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Old 12-07-2007, 12:29 PM   #1
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Interesting price and availability observation

Yesterday I picked up the new 505 to replace my old 500, and got the $50 Borders credit along with it. While spending my $50, I though it would be interesting to compare prices with retail and Amazon, as the poor economics of ebooks has long been my argument for their low adoption rates (among other issues).

My results were:
Spirits in the Wire, Charles de Lint. eConnect: $12.57, Amazon lists as "not available"
The Tipping Point. Malcolom Gladwell, eConnect: $7.99, Retail $14.95, Amazon $10.17
Freakonomics, Steven D Levitt, eConnect $6.39, Retail $27.95, Amazon $16.77
Decoding the Universe, Charles Seife, eConnect $9.00, Amazon lists as "not available"
Urban Shaman, C E Murphy, eConnect $12.55, Retail $13.95, Amazon $12.30

The two books listed as "not available" I have seen frequently at the local Borders/B&Ns, and I think the prices for print copies were fairly close to the eConnect price. In those instances, I will just assume the retail and amazon prices are the same as the eConnect price.

The final tally comes to $48.50 for eConnect, $60.81 for Amazon, and $78.42 retail. Add shipping or Amazon Prime fees to the Amazon price, and if you really want to be silly add gas and time to the retail price to reflect visiting the bookstore. If you get a 10% B&N discount, drop the retail to $70.58.

The eBooks actually win in this scenario, with the added benefit of instant gratification. However, this depends highly on the type of reading you do: the lion's share of the savings came from two hardcover business/economics/current events style books, while the savings on fiction was fairly minor.

The Reader plus AC charger set me back $351.92 (sales tax included), so at best I am now only $322 in the hole after saving $29.92 over retail for the books. The savings averages to $6 per book for 5 books; if the average holds, I need to buy 58.65 more books over the life of the device to hit break even.

I did download some of the Sony Classics you get free, but three chapters into "Dracula" and I'm thinking you get what you pay for. At least this title frequently has multiple words smashed together, which usually throws me out of the 'zone' when I'm reading.

I'm also not including the excellent free content contained here, though so far I think the number holds: I just finished reading "The War of the Worlds", which set me back $5.95 for a Modern Library printing.

I am also not including the option of used book stores or services like PaperBack swap, which would likely trounce even the eConnect prices. The problem with both these options is spotty and unpredictable availability. Even Amazon didn't have new copies of two of the books listed above; it is entertaining to think of book titles never going "out of print" in the digital realm, especially as long as that "inventory" doesn't get taxed (which is one of the reasons publishers don't keep large back catalogs anymore).

This does not take into account the soft benefits of the eBooks: not having to find storage space for them (though I do need to store them on the computer and do a backup of the data; my total library of 63 books is 86 MB in size, small enough to fit on the cheapest of flash drives), and I don't have to deal with disposing of them when I'm done. I'll be able to take all five books with me on my Christmas vacation and be able to read what tickles my fancy at the moment. Is that benefit worth $350 (or $322)? That's the grey area everyone has to decide for themselves, and I'm still on the fence.

I do not pretend these numbers are scientific or that the sampling is in any way representative. I do pretend that they are interesting, and I think a subsidized reader with a subscription business model *might* work. If I paid, say, $100 for the device and $20 a month for 24 months, and got one free book per month and one newspaper or magazine subscription, and then could buy any other content I wanted for an additional fee, that might make the cost of entry seem less expensive.
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Old 12-07-2007, 01:05 PM   #2
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Quote:
I did download some of the Sony Classics you get free, but three chapters into "Dracula" and I'm thinking you get what you pay for. At least this title frequently has multiple words smashed together, which usually throws me out of the 'zone' when I'm reading.
Unfortunately I get this "smashed together words" in almost every book I purchase on the connect site. I hate it. I actually had one book that averaged two instances a page (on medium font). I have actually written both the publishers and Sony with no response.

This is one reason that the job of copy editor was created.
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