How much cheaper are Kindle books than hardbacks?
When Kindles first came out (more than six years ago now), there was talk about how the fact that they were so expensive (initially, just about $400), that it could create a barrier to reading. The logic went something like this: poor people couldn’t afford the device; books might be eventually produced only for the Kindle; so poor people would not be able to read the same books that rich people could.
Of course, that’s largely always been true.
Books used to really be just for the elite. They were rare and valuable items, in many cases. In the 19th Century, England saw the arrival of the “penny dreadfuls”, and the USA later had “dime novels”, but those were both typically genre fiction…not “good books”. You could read a Western, or about the mysterious “Spring-Heeled Jack”, but you weren’t getting Shakespeare and Ovid that way.
While what we now consider to be classics were often serialized (and those available more cheaply), it really wasn’t until the arrival of mass market paperbacks in the 1930s (first in Germany, then the UK, then the USA) that “regular folks” were able to get the same books that the rich people were reading.
That’s simplified, of course, but a lot of it had to do with the rise of literacy among the poorer classes.
No question, a $400 investment in 2007 was a lot.
E-books were typically cheaper than the hardback equivalents…markedly so, in many cases.
Even under the Agency Model, which raised e-book prices, they still tended to be cheaper than the hardback equivalents. Still, owning an e-book reader was perhaps out of the reach of many.
Well, a lot has happened.
For one thing, you don’t need an EBR (E-Book Reader) to read e-books. You do need a computer (or a SmartPhone, or other things).
For another, they are available through public libraries (although not fully at this point).
Key is that the price of EBRs has dropped…and that the Agency Model pricing structure was broken up through the action of the US Department of Justice, again allowing deep discounting of e-book titles by Amazon and others.
Those aren’t just cheaper prices on independently published books (which may also have created a downward price pressure across the board): the bestselling books are much cheaper as e-books than they are as hardbacks.
Here are the current New York Times fiction bestseller hardbacks, along with their prices and the Kindle store prices:
|Cross My Heart||$14.50||$7.50||-$7.00|
|The First Phone Call From Heaven||$12.50||$8.49||-$4.01|
|King and Maxwell||$15.55||$8.99||-$6.56|
|The Longest Ride||$13.87||$6.49||-$7.38|
|The Supreme Macaroni Company||$15.59||$8.00||-$7.59|
|The Valley of Amazement||$17.99||$8.99||-$9.00|
|The All-Girls Filling Station Last Reunion||$15.00||$6.49||-$8.51|
|And the Mountains Echoed||$16.58||$7.50||-$9.08|
|We are Water||$17.61||$8.99||-$8.62|
I have not included one of the titles, which is not available as an e-book…or, at the moment, as a hardback (out of stock).
On average, you could save $7.84 buying the e-book over the hardback.
If you planned to buy all of the books in this group, and you bought e-books instead of hardbacks, you would have enough left over to buy two Kindles! The least expensive one, the one I call the Mindle, is $69…buy two, and you’d still have about $10 left over.
You could, of course, buy a more expensive model with that almost $150 savings money…even a tablet. You could also use the money for more books…a lot more books.
That’s quite a change!
You can also get some of the world’s great literature for free for your Kindle…a wonderful part of the e-book paradigm shift.
What about mass market paperbacks (which may be a more direct comparison)?
Not surprisingly, you don’t save as much money…but you still save money:
|A Dance with Dragons||$5.99||$2.99||-$3.00|
|A Game of Thrones||$8.22||$4.99||-$3.23|
|Touch & Go||$8.99||$7.99||-$1.00|
|No Good Duke Goes Unpunished||$4.78||$5.03||$0.25|
|Angels at the Table||$6.29||$5.98||-$0.31|
|Star Trek: The Fall: The Poisoned Chalice||$5.03||$4.78||-$0.25|
|Speaker for the Dead||$7.19||$5.99||-$1.20|
|A Big Sky Christmas||$6.75||$5.24||-$1.51|
|The Black Box||$6.82||$6.48||-$0.34|
|Best Kept Secret||$8.99||$8.54||-$0.45|
Hmm…two of the books aren’t available as e-books…I find that surprising.
Again, I’m just look at the New York Times bestsellers, here. There are many inexpensive books which are only available as e-books…and as I mentioned above, many free ones as well.
No question in my mind: e-books are making books much more affordable than they used to be…even taking into account the costs of access.
We have to remember that accessing paperbooks also wasn’t free. What if you had to get downtown to get to a bookstore…or a library? There are a lot of kids especially who have internet access at school, and not at home.
We even see this in a big way in third world countries. I’ve written several times about
which gets Kindles to kids in difficult locations. Can you imagine trying to get ten copies of Harry Potter into the middle of the jungle? With satellite internet (which they can help set up…and you might be surprised how many people in a village can maintain something like that…and solar or other nonconnected power sources), remote areas can download e-books much more easily.
Even if it was a question of periodically delivering Kindles loaded with a thousand books, that would be much more cost effective than transporting paperbooks.
Yes: e-books contribute to the democratization of literature, rather than being a barrier to it.
What do you think? Do e-books make books more affordable for more people? Do you worry that the digital divide may grow deeper and more significant if books move much more to one side of it? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! NOte: you can select WorldReader.org as the non-profit you support, if you want.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.