Skip to main content

The eReader Cost/Benefit Analysis

Last year I wrote about my tepid enthusiasm for ebook readers like the Kindle. Now that the iPad is on shelves, people seem to be trying to convince me more than ever that I need to get with the times and stop reading paper books.

I do not own one of these devices, nor do I plan to buy one in the near future. But a lot of people are buying them, I won't deny that. They are buying these devices because they are doing a cost/benefit analysis that I believe is oftentimes incorrect.

(from Flickr user atmtx)

Consider this... if a hardcover book costs $20 and the ebook version costs $10, buying the ebook would result in a $10 savings per title. If the iPad costs $500, then after 500/10 = 50 book purchases, the iPad will be paid for, right? Not quite.

Books are an asset. When you buy a new book, you can do several things with it. You can read it. You can stick it on a shelf. You can rent it out. You can loan it out. You can give it away. You can sell it. The book may depreciate in value, but it will probably always be worth something. And the cash flow you can generate on your book depends entirely on how you wish to use it as an asset.

An ebook is different. Once you download it to your reader, it's been "consumed". You can't rent it out. You can't loan it out. You can't give it away. You can't sell it when you're finished reading it. So to say that buying ebooks results in a $10 savings per title assumes that once a hardcover book is purchases, that's the end of the story. Often, it isn't the end of the story.

And of course, we could get into questions of whether ebooks purchased today will exist in any form ten or twenty years down the line. We know that hardcover books will stand the test of time. Imagine if, two decades ago, publishers decided it would be a great idea to distribute works on 5-inch floppy disks. Would anyone still have those titles today? Would they have advanced as technology advanced? Nevertheless, I digress... because this is really another discussion entirely

Comments

Kent said…
There has been some talk of using a standardized format for eBooks, which I understand already exists. That way, they would be portable between devices. Somehow, though, I don't see Steve Jobs going for that. His technological authoritarianism may be great for the purposes of innovative design and functionality, but it's not so good for openness to, well, Openness.
Kenny said…
Of course, there are other factors on the other side as well. If I'm traveling, and think of something interesting I read about once, then I can quickly look it up on an ereader (especially if there's some text search feature), but I can't look it up in the hardcover unless it's a book that I happened to bring with me on my travel. Perhaps this is more important for academic books and less important for fiction, but it's a further consideration.
John said…
Just go to the library and save the $10 or $20 entirely. Sharing books seems a bit more efficient than everyone having their own copy of everything. Imagine 300 Million copies of the Da Vinci Code floating around, taking up space on bookshelves. It would be like everybody having their own car instead of just getting on a bus or train to go to work. Oh, wait...

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Commuting Meets Technology

I'm finally out of the dark ages. I got an Android smartphone over the weekend and have since been in the process of exploring the Android apps market.  One thing I've immediately noticed is the really wide range of usefulness in the apps. For example, the WeatherBug app is fantastic. It automatically determines your location and gives you exact conditions for that location. On the other end of the spectrum, Google's Goggles app is supposed to be a type of 'visual search' where you snap of photo of something and Google searches for it. In each of my attempts to use it, the app hasn't returned any search results. I even took a photo of a bottle of Pepsi (figuring it as a common houseful item) and got nothing.

Somewhere in the middle is this app called Waze. Have a look at their 'guided tour':



Some people might look at it and comment on the amazing evolution of technology or on the incredible value of social networks. To me, Waze says something important ab…