Why you shouldn't buy a Kindle

Suppose you're choosing between 2 cars. One qualifies for free gasoline for life, while the other requires you to pay $10 or more per fill-up. Which would you buy?

By Stacy Johnson Jan 24, 2011 10:16AM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


Despite competition from tablet computers like Apple's iPad, e-readers are still making major inroads. According to Gartner Research:

Worldwide connected e-reader sales to end users are forecast to total 6.6 million units in 2010, up 79.8% from 2009 sales of 3.6 million units, according to Gartner Inc. In 2011, worldwide e-reader sales are projected to surpass 11 million units, a 68.3% increase from 2010.

One of the most popular e-readers is Amazon's Kindle. While nobody outside the company knows exactly how many Kindle e-readers Amazon is selling, one thing's for sure: It's a lot. In fact, it may be more than Gartner estimated in the press release above. According to this Bloomberg article from Dec. 21:

Amazon.com Inc. is likely to sell more than 8 million Kindle electronic-book readers this year, at least 60% more than analysts have predicted, according to two people who are aware of the company's sales projections.
Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimated, on average, that the company would sell 5 million Kindles in 2010. Last year, Amazon sold about 2.4 million Kindles, said one of the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the company doesn't disclose Kindle sales figures.

The popularity of e-readers may wane as tablet computers like the iPad -- also suitable for e-reading -- cannibalize the market. Apple sold nearly 7.5 million iPads in the last three months of 2010 alone. Still, if the research above is correct, e-readers like the Kindle will continue to do well through 2011 and beyond. 


But I can't see why anyone would buy a Kindle.


Why Kindle is a bad choice

Why? Simple. If you buy a Kindle, you'll forgo thousands -- and someday, perhaps millions -- of free e-books. Libraries nationwide are now offering e-books, and they can't be read on the Amazon Kindle. Post continues after video.

A few months ago I wrote a post called "Thousands of e-Books: Free." From that article:

When you think about using the library now, you may think of getting in the car, driving to the nearest branch, finding the book you're looking for -- hopefully all the copies won't be checked out -- then waiting in line to borrow it. But what if all you had to do was log on to the library's website, do a quick search, then click "download"?
That's now happening with thousands of books at thousands of libraries around the country. It's a whole new world of convenience -- and one that may appeal to a whole new type of library cardholder: younger, tech-savvy readers who may not have considered the library before, but now see that free e-books and instant downloads make the library a better alternative than iTunes or Amazon.
Today your local library isn't carrying a complete catalog of e-books. The reason? Some publishers aren't playing ball with libraries because there just isn't enough money in it for them. ... But according to the librarian I interviewed, these problems will ultimately be ironed out as the demand for e-books continues to expand and publishers work out a profit model that works for all parties involved.

Although your local library isn't yet offering every book in e-reader format, they are offering thousands that way. And I hope it's obvious that spending $10 or more to buy an e-book from Amazon, Google or anywhere else is dumb if you can get the same book free from the comfort of your home.


In order to read an e-book from the library, you have to either use a computer or tablet computer, most smart phones, or have a compatible e-reader. Many libraries use a company called OverDrive to supply their downloadable audio and e-books. Here's a look at compatible e-readers from their website:

Another big distributor of e-books to libraries is NetLibrary. According to their website, they offer 146,000 titles that can be read on Nook and Sony digital readers. But again, no Kindle.


So here's the question: Suppose you were choosing between two cars. They cost roughly the same amount, but the first qualified for free gasoline, and the other required you to pay $10 or more per fill-up. Which would you buy?

If you already have a Kindle reader, at least there's a new service that allows you to share e-books for free for 14 days. It's offered by the Kindle Lending Club. You can read more about it in this WalletPop article. But compared with the opportunity to download thousands of e-books from your local library? No comparison.


What does Amazon say?

I called Amazon's media relations line, leaving a detailed voice mail about why I was calling. I explained I was on deadline, and asked for an immediate call back. Eight hours later I got an e-mail saying, "Thanks for your interest in Kindle. Can you send me your questions and deadline and I'll determine the best person to answer your questions?" I responded by e-mail, asking why a Kindle can't be used to download library books and if Amazon had any plans to change that, again explaining that I was on a deadline. They didn't respond.


Must be at the library.


More from Money Talks News and MSN Money:


Jan 24, 2011 11:38AM
Reasons to buy a Kindle; 

1) It's a dedicated ereader that is not back lit, so easier on the eyes. 

2) Amazon offers loads of free ebooks to download. 

