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Amazon Kindle: Buy or Not?

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When I first started this blog, I announced that I'd write about technology 5% of the time. Since I have written more than 700 articles at this point, I'm allow some 35 articles on technology. I think I used up a few of them with articles on my Asus EEE. As usual, with any technology article, I'll attempt to tie it back to personal finance.

amazon-kindle.jpgYou may have already read about the Amazon Kindle. It's yet another attempt by the technology industry to replace books. Companies have been at it for a few years, but it's hard to replace books. They are extremely portable, require no power, and very easy on the eyes.

Before I completely disregard the Kindle, it's worth taking a deeper look. Here are some things about the Kindle that I love:

  • Easy on My Eyes - I've spent a lot of time looking at computer monitors. Human eyes weren't meant to look to at poor resolution, backlighted screens. I hate to admit it, but Mom was right about sitting to close to the TV. My eyes simply can't tolerate the computer screen like they should. This Friday, I'm seeing a doctor about what I can do aside from the normal advice. The Kindle uses electronic ink which is not backlit in the same way - and delivers a great reading experience from all reviews I've seen. The 250 blogs that it has available would save my eyes considerable wear and tear.
  • Light weight - At 10.3 ounces it doesn't weigh too much more than my Palm Treo. On a vacation last year, my wife wanted to pack a pile of books. Unfortunately, we could only take a few of them due to space/weight limitations on the airplane. If we had a Kindle we wouldn't have had this problem.
  • Google Maps - This is an undocumented, unofficial feature of the Kindle. However it seems you can get Google Maps anywhere where Sprint has EVDO service. That's a huge amount of area. While it's not as good as a GPS navigation system it might be one of the best "bonuses" a product has ever offered.
  • Constant Free Internet Connection - This is the only device I've heard of that has free unlimited ability to connect to the Internet. Amazon has negotiated with Sprint to use their network at no charge. This means free Wikipedia almost anywhere in the US.. wow.
  • Automatically Updating Blogs - The Kindle will allow you read more than 250 blogs. One of them is my favorite sports-writer Bill Simmons. If he wrote as much as he used to this would be a huge selling point.
  • Newspapers and Magazines - Some of the most popular includes: Forbes, Fortune, Time, Reader's Digest, NY Times, Wall St. Journal, Washington Post, and Investor's Business Daily. All are at an additional charge - not that you'd expect to get this content for free outside of a library.

Pro Summary

The Kindle might be more portable than traditional books and possibly easier on the eyes... while providing time-sensitive information.

Here are some things that I don't like about the Kindle:

  • Existing and Future books - If you already own a book or bought it off of Amazon in the last two years, do you get a Kindle version? No. If something better comes along like an Apple iReader will your Kindle Books work on it? They may not.
  • Internet Connection limited to the US - Remember that vacation that I talked about above... it was to Aruba... The Internet connection wouldn't work and I wouldn't get updated blog information.
  • Blogs cost money... every month - Not only do they cost money, but there are no personal finance blogs available. I'm a content producer and I do like to get paid, so I shouldn't be so upset by this. However, I do provide my content via an RSS feed with minimal advertising. I think Amazon should provide that option.
  • Limit Blogs Available - This is an extension of the above. There should be a simple RSS reader available - preferably something that connection to popular services like Bloglines and Google Reader.
  • Only One Person Can Read it at a Time - This seems obvious, but it is worth mentioning. To go back to the vacation example, the Kindle would have been a poor solution for us to reduce the number books we carry. We would have needed two of them so we can both read on the airplane or by the pool. That's two Kindles, two sets of subscriptions, etc.
  • Potential Theft - I would be very nervous about leaving my Kindle in plain sight and going for a swim. Some people might quickly snap up an unprotected $350 gadget. On the other hand, people are less likely to steal a copy of Your Money or Your Life.
  • Newspapers and Magazines are also expensive - I've been offered a better deals than $2.99 a month for Forbes... usually about a $1 an issue.

