Since I love to read, I have to admit that I’ve been drooling a bit over the Kindle and now the Nook eReaders. I love the idea of being able to carry a ton of books with me when I travel without throwing out my back. I like the thought of freeing up some shelf space and the lower environmental impact appeals, too. Fewer trees killed is a good thing. And I like the idea of having books in my purse for anytime that I’m stuck waiting in a doctor’s office. The screens on the units have become more legible and the functionality is so improved that I wondered if now is the time to finally buy one. In the process of looking at these eReaders, I started wondering if one could also save me some money which would make it a very wise purchase.
I’m a heavy user of the library, but I do buy a fair number of books, as well. I buy reference works, favorites that I’ll read over and over, and books that the library does not have but which I really want to read. Since a new hardcover is around $15 at Amazon (discounted) and an eBook is usually $9.99, I thought there might be a money saving aspect to an eReader. After researching the types of titles that I normally buy, only a small percentage of them are currently available in the e-format. Many of the books I read are kind of obscure so they haven’t hit the eReader world yet. Maybe they will someday, but for now there’s not enough of the books I like available to justify the purchase of an eReader. So many books that I want will still have to be purchased at the higher print rate. And, since paperbacks are cheaper than the eReader format, I do better money-wise by waiting for my favorite books to come out in paperback.
I was enthralled with the number of free titles available, however. I discovered that lots of authors give away books to drum up sales. Some classics that are past their copyright limitations are also free, as well. I found quite a bit in the free department that might interest me. However, many of these books are also in my library’s system so I can still read them for free. Once I removed the ones I could get from the library I wasn’t left with enough books to justify the eReader’s price tag.
There are other drawbacks, too. I’m not thrilled with the idea that not all eReaders use the same format. It means that I’m what I can buy and where is determined by the unit I choose. I’m also not happy that my purchases may one day be incompatible with a newer version of the eReader. A print book is always compatible and you don’t have to re-buy it if a new model comes out. And it makes me nervous that Amazon or Barnes and Noble could, technically, remove purchases from my unit without warning in the event of a rights dispute (Amazon did this with Orwell’s 1984). Then there is the issue of digital rights management. I can’t discover a great book and then pass it on to a friend as I can with a print book. If I want to loan out a book, I have to loan out my whole eReader. And when the day comes when I’m finally done with an eBook, I can’t sell it at a yard sale or donate it to the library for a tax deduction as I can with paper books. I don’t get a fortune back by doing this, but it is a little money that an eReader can no longer save me.
After careful research I’ve decided that an eReader isn’t for me at this time. I have no doubt that I’d enjoy it and use it. However, I doubt that I would get enough out of it to justify the hefty price tag. The portability factor and the smaller space requirement to house books are the only strong arguments I can make at this time. Perhaps in the future when more books are available and some of the kinks are worked out of the system as far as compatibility and rights management it will be a must buy for me.
I imagine you could save money with a eReader if you buy a lot of books (mostly in hardcover) and you’re into popular works. If you don’t have a good library where you can score lots of good, free books, an eReader might let you read a lot for less money than always buying books. But if you have a good library system you’re probably better off just using that. If the space saving and portability arguments are enough for you to justify the purchase, then you’ll probably be very happy with an eReader. For me, I need to wait for a while before it becomes a financially sensible purchase.