end. As far as taking notes, I’m very anal about NOT dog earring or highlighting my books (even though they’re mine). So I like that I can’t “mess up” a book on my Kindle

  121. Amanda says 08 December 2010 at 16:24

    I don’t know about the environmental argument. I can reduce the books I buy (library), reuse the ones I do (re-sell, pass on to someone else, book exchange), and recycle the ones beyond repair, or let them rot in a compost pile.

    But when version Older of an e-Reader is replaced with version Newer, where do the older models end up? In Chinese landfills, masquerading as “electronic recycling.”

    Pushing our environmental problem onto other people doesn’t make us environmentally friendly.

  122. prufock says 08 December 2010 at 16:49

    But how does it compare to the library? 😉

  123. RW says 08 December 2010 at 18:00

    When the Kindle came out, I looked it over & decided I didn’t want it. I’m visually impaired, but currently commute 1.5 hrs each way to work, and the ipod just wasn’t doing it for me. A friend who loves his Kindle bought me one as a gift, and I’ve got to say, I’m converted! I don’t like the cost of ebooks, but I’ve barely begun to tap the free book sources. But for now, it’s keeping me sane!

  124. T. Phillips says 08 December 2010 at 18:14

    I found a HUGE benefit (I captialize because it was insane how handy it was,) was the free global webservice I received on the Kindle while out of the country. My friends had gotten an ipad, but they had to be connected to a password protected wireless network, which was down more than half the time we were staying in Oxford. To check the rules to play snooker, or random tourist information, it was much easier to use our Kindle.

    On top of that, I have found it soothing to play text-to-speech (it isn’t quite as horrible as the very early computerized voices) while reading because it focuses the mental and visual aspects of learning.

    Since I tend to read classics, I feel that my Kindle will continue to pay me back for years. (I got it used and don’t have the zest for upgrade. I’ll run mine until it stops working.)

  125. FJohn Reinke says 08 December 2010 at 19:10

    This whole ebooks discussion reminds me of why I’m annoyed at the whole marketplace. When I bought books on cassette, the market moved to compact disks; rebougfht some. I’ve bought and rebought music (i.e.:records, 8 track, cassettes, disc). Now, books that used to be on paper that I bought, I’m now expected to rebuy my favorites on one or more reader platforms.

    Sorry, that ain’t going to happen. I’m tired of getting screwed.

  126. Avistew says 08 December 2010 at 21:28

    I love my book reader (I got a Sony one. I picked it especially for two reasons: it does NOT have wifi or a touch screen, and it supports SD cards).

    The day I bought it, I downloaded thousands of classics. After moving from another country, classics were the first things I left behind, and it was incredibly easy to find both French and English classics, that I downloaded extremely fast. For classics, I say ebooks are the way to go, be it only because they offer me choice. There is no way I could have all these books at home if they were not ebooks.
    Now if I feel like reading, I can choose from a huge number of books, and there is always something I feel like reading. I love that.

    Because I am a bit OCD, and while e-readers typically have a huge memory, I like sorting my books on SD cards, in categories (by author, or genre, or type, for instance comics or non-fiction or poetry, etc). Then I print labels for these cards and carry them in a SD card pouch (it would take four of them to reach the size of one book, and each can hold up to thousands of books)
    For me, it recreates the experience of physically looking through your library and picking a book, which I prefer over scrolling through titles.

    Ebooks are also practical for huge books or book series. I have Les Misérables on a single ebook, for instance, which is 2,500 pages long. No way I could carry that along with me. And while you might think you wouldn’t /need/ to carry it along, you might be surprised: I’ve already read it twice since getting it two years ago, and neither time was planned.

    I also like reading webcomics on my reader, as I find it more comfortable than on a computer screen, and I can do it offline. You do lose colour on coloured comics, and the screen doesn’t allow for big sized comics easily (there is a zoom but I’d rather not have to use it).
    I’ve also heard of people using their readers to read fanfiction or blogs, they download it all in the morning and read it on the bus or during the day.

