How Much Do You Have To Read For The Amazon Kindle To Be Worth Buying?

There are any number of reasons to pick yourself up a Kindle, from convenience of transportation to instant 24-hour delivery of all new book purchases, but let’s take it down to the basics for a moment.  Assuming that you have absolutely no concern besides the direct tradeoffs with paper, how much do you have to read before your Kindle has justified itself?


We’ll make the somewhat depressing assumption that you read nothing but current bestsellers.  I sincerely hope this isn’t the case, of course, but it makes the price estimation easier for me and negates the obvious point of free books that you should already be aware save you money.  Looking through the top 15 bestselling new hardcover book releases in the store(not the Kindle Store since that might indicate a customer predisposition toward discounted books), there are 13 books that the Kindle saves money on, one where the price is even based on pre-order discounting, and one book that is not available in Kindle format.

The actual average savings on those books that are available is around $2.47(ranging from $0.98 to $5), but for the sake of argument we can round it down to $2.  Always better to err on the side of caution.  This means approximately 58 Kindle books purchased during the life of your Kindle device before it has saved you money, if you pick up the $114 Kindle WiFi w/ Special Offers.  Now, I’m aware that reading five books per week is abnormal so my average doesn’t really play into this.  For the sake of argument, it seems safe to assume a conservative pattern of finishing a book every two weeks.  That would mean that you have to own a Kindle for a little over two years before it saves you any money, assuming this level of consumption and no taking advantage of special offers or hunting for savings.  Not unreasonable, if perhaps more than some would like.  These things do work pretty much forever if you take care of them.  It also might be worth knowing that Kindle owners are said to buy books at more than three times the rate of paper book customers, which speeds things up a bit.


Another major concern that has come up before is the environmental impact of eReading.  While there is definitely a lot more that goes into the manufacture of an eReader like the Kindle than ever would in a paper book, there is more than that to take into account. Between production, transportation, storage, shipping, and all the other associated fuel costs, each book creates a noticeable amount of pollution.  The question is where these numbers cross over.

Last year, in reference to Kindle 2 production, a report came out on the impact of producing Kindles compared to that of books which said that a Kindle creates a bit over 20 times as much pollution as a book in its creation.  You could always assume that Amazon has gotten more efficient in their production with the next generation of the device, improved processes being good at that sort of thing, but let’s ignore that speculation and focus on what numbers we actually have.  Round that first estimation up to 30 books worth if you want to account for the impact of charging your Kindle and I would be willing to bet that there are still very, very few people ever to own an eReader who didn’t manage to offset these totals.

Putting aside used books and libraries, since if you buy used books then you already know the advantages and the interaction between libraries and Kindles is in flux at the moment and hard to judge in the long term, picking up a Kindle, or any eReader, is just generally a good long term investment for you and the planet.

Kindle vs Paper Round 2: The Flipback?

As we all know by now, the Kindle was a ploy by Amazon to undermine the publishing industry, authors, and the generally transcendent experience of reading in general.  It has long been known that reading a book on a piece of electronics will always be sub-par compared to holding an actual paper book in your hand for countless reasons not worth looking too closely at anyway, but the Kindle marketing machine is too strong.  Readers have all but given up on paper, books are being burned, libraries are being shut down after falling into disuse, and machines may forever rule our lives.  There is one hope remaining, however: The Flipback!  Finally, a paper book that can compete with the Kindle in every way that matters.

Ok, that was all a bit ridiculous even for me, but I hope you see what I’m getting at.  Recent press surrounding a series of hardcover, cloth-bound, bible-paged books called Flipbacks has made it sound like they’re the latest great hope for paper to make a comeback in the book world.  I’ll admit that they are somewhat interesting.  Basically, small hardcover books about the size of a bulky cell phone that are meant to be read vertically and one-handed, with pages being flipped upward rather than from right to left.  The Flipback is lightweight, highly portable, and probably just as great for travel and commuting as the company making it is advertising.  Of course, you’re still going to be paying $19.99 for a single book printed in super-small text on the kind of super thin pages rarely seen outside of a bible.

Even assuming that there were no real downside to this product — no text size issues, no quality concerns, and priced to move — where is there a good reason for comparison to the Kindle or any other eReader?  Speaking on a personal level, I would say that this is almost worse for me than a normal paperback.  The price is higher, the books themselves are less aesthetically pleasing than your average equally priced hardcover, and I really dislike the “onion skin” paper they are using.  These seem to be a possible solution to a problem that already disappeared with the coming of the eReader.

To be a bit more objective than that, I think these Flipbacks have a chance if they can get the price down.  Right now you can buy yourself a Kindle for the price of 6 Flipbooks.  No matter how portable you can claim them to be, that just isn’t good enough even if they were competing with nothing but regular old-fashioned mass market paperbacks.  Many people are likely to find that the paper book “experience” is as foreign with one of these new books as is the Kindle itself, again downplaying the potential for direct competition.  There is a fair amount to get used to.

I think, however, that this could take off as a commuter’s impulse buy type of item in the next few years if they can get costs down enough to undercut the average paperbacks.  Right now, it is still essentially a test run of 11 titles coming from a single printing house.  Is there potential for a reading revolution?  Maybe a small one, sure!  Do we need to jump back up on the “Kindles are killing books” bandwagon again because paper has suddenly rendered eReaders obsolete?  Probably not.