Are eBooks more economical than the bookstore or library?

Depends on what you read.

The personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly has this analysis.

  • E-books are great for new releases. For new books, the electronic version is almost always the cheapest way to go. At a friend’s house the other day, I noticed he’d paid $29 for the latest John Grisham book. $29!!! That’s insane. That John Grisham book costs $16 at Amazon, and the Kindle version costs $10. In fact, most e-books cost between $10 and $12. When the cost savings is combined with the space savings, e-books are the clear winner for new releases.
  • E-books are okay for classics. Anything that’s in the Public Domain (published before 1923) can generally be downloaded to your e-book reader for free. Sometimes the formatting is goofy, and there usually isn’t any supplemental material (like essays and notes), but you do get the books at no cost. (Searching for free Kindle books? Here’s Amazon’s list of free eBook collections, and here’s their best-sellers in the Kindle store, including free books on the right.) Of course, these books can usually be had for cheap (or free) in their dead tree versions, so there’s not a huge savings here.
  • E-books suck for most titles published between 1923 and, say, 2008. Books from the past century are still priced between $5 and $10 in electronic editions. This is ridiculous. You can borrow these for free from your public library. Or you can go to a used bookstore, a garage sale, or a thrift store to pick them up for less than they cost in digital format. Plus, tons of popular books aren’t even available electronically. (A real-life, typical example: Cry, the Beloved Country costs $12 on the Kindle. A brand-new paperback copy from Amazon? $9. The mind boggles.)

Most books I read were published between AD 1 and 2008. Almost all of them are available free at the library. So I’m staying with the classic book format. I’m not sure I’ll ever be comfortable with e-readers, but I’m open to using them. Anyone think differently?


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