    Another thing I really like my reader for is library books. While they don’t have as big a selection, you get the book instantaneously on your reader, and then it expires. No need to return it or go get it, and in winter here when the weather can reach -40 degrees, it’s appreciated.

    Quite honestly, I have never bought anything I read on my reader. Every book I have read on it was free (either public domain or a library book). So for me, the only cost has been the reader itself and the electricity (which, without wifi, is ridiculously low).

    So I would say it saved me money. It saved me money on late fees on the library, and on free domain books that would probably have cost a few bucks each (I haven’t read all of them, but I have read a few hundreds by now).

    But mostly, it’s more practical. Often the books I read probably didn’t actually save me money because I otherwise wouldn’t have read them. But reading is something I love doing so I’m definitely happy to be able to do it again.

    In the end, I recommend it for free material or people who travel a lot.

  127. Will says 08 December 2010 at 22:01

    I think eBook authors need to take a leap of faith and price their eBooks at an affordable level. Mystery/suspense author J. A. Konrath is enjoying great success by selling Kindle books for $2.99.

  128. Bear says 09 December 2010 at 00:17

    I’m an avid reader, usually consuming at least a novel a week. Like you I LOVE owning actual books. However, we recently quit our jobs to become “Gap Adventurers” with a goal to travel around the entire world over the next 4-5 years on our motorcycles. Hauling around books on the back of a motorcycle was very tedious this summer so I started checking out eReaders.

    I just recently got the NookColor – amazing product. An advantage with Nooks is that you can electronically borrow books from your local library (assuming it supports ereaders and most seem to now) for FREE! So that pretty much takes the cost issue out of the equation. Add in the advantage of Google Books and Project Gutenberg and the thousands of book you can download for free you can read and read and read all at no cost!!

    I’ve downloaded a couple of new releases but I rarely bought books as new releases anyway so by using the free resources I’m finding tons (downloaded 75 so far in three weeks) all at no cost.

    Another plus with the Nook (I think you can do this with Kindle too) is that you can have up to five Nooks on an account. So if I download a book my wife sees it show up on her Nook – no extra cost! No more waiting for each other to finish the latest novel!

    You can only imagine how much space I’m saving having my Lonely Planet travel guides on the Nook. AND, check this out, with the Nook Color you can make notes, bookmark, etc., all those key travel highlights and come right back to them. (you can do that with any book by the way, but I’m loving the application for tying together all the travel advice…)

    Just another kudos to the Nook Color – you can download full color magazines (I like Natl Geo’s Travel) and newspapers – very slick. Great way to stay current without the hassle of newsprint. I wake up every morning and my Wall Street Journal has already been delivered to my Nook Color!

    To Deb@106 – having ebooks is actually safer than paper books. I had a fire a few years ago – lost everything I owned, including a library worth over $50k. With a Nook all those books are also saved on my online account. If my Nook goes belly up I just connect a new one and viola – all the books are back.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I’ll never give up paper books – I love the feel, smell, and the reward of the favorites in my library but I have to say that the ereader definitely has a place in my life.

    To b@51 – actually you can share books, both with the way I’ve mentioned above and with the Nook they have a cool “lend me” feature that allows you to electronically lend books to others for up to 14 days.

  129. Natalie Sisson says 09 December 2010 at 05:25

    Great post as I’ve been grappling this with myself. I adore reading physical books, highlighting key points, picking them up at any point and looking back over them.

    That said I travel the world as a suitcase entrepreneur and right now with 8 books in my case it’s a big weight I don’t need.

    So I’m likely going to get a Kindle or hang on to the iPad I bought to sell here in Buenos Aires and install the Kindle app!

    I buy quite a few eBooks – mainly from bloggers I respect and admire and I like the format of having them to hand, to cut and paste ideas from and refer back to.

    At the end of the day I’m willing to pay for quality of ideas and for the author’s efforts. Anyone who writes a book deserves that much!


  130. Rob Ward says 09 December 2010 at 05:50

    I love reading books with the Kindle app on my iPad (and in iBooks too…I bought two to try it out). However I’ve found that I’m now spending more on books. In the past I never bought more than one or two books a year. Since getting the iPad? I think I have purchased anywhere from five to ten books since April. That being said, they are all books I wanted to read.