Con Summary

Financially, there are some issues... You might end up buying the same books you already own. You might have to have a Kindle for each member for of the family. You might end up paying a lot for content that you can reader cheaper or even for free. It could get stolen where you have to buy the device again.

Buy or Don't Buy - I'm going with don't buy at this point... The price of $350+ and the lure of potential subscription add-ons just doesn't seem the right value for me. If you've got a lot of disposable income, I can see some value in this, but I don't think it's really something that middle class will adopt until it hits $99 price point. The potential is definitely there for this to be big in the next five years, so keep it on the radar.

Last updated on November 18, 2009.

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17 Responses to “Amazon Kindle: Buy or Not?”

  1. Chad @ Sentient Money says:

    Not even a question for me…definately not a buy. I see no benefit for an electronic reader. Breakable, costly, few books for it, no bookshelves (for some this is a positive), poor feel, less of a positive feeling when you finish it (do you feel better after reading a book or a web page?). The only real advantage I can see is the ease at which e-books can be published.

  2. David Carter says:

    I don’t think I would buy it, but it does sound really cool. I like the free internet part. Most things u buy nowadays have continual fees.

  3. jim says:

    It’s tempting…

  4. Pinyo says:

    I have seen it and the various buttons are a PITA when you’re trying to hold it. Also, I think there could be a better solution that works with existing PDAs, SmartPhones, and Blackberries.

  5. Lazy Man says:

    I just wonder if the PDAs, SmartPhones, and Blackberries, will be as good for my eyes as something bigger and with e-Ink.

  6. Lowmagnet says:

    I have an iliad and I love it. It isn’t A kindle but the concept of ereaders is a solid one. They are easy to read, and I feel the same satisfaction after reading a book on it. It’s also a higher resolution than a paperback. Also, ebooks are usually cheaper than hard covers at release.

  7. 2million says:

    Thanks for the review. I never gave any thought to this product till now — took it as just another palm type device but geared for reading.

    Still not for me yet – but if it got over the early adoption curve and the price dropped I could consider it.

  8. Jesse says:

    Hello, I’ve also been thinking about buying a Kindle. I’ve looked at similar products, like the Sony Reader Digital Book and it nothing compares yet.

    If Apple would come out with their own Digital Book, they would almost have to stay compatible with other formats if they wanted people to switch in the future from the Kindle to the iReader (or whatever over stupid name they will have with the lowercase i at the beginning).

    Since you are a blog owner, consider joining Amazon’s affiliate program, they are currently offering 10% back for Kindle purchased through your affiliate link. You could buy it, review it, and then give your link and make some of the money back.

    Check out my blog for some more money saving ideas!

  9. ~Dawn says:

    When these are the price of an ipod or even a calculator, I will look them over, otherwise the library works just hunky-dory for me! :)

  10. Lazy Man says:

    Aren’t some iPods around $350?

  11. Jen says:

    They don’t seem worth it to me. Right now, my two main sources of books are the library and used book stores, with a few books bought off of amazon every other month or so. When I buy a book, it has a tangible value, and a resale value. I can resell it to my used book store, I can lend it to my friend, I have a heavy item in my hands that I paid money for. With a Kindle, the book (apparently) cannot be resold, it cannot be lent, and it cannot be marked up with notes (I don’t do this, but some people do). Plus, I have read that the Kindle holds 80 books or so- what happens after I read that many books, as I probably would in a year?

    The only way I would buy one is if I were going abroad for a long time, and suitcase space was at a premium.

  12. Llama Money says:

    The free wikipedia and google maps are great features, indeed. I’m a wikipedia addict ( and I get lost a lot ) so I see the value there. However, at the end of the day, it’s a $350 book reader, and you still have to pay full price for books. If it were a tad more compact, cost a lot less ($100? ish ) and ebooks were offered at a discount to their tree-killing counterparts, I would consider this a buy. As it stands, not a buy.

  13. susan says:

    You make a statement that Amazon is using Sprint’s network at no charge for Kindle. May I ask why you think that, and whether you have any basis for saying that?