3) Libraries are limited in how many copies of ebooks they can lend, so if you want a popular book you may well have to wait in line.

4) Amazon is a canny retailer. If they are losing customers because of the issue you describe, they will change their policy.
Jan 24, 2011 1:49PM
I'm more than happy to pay for books and to reward writers for their craft.  Do you work for free?   If no one paid for books, there would be no books, or very few of good quality.  The Kindle is a well-designed  device, easy on the eyes, lightweight, and reliable.  With the Kindle, I'm reading more than ever.  As one who read printed books for almost half a century, I never thought I would make the switch.  Now, I don't want to go back.
Jan 24, 2011 1:44PM

I have a Nook for the reasons listed in the article.  When my fiance was shopping for an e-reader last spring for my birthday gift, he talked to our local library system to find out what brands of e-readers would be compatible with their new system (the e-lending library service launched shortly after my birthday).  I couldn't be happier with his choice.  I can carry around more books than I can read, the battery life is long, like the Kindle, the Nook uses e-ink technology, and I have had access to hundreds of free e-books. I can also download pdfs from my computer (think documents I need to proof for work) as well as traditional reading materials.

 Also B&N runs deals on e-books each week, so I've had fun discovering new authors I would have missed at the local library.  I'll admit I love the Kindle advertisements, but when it comes to performance and adaptability, I love my Nook.

Jan 24, 2011 5:19PM
the kindle is also pdf compatible.  As someone who likes to read sporting articles, and who frequently reads professional articles, it is great to email myself the articles as PDF files (extremely simple to do this with the newest version of Microsoft Word) and have it pop up on your home page.  Once the PDF files are converted, they even do text to speech.

The kindle is not perfect, but for the $ it is a pretty good deal.  And it is tiny!

Jan 24, 2011 9:13PM
If you don't want to buy an E-reader of any type, all's you have to do is download the app for your smart-phone; Kindle & Nook BOTH have one.  Personally I have 2 Kindles & an iPhone outfitted with a Kindle, Nook, AND iBooks app.  I love the convince of having almost any book, immediately, ready to read where ever I am.  Plus, as a person with limited vision, I am able to adjust the size of the print to a comfortable level.  I can't tell you how many times I've been delayed (once in a traffic jam, another waiting at the Dr's office when he was called out for an emergency) & have whipped out my iPhone, downloaded the book I'd started reading at home & been asked if I want to "start at the beginning" or "go to the last page read"--who can ask for more!  Also, I don't mind paying for a book.  How many of us would go to work if we didn't get paid?  If there's no profit in writing, how many good books do you think will written in a few years??
Jan 24, 2011 10:42PM
Feb 16, 2011 6:28PM
While it's true that more libraries are starting to offer book downloads there are still limitations within this service. My local library offers this service; however, I have only been able to successfully read one book in this manner.  There are several different formats in which a book can be downloaded, so it is not uniform at all, which can be annoying.  And there are a limited number of 'copies' of the download version of the book.  It has been easier to place a hold on the book, wait two days, and then pick the book up at the library on my way home from work rather than wait interminably for the download version to become available.  Or buy it for my kindle if it's a book that I believe I will enjoy. 
Jan 24, 2011 7:23PM

the only way I would choose the Apple is only if every competitor was Japanese.


Anyone thats willing to overpay to Apple for their products is a salesmans dream.  IE a sucker.  Who in their right mind would pay $1,400+ for a 13.3 inch laptop that doesnt have a Blu Ray player, lightscribe DVD/cd burner, fingerprint reader, and a current motherboard/processor combination?


Most apple laptops are still using the dual core processors.  My laptop is 3 years old and has the core 2 Duo which is a newer processor than the dual core that is still being used by Apple.  yes you can get the i3 i5 or i7 core in Apple products for a huge increase in the cost. 


A company makes $5+ billion profit in a 3 month period and nobody is questioning it?  Sure investors think its great but as consumers they should be saying hey wait a second here why can't you lower your prices since youre making soo much money?  And what are they doing with their stockpile of ca**** not being paid to shareholders in dividends.  They are just sitting on it while Americas economy is struggling.  Great company.  They dont care about the American public just their all mighty dollar.

Feb 1, 2011 10:32AM

Phil99, try a proper e-reader with an 'e-ink' screen, not a computer screen, or even just read the customer reviews of the Kindle where so many who thought like you have been proven wrong. I should know as I am one of these people. Once you've used one for a while you cannot possibly think that a hardbound book is preferable, save for the ability to lend the book to friends and family after reading (although lending e-books to each other will become the norm anyway, see the end of the article above). This is one gadget that actually works, and won't be put down and forgotten once the novelty wears off. Indeed, even if this were not the case, who cares if the US (or the UK in my case) is obessed by gadgetry? I for one am all in favour of any device which gets more people reading books.