    I think the biggest disadvantage of e-books in my mind is that you cannot resell them like you can a paper book. If you are not going to read a book again why keep it? So I’ve resolved to only buy e-books that I might actually read again. For the rest, I’ll stick with the library.

  131. Kathryn says 09 December 2010 at 09:16

    I went on a book diet a couple years ago. I made a pact with myself that I would not buy any new books for myself UNLESS they are something to which I can (and likely will) refer many times after the purchase. Since making that pact, I think I’ve bought three books for myself. Gifts are another story. In the meantime, I really wanted a Kindle for the spacesaving. The book diet was intended to be a wallet fattener as well as a decluttering step. But with a library just a few short miles away, I’ve as yet been unable to justify the cost of an e-reader, to say nothing of the added cost of newly published e-books. For now, I’m sticking with the library and my book diet.

  132. fairy dust says 09 December 2010 at 12:52

    I just want to say thanks for posting this topic and thanks to everyone who commented. I had truly been on the fence about whether to get a Kindle for the holidays, and after reading every comment and discovering all sorts of things about owning a Kindle that I’d never even thought of, I cannot wait to get it! In fact, I took the advice of one poster (Robin) and signed up for a few cheap-ebook blogs, plus I got the Kindle on PC app and already have some books in it – grand total spent so far $1.99. Santa can’t get here soon enough.

    Just for the record, I love dead-tree books. I’ve always loved books, and that won’t ever change. But this comes at a time when we’re trying so hard to declutter, and books everywhere are a huge part of the problem. Plus my husband reads so voraciously that he’s always whining about not having anything to read. This will help immensely with that issue, too. I don’t expect to never own a dead-tree book again, and in fact DH and I are both getting some for Christmas 🙂 But I think the combination of “real” books and e-books will just make our reading experiences better than ever.

    Anyway, thank you again to everyone who’s participated in this topic!!!

  133. Lindsay says 09 December 2010 at 13:48

    I actually read more often since I have had my Kindle. I like the instant-gratification factor of it. If I have the desire to read something, I get/buy it and then start reading right away. And I don’t have to pay fines to the library for being late (this always happens to me) or have to purchase more bookshelves for more dusty heavy books that I will never pick up again when I have finished reading. The thing I dislike most about reading novels in book form is that my hand/arm gets tired from holding the thing. The kindle is light, and I can put it in my handbag and travel with it easily.

  134. Becky P. says 09 December 2010 at 14:40

    I didn’t get through all 131 comments, but so far I’ve not committed to an ereader.

    I am like many of the readers here who like to take paperbacks on trips and then give them away or leave them at the book exchange at the vacation place. After all, I probably only paid 25 or 50 cents for them…and I’ll gladly let someone have them for the experience.

    I wish there was a way to sell or give away the rights to the ebooks that you buy. Seems like the digital companies will make a lot more money from selling books 5x to 5 different people whereas before, we just passed the book around and let everyone read it in turn.

    But I see a huge, huge benefit if they would put college texts as e-books and sell them for even $20. What an advantage. History of Civ books tend to cost over $100 now and buying it (or even just the rights to it) for $20 would be vastly superior to that. These are books that are used just one semester. However, if an absent minded kid loses his e-reader…hmmm

    I’ve wondered how the school in FL that was going to assign each high schooler a Kindle is doing. I wondered if any of the Kindles got sold on Ebay for drug money (or Disney World/Busch Gardens money) and then the kid said he lost his…what then? I’m sure they must have thought through those things and planned for them. At the same time, I’m wondering what has happened with them.

    But I also like to dogear pages, look back easily, etc. I’ve not used an ereader, so I can’t compare. If the world really goes to all digital, then I’m sure I’ll adjust, but since a good bit of the world isn’t there yet, it will probably take a bit of time. Maybe my eyes will be so decrepit by then, I won’t care. 🙂

  135. Joanna says 09 December 2010 at 16:18

    I think the one point people overlook is that free books subsidize the cost of any books you purchase AND the cost of the device itself. I read about 100 books a year and get many for free because I enjoy the classics, and also I review indie books so often get coupon codes for those. And I borrow ebooks from the library. So if you add up the money I have spent on both devices themselves and on content I have purchased, and divide it by the number of books I have read since I started reading ebooks, I am at about $6 per book—and this includes factoring in the cost of the devices.

