Are eBooks Cost Effective?

J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly, a personal finance blog, has a nice write-up about the cost of ebooks. As well as some of the pros and cons of buying ebooks.  The excerpt below is a great little summary of when it’s a good idea to buy an ebook and when it’s still best to go with the old fashion paper book.

Here’s my assessment after two years of buying e-books:

  • 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.)

If you remember, in a previous post I talked about the cost of ebooks between the different ebook stores, with Amazon coming out on top.

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