The Amazon Kindle originally promised a technology that would improve your reading experience, at the same time cutting the cost of books in half. Those books would arrive on your Kindle through the magic of the Whisper Net, a free space age delivery service. The Kindle itself would be easier to use, lighter weight, and more readable than an actual book.
Well, there’s good news and bad news. As the Kindle technology and the eBook market have developed, all of those original promises have become either vapor or else very different than first imagined. Nonetheless, I want a new-old Kindle as well as a Kindle Fire. Let me ‘splain.
First, on the cost of books. A kindle edition of a book is generally cheaper than the print edition, but rarely is it half price as has been claimed by Amazon. Let’s check a few examples to see.
Amazon advertizes five books as the “Best of the Month” for October. If you were an avid book reader, you’d read at least one or two of these, right? Let’s compare the print price, the Kindle price, and the percentage Amazon claims you save by comparing the Kindle price with some fictional number that you’d have to be a total chump to pay.
1Q84 in print, hardcover: 16.77; Kindle: 14.99; Claimed savings: 51%
The Marriage Plot: A Novel in print, 14.72; Kindle: 12.99; Claimed savings: 54%
The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean in print, 20.97; Kindle: 9.99; Claimed savings: 71%
Lost Memory of Skin: A Novel in print: 14.05 (paper); Kindle: 12.99; Claimed savings: 50%.
The Dovekeepers: A Novel in print: 16.15; Kindle: 14.99; Claimed savings: 45%
$82.66 Total cost to buy print editions
$65.95 Total cost to buy Kindle editions
So, if you buy these books on the kindle, you will save 20% over print editions. Amazon makes the claim that on averge you’ll save about half, and for these particular books (taking the average of their claimed savings) you’ll save 54%.
From this we can suggest the following possiblities:
1) Amazon can’t do math.
2) Amazon thinks you are stupid.
Both are distinct possibilities. I assume that Amazon is using the publishers’ suggested prices for these books to estimate the savings, but in truth, no one pays retail. And Amazon, since they sell the books, should be aware of this. And of course, they are. Hey, if you are reading this and you are an attorney general with nothing else to do this week, this can be your low hanging fruit! Make Amazon stop claiming that you are saving 50% when instead of paying 14 dollars you pay 11 dollars.
There is another way in which Amazon does not save you money. Or at least, it does not save me money. For novels, going back a year or so, I used to save a LOT of money because most of the novels I read were loaned to me by my mother-in-law who: a) reads a lot; b) is an expert on modern lit (has a degree in it and everything); c) has good taste in books; and d) is very good at explaining to me what a book is about so I can decide if I want to read it or no. Oh, and e) was in the habit of buying piles of books.
But then she got a Kindle and my source of free novels has been eradicated by technology! So now, I can buy novels for the kindle and save 20 percent, which actually means I pay 80 percent MORE than zero!
Having said all that, I love my Kindle and I want more. First, about the price: Who cares! We’re talking about books here! (Have you been to my house?) I’d pay MORE for the electronic version in fact, because they are search-able! (Don’t mention this to Amazon, please.) Plus, there is a whole category of books that are actually much much cheaper on the Kindle than anywhere else.
Here are a few books I’ve read on the Kindle over the last couple of years:
The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Print: 10.00
The Origin of Species. Print: 9:95
And a bunch of other books. On the Kindle? Free. Yes, they are also available free from other places, such as various web sites. But the Kindle is a reader, and my computer is not. It is hard to take the computer to bed at night for a half hour of Victorian literature.
OK, enough about price, what about technology? The Kindle Fire is the newest technology and it is essentially a tablet iPad like thing that is a dedicated reader. A bit like a Motorola Android pad with a screwdriver driven through part of its brain so it can only do a few things. But it’s not that expensive, and it’s smaller and lighter than a tablet. Yet, it is heavier than a kindle. Is it too heavy? Is it not as light and nice as a Kindle, in the hand, lighter than an actual book, etc?
I’m not sure yet. I’d like to borrow one and play around with it. Maybe I can convince my father in law that my mother in law needs one! But my estimation is that i would like it.
But, it is very interesting to note that the Fire does not use Whisernet. Only WiFi. That is in fact more than a little interesting.
I’ve found over the last several months that Whispernet sucks for anything but downloading a book you just bought. And, it does not work in some places. Like up at the cabin. Julia is at present spending months in a country with zero Whispernet access. Good thing her Kindle also has wireless!
I think Whispernet was a nice idea but if I were to buy a new Kindle, I’d get the kind with only wireless.
Which brings us to the final item I wanted to mention: As expected, with the Fire in the mix, the regular Kindle price has dropped. If you don’t mind the ads (which are not visible in the reading area, but they are visible in the index area and on the screen saver) and don’t want Whispernet (which you don’t) and like the smaller form factor (which is good … it is what makes the Kindle a good thing to read from) then you can now get the Kindle, Wi-Fi, 6″ E Ink Display – includes Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers for 80 bucks.
That’s the cost of a discounted academic book or 10 novels at Barnes and Noble.
One of the problems of having a machine to read your books is the anxiety of the machine breaking. And the Kindle is a bit delicate. At this price, that anxiety is much less. A new reader every couple of years for 80 bucks is very reasonable.