Jan 25, 2011 12:57PM
This guy doesn't realize the industry leader pulls a lot of weight.   There are already a lot of free books on Kindle (wonder if he took the time to check that out).  I don't question that Kindle will find a way to access the free book repositories in the future.

I've had my kindle for over a year and also own an iPad.  I don't use the iPad as a reader even though I have the Kindle software loaded.  It's TOO HEAVY - Kindle is great as you can hold it with one hand and read - no eye fatigue, lots of reasons to use a dedicated reader.

Point is - who expects their technology to last more than a couple of years - for app $150 do you have to buy something that guarantees future compatability 5 years from now - I'd say that's pretty ignorant.

Jan 24, 2011 4:12PM

I personally don't think lending of ebooks will ever catch on for a few reasons.

1. For the people who want it free why get it free for a while vs. forever via piracy

2. Wait times.  People understand waiting for a new book but they will not accept waiting for the ebook.

3. The licensing fees and such will in time make it so libraries don't see the value.


The truth is just like MP3 players did to music the ereader will bring piracy to the masses.  But as it evolves you will see just like MP3's it will help artists and writers bring their products directly to the masses.  In the long run this will be good for the artists we want to support. 


As for borrowing books from the library.  I guess I have always seen it as just one step above piracy.  If you truly like the book buy the paperback or cheap ebook and support the writer.  Most of them make far less money than I do.  The library can help expose people to new artists and also allows those who can not afford books themselves to enjoy them.  But often I feel that some of the regulars there don't understand the economics of writing.

Feb 1, 2011 10:12AM

This article might have more weight if e-book lending services were mature, widely available and popular, none of which they yet are. My local library has 10 free e-books to download (all out of print and copyright-expired), and none at all to loan. These are early days, and one cannot write off the most popular e-reading device on the basis of a very minor, underdeveloped market. It seems you are suggesting that the Kindle will never support e-book lending libraries. If and when such libraries become viable, it is unthinkable to suggest that the only a small fraction of e-reader owners will be able to access the service. Clearly a Kindle-supported method will be developed, since the Kindle is and still will be by far the most popular e-reading device when this stage is reached.


What matters more at the moment is how much the reader itself costs (about half the price of the competition, in the case of the Kindle), and how much e-books cost to buy rather than loan. People forget that the Kindle will read some non-DRM formats like MOBI, and there's a plethora of software available to convert e-books to that format. Not only that, but there's a vast amount of free Kindle books on Amazon, as well as advice from them on where to find more.


The biggest issue at the moment is that newly released, commercial e-books are barely cheaper than their non-virtual siblings on Amazon. We can only draw the conclusion that Amazon are pocketing the big savings on paper, printing and postage, whilst giving the consumer a discount of only a few pennies.

Jan 30, 2011 2:30PM
I agree that a dedicated e-reader is best for e-reading (versus phones which are perfect for...phone calls!). That's why I got a Cybook Opus. It's the lightest of its size (6'inch), does the job perfectly (except for connecting online which I didn't want for health reasons - I don't want to be holding for hours something with EMW) and it reads .epub format, which is very widely used. Of course, I immediately downloaded the -free- Calibre software, with which I convert all the .pdfs I want in seconds.
I am a loyal Amazon customer, as far as print books are concerned, but I don't like their monopoly policy, and all the converting hassle.

Otherwise, the e-River devices are compatible with almost any format that you can name. I didn't choose one of those because they all have this network connection I didn't want.

Jan 24, 2011 6:24PM
personally i would rather have a nook than a kindle.  nook color has a 7 inch screen and of course uses an actual bookstore, barnes & noble. 
Jan 25, 2011 1:43PM

Fortunately, all of these devices are worth little, even if free : they are so inferior to a hardbound book from virtually any usability standpoint that price is a secondary consideration (at best).


A possible exception: I like to have several unabridged dictionaries with search features (OED, Random House) and a thesaurus loaded on the laptop. The silicon book experience can be a plus for that kind of hardbound book, but it doesn't require no steenkin' "e-reader."


It appears that the U.S. has become memerized by its gadgets and tchotchkes, as it has become chubbier, poorer, and increasingly illiterate. End of empire: get some.

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