  136. kgao says 10 December 2010 at 00:55

    ebooks are here to stay. the one missing attribute is the ability to attract readers, analogous to how print publishers have retail footprints via big bookstores like barnes & noble. online, that will be SEO and advertising, as well as smart marketing

  137. Carrie says 10 December 2010 at 06:38

    I’m coming in late, but I was wondering why some people chose a Nook or Sony?

    I’ve been thinking about getting a Kindle, although many of the cons pointed out here hold me back. Sometimes I like have technology more than I like actually using it. But the Kindle seems to be the better product in my limited research, I especially like the 3G function.

    I am not a current fiction reader. Most of my reading would be older classics and pub domain stuff off places like Gutenberg. After some of the comments here I wonder if the non-Kindle options would be better?

  138. Kay Lynn @ Bucksome Boomer says 11 December 2010 at 10:04

    I use the Kindle for PC software on my net book. It’s a great way to read a variety of free books when I’m on the road for work.

    My preference at home is to have a book. I can write notes, fold pages and resell if I want.

    Do people take Kindles to the beach? For that, you still need a book.

  139. Andrea Travillian says 13 December 2010 at 20:59

    I have not made the leap yet to an ebook reader. I just love an old book way too much. I too like to skip around, or read one page while referencing another and am always marking up the pages. I can see how pleasure reading would be better, but I read more non-fiction and it just does not make sense with the way I read. I don’t consider cost as I love to read and know it is a way to grow personally. If I am heading over budget I head to the library.

  140. Jaime says 16 December 2010 at 22:34

    Yes but most people own a pc/laptop, so e-books are more cost effective imo. I like buying from Barnes and Noble because they’re not anti DRM like Amazon.

  141. Dan Blakely says 28 December 2010 at 22:28

    For me the breakout is simple. If it is something that I will read once then I would pick it up at the library or might be inclined to buy for an e-reader. Problem with the e-reader is that once I own it then it is mine and I cannot really resell it like I could a regular book which is why I would get it at the library or paperback swap if I could.

    If it was the type of book that I would re-read or refer to then I would buy it and whether on a e-reader or paperback would just depend on the book. I like to take notes in the margins of some books like personal finance books – I have an iPad and do not like how the function works so I would opt for a paperback book. Otherwise, if note taking was no key then I would consider it on an e-reader, as the e-reader is likely the more environmentally sustainable of the two but I would have to look into that more before jumping in whole hog on that statement.

  142. Lee says 01 January 2011 at 23:10

    @137 Carrie

    I have a Sony 650. The reasons I didn’t buy a Kindle or Nook are:
    Kindle – Amazon regularly does extremely sketchy things that are anti-consumer and I am not willing to support their business model.
    Nook – The page turns triggered a migraine when I was looking at it in the store.

    The reasons I love my Sony:
    -Touch screen that does not hold fingerprints
    -Extremely light
    -Expandable memory
    -Long battery life
    -Double-tap a word for dictionary look-up
    -Reputable brand; I am sure that the device will last
    -Library access
    -The file formats that it supports work for me (BBeB (LRF/LRX), PDF, EPUB, TXT, RTF, JPEG, BMP, GIF, PNG, MP3, AAC)

  143. David Rugge says 02 January 2011 at 19:49

    I have a Kindle and have had good and bad experiences with ebooks on it. Most of my bad experiences are due to poor formatting of the source material for an ebook reader. Some examples: poorly-scanned illustrations that are pixelated and difficult to see, especially maps, pictures of tables that should be done in all text are done as a graphic instead with the aforementioned pixelation problems (this is especially bad in a technical manual), and footnotes that are done as a single sentence on an otherwise empty page, rather than as a link.

    I still like my Kindle, but a lot of ebook authors are shooting themselves in the foot by making the above mistakes.

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