Why You Shouldn’t Buy an Amazon Kindle

Suppose you were choosing between two cars. The first qualified for free gasoline for life, the other required you to pay $10 or more per fill-up. Which would you buy?

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 percent 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 percent 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, 2010:

Amazon.com Inc. is likely to sell more than 8 million Kindle electronic-book readers this year, at least 60 percent 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.

Why Kindle is a bad choice

But if you’re tempted to jump on the Kindle bandwagon, don’t. Why? Simple. If you buy a Kindle, you’ll forgo thousands – and someday, perhaps millions – of free e-books. Because libraries nationwide are now offering e-books, and they can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle.

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 card-holder: 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. The publisher of my latest book, Life or Debt 2010, Simon & Schuster, has thus far has refused to do digital deals with libraries. According to this article from the New York Times, MacMillan is another publisher not providing e-books to libraries.

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 (Mac or PC, including tablet computers like the iPad) 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:

Notice an e-reader conspicuous by its absence? 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, 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 borrow or lend your e-books to other Kindle owners for free for 14 days – it’s offered by The Kindle Lending Club. You can read about it in this WalletPop article. But compared to the opportunity to download thousands of e-books from your local library? No comparison.

What does Amazon say?

Two days ago, I called the media relations department of Amazon, leaving a detailed voice mail about why I was calling, that I was on deadline, and asking for a call back. They responded with an email about 8 hours later 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 email, saying that I was now past deadline and asking why Kindle isn’t able to download library books and if Amazon had any plans to change that.

They never responded. Maybe they’re at the library.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

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  • Anonymous

    so you called left a message, and only gave them 8 hours to respond? Do you really think that was an adequate amount of time………for a large corporation like Amazon? Really?……………….Good article by the way, I am a new fan to the website!

    • Anonymous

      Did the author say he was giving them eight hours to respond? That’s not what I interpreted it as…..both Mary and Kenn’s posts held viability to what the article is focusing on…too many variables regarding the car analogy and I agree that it is indeed early to decide which is best; I wouldn’t be the least bit surprise if Kindle does indeed allow downloads from libraries someday.

  • Anonymous

    A free program called Calibre can convert many formats of e-books to many formats. Very handy.

    I disagree, however. The Kindle is great for reading if for the simple fact it doesn’t require a backlit screen. It’s like reading text off of paper. I’ve read books on my iPhone, and the strain from the backlighting (and small text) gives me a headache after a while.

    I’m sure the whole library thing will get straightened out eventually. It’s still early in the e-reader’s evolution.

  • Anonymous

    The car analogy was a bit simplistic. It’s not just the free gas (or e-books) that needs to be considered. If the car that required $10 or more for a fill-up of gasoline was also a much safer car with nicer features, or that lasted longer before requiring maintenance, I would choose that one. The same logic would apply to choosing an e-reader.

  • This article is false. There’s millions of books for free that can be read on the Kindle (just not those in the Public Libraries, maybe), but there’s tons out there. Internet Archive – Over 2.5 million free titles
    Internet Archive is a non-profit dedicated to offering permanent access to historical collections that exist in digital format. Provides over 2.5 million free ebooks to read, download, and enjoy. Visit http://www.archive.org. …www.pixelofink.com is another good site too. I am sure there are many others!

  • Anonymous

    It’s their ability to DELETE books from kindles that is more disturbing.

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