The latest publishing buzz is Amazon's introduction of the Kindle, a new e-book reader. At $399, it's a bit pricey: Sony's e-book reader is $100 less. And there are many e-books that can be read on PDAs-- even if you're dealing with text-only on a much smaller screen, you don't necessarily need a separate device. But the Kindle offers some pretty cool features, and the books and newspapers that are available to be read on it are discounted quite a bit compared to their print versions. Can the Kindle end up paying for itself?
I actually had a chance to play with one of these a few months ago. I thought the size and weight were ok, and the experience of using it was pretty impressive-- not perfect, but better than any other portable electronic reading device. I liked the fact that it was a stand-alone wireless product: if you're traveling or at the beach and you decide you want to read something, you can go online and download it without having to go back to your computer, and without having to subscribe to any sort of wireless plan or be at a hotspot since it's on a cell phone network. All in all, I was intrigued by what the device could do, but as a dedicated PDA user, I didn't see myself buying another electronic device to tote around. (Also, a large percentage of my reading is done in manuscript form before the book is actually published, and though I could probably do some of that electronically, I'm not necessarily the ideal user for this product.)
But when I tried the Kindle, I didn't even think about the costs that might be involved. A lot of early comments have focused on the fairly high price of the device-- is it worth the money?
Books: NY Times Bestsellers and New Releases are $9.99 on the Kindle. For hardcovers that are $25 and up (the new Ken Follett hardcover is actually $35, which seems like a shocking price for fiction, even if it is over 1000 pages!), you're saving at least $15 per book. If you buy 26 hardcover books, the savings offset the price of the Kindle.
Newspapers: the NY Times is $13.99 a month. I pay $40.80 a month for delivery of the print edition. 15 months of subscribing saves you enough to pay for the Kindle.
Magazines: The Atlantic is $1.99 a month on the Kindle. Amazon offers subscriptions to the print edition at $24.95 a year, or $2.08 a month. The cover price on a newsstand is $4.95. No big savings for subscribers, but if you'd been buying individual copies, your savings would pay for your Kindle in, oh, about 11 years.
Blogs: $0.99-$1.99 a month each. Well that's not much of a deal, is it? Blogs are usually free, so here's one area where the Kindle doesn't exactly win. But compared to the cost of having a wireless Internet plan that allows you to go online and read blogs anywhere on a laptop or handheld, it might be a good deal, at least if you only read a few blogs. Their current selection is not all that great. None of the personal finance blogs that I read are included. From a quick search, the only blog I read that's on there is Apartment Therapy, which is one of the $1.99 ones. Until My Open Wallet is available in Kindle format, obviously this feature of the device is useless.
Bottom line: if you are someone who reads a lot and likes to read current bestselling hardcovers when they first come out, the Kindle could save you quite a bit of money. It's also probably lighter and smaller than that doorstop by Ken Follett, so you might avoid some chiropractor bills too. And aside from anything else, it's a nifty new electronic toy that I'm sure will end up under the Christmas trees of many people whose loved ones wonder what you get for the person that has everything... What do you think? Would you buy one?