  14. Jessica says:

    I went with the Sony Reader, since its a second gen product, $100 cheaper, got better reviews, and I really didn’t need all of the doohickies with it. For me, it was extremely worth it. When I go on vacation, literally half of my suitcase is filled with books. It fits nicely in my purse as well. It also saves me money- its cheaper than regular books and I save money on gas since I’m not driving to the bookstore. Its downloading software works exactly like the iPods, which is also excellent. Plus I bought mine at Borders, where I am a member, and I got a $10 coupon for my trouble.

    If you read a lot, like I do, I recommend the Sony Reader.

    @Jesse- amazon won’t pay out for their affiliates if they purchase through their own links.

  15. F. Center says:

    I first ordered one for my mother for Christmas. I was not certain that she would be able to figure this out because she doesn’t have a computer or understand the basics of technology (she’s 82). I did some comparisons with other similar devices. What makes this great is that you do not have to be in a hot spot. I knew my mom would have trouble with that concept. We were told that it would not arrive until mid-March. I love it when Amazon is wrong because it came in late February. I had it delivered to my place so that I could set her up with an account and be able to teach her how to use it. As soon as I opened it, I knew I HAD to have one. Mine arrived about 2 weeks later. I just cannot say enough great things about it. It is easy to navigate around, even for an 82 year old technophobe. Books down load effortlessly. I can even order one at the office and have it there, ready to read when I get home. Although it is rare when I don’t have it with me. Many classics are available for free. We both love ours. I like the fact that it fits easily in my purse/tote. I would recommend this to any avid reader.

  16. D. M. Crane says:

    I debated whether to get a Kindle 2 because I’d pretty much stopped using my Kindle 1 (except for when traveling). I just missed real books too much, and there were a number of things that drove me crazy about the Kindle 1. Well, I caved. My Kindle 2 just arrived, and I LOVE it!

    Here are some differences:

    1. The page turning buttons have been fixed. Yea!!! I couldn’t hold the old Kindle without inadvertently turning the page, which rendered it unusable for me. The new model fixes that problem.

    2. While the old Kindle looked and felt like a hunk of junk, the new Kindle is an elegant object. Both the design and the manufacturing standards were atrocious on the old Kindle. Not only was it as ugly as sin, but all of the buttons were all out of alignment and there were giant gaps between the plastic and the screen. I cringed every time I used it. The new device is still no iPod, but it is a pleasure to hold. (One thing remains that I still HATE: Having the hideous AmazonKindle logo “” the “smirk” “” on the front of the device. iPod has its name only on the back of the object; why can’t Kindle? And why a smirk?)

    3. The screen quality is much, much better. It may have been because I got my first Kindle from the very first batch, but the screen and text on the old model looked very grainy, like newsprint. The grey background was mottled and the text was fuzzy, like text had “bled” into the paper. It was like reading a super-cheap paperback. The new screen has a very smooth background and very crisp letters. I’m still not crazy about the drab grey color of the screen and greater contrast would improve readability, but to me it is exponentially better.

    4. I actually like the audio feature. I thought that was something I’d never use, but I turned it on for my morning commute and it was surprisingly tolerable. Of course, if I had the choice of an audio book read by an actual human, I’d choose that every time, but given the limited selection of real audio books this is an acceptable substitute. Yes, it sounds like your GPS lady is reading to you, but it is 100x better than I ever thought it would be.

    5. The thrill of downloading something on the spot still gives me a rush. While there are still many things to iron out “” WE WANT THE ABILITY TO MAKE FOLDERS, AMAZON! “” the flaws are not significant enough to get in the way of my overall enjoyment. This is not to say that the device will replace paper books for me; there is still something about a book as a physical object that I love and crave. But I’ll likely keep my Kindle charged and with me all the time now (and I’ll likely buy both the hard copy and Kindle version when available).

    6. Finally, for those romantics out there who think that there is something heretical about a device like this, think of it this way: Never again will you have to leave the house without your top 100 (or 1000) all-time favorite books by your side. In fact, I plan to go download the complete works of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Paul Auster right now. (But not Emily Dickinson. Everyone knows you can’t read poetry on an electronic device! That would just be wrong.)

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