I love my Kindle. I’ve reached the large print reading years and the Kindle is a wonderful aid to my eyes, but the prices of ebook editions have risen so much that I feel cheated by buying the Kindle edition. The price of the Kindle edition is often very close to the hardback or trade paperback edition. There is no reward for buying the ebook and saving the publisher the cost of printing, binding, boxing, shipping and distributing the the physical book.
For example, our book club is reading Destiny Disrupted by Tamin Ansary. It’s $10.85 for the trade paper or $9.76 for the Kindle. I’m looking at the new hardcover of The Genesis of Science by James Hannam – it’s $19.77 for the hardback (from Amazon of course) and $14.38. Another book I was thinking about buying is The Clockwork Universe by Edward Dolnick. It’s $16.08 hardcover and $14.99 Kindle. Or On the Grid by Scott Huler – buying the ebook version saves me 88 cents ($10.87 trade, $9.99 Kindle). Next month’s book club selection, Empire of the Summer Moon S. C. Gwynne, it’s 39 cents cheaper to buy the trade edition instead of the Kindle Edition ($9.60 trade, $9.99 Kindle).
Of course, there is an illusion here. I’m giving the Amazon price. If I gave the publisher’s list price, things would appear better. For example, The Information by James Gleick is $29.95 for the hardback list, $17.21 Amazon priced, but $14.99 for the Kindle. But I’ve gotten used to Amazon’s prices, so the real buying decision is $17.21 v. $14.99.
Here’s how I feel about books versus ebooks. When I buy the hardback I feel like I’m adding to my library. It’s something I can save, or lend, or sell. When I buy an ebook, it’s something I consume, like renting a DVD. Now if my ebooks were added to a virtual library, and they were multimedia interactive, and I could enjoy collecting them, virtually flipping through my collection from time to time, then it might be different. In fact, books with maps, graphics, and photos just don’t work well on the Kindle. Now that might change if I had a 10” tablet, but for now, the normal Kindle is all about text.
The psychology of all this is I seldom buy new books from brick and mortar bookstores anymore because of Amazon. The discounts on hardbacks are just too great. On the other hand, I hardly ever buy new books for my Kindle because the ebook prices seem too high. So for now, the heavily discounted hardback wins out.
If all the books I mentioned above were $7.99 each for the Kindle, I would have gobbled them up without a thought. $9.99 is as high as I’ll go, and since I’ve bought several ebooks at that price and ended up not reading them, I’ve become very careful about buying ebooks. Buying a hardback and leaving it on the shelf for years doesn’t bother me, but buying an ebook and not reading it right away feels like I just threw my money away.
I know ebooks are all the rage right now, but will ebook sales always be shooting upwards? I’m swinging away from ebooks, and I’m wondering if other people are feeling that way too? Ebook prices have been growing and I’m sorry, that just feels like a swindle to me, because I don’t feel like I’m owning anything after giving Amazon my money. The Kindle just feels like I’m renting books.
[By the way, I don't feel the Kindle device is an actual swindle. And when I say Kindle I mean all ebook readers, like the Nook and Sony readers. I just think, and I've heard this from many other ebook owners, that since we don't actual get a printed book when we buy an ebook, the price should be significantly cheaper. I thought when I first bought my Kindle I'd be buying a lot of ebooks at lower prices and that just hasn't turned out to be so. Now, I'm wondering if I'm not the only one feeling different about ebook readers?]
JWH – 7/14/11