Part 5/5 of my Kindle 3 Review
In my previous posts I have talked about the good and the bad of Kindle. In this last post, however, I am going to talk about the ugly part. First of all E-book's pricing. And then the fact that you don't own the book you pay for due to Amazon's DRM.
Amazon tout that at the price of $9.99, many E-book are a bargain compare to physical book. Customers should expect a discount on E-book. After all, an electronic download's marginal cost is nearly 0 compares to a physical book with real cost. But after a quick scan, I find that in many cases E-book actually cost more than paperback. Very few publisher discount a E-book to below $10. Yet a brand new paperback can have for less, for example at $6. Used book, which used to constitute half of my purchases, can have for as little as $1 plus shipping. E-book is no bargain. And I loath to pay more for it.
And then I cannot borrow E-book from libraries. I read a good number of books borrowed from library. In most cases I can afford to pay for the books. And I'm very willing to pay for books I like. I often buy them for collection rather than reading because I've already finished the reading on the library's copy. The thing is I have also bought a stack of book that's sitting and collecting dust without being read. Often they are not as interesting as I first thought. They wasted my money, taking space and I cannot not get myself to throw them away. So the biggest value of borrowing library book is actually to ensure I only buy worthy books and avoid unnecessary cluttering.
Kindle book resolve this in some extent. If I buy a wrong book, it is only a few MB of electronic document, unlike a physical object that I have deal with from time to time. Wasting $10 is not as big a deal. And I think Amazon provides 7 day refund period. Perhaps I need to adjust my spending habit, like set aside a $200 budget a year on E-book. If I have to splurge my hard earn money, there is no better thing to splurge on that culture and literacy.
Far worst than the price is Kindle book's DRM. It is Amazon's copy protection scheme that restrict you to use the E-book you've pay for only on a registered Kindle device. You cannot read it on a different device, like Sony's eReader of Nook. Nor can you purchase a book from other vendor and read on Kindle (unless it is non-DRM).
If you read my posts, it is clear that I have mixed review on Kindle. I expect it to be replace by something quite different soon. For me to build my collection committing to one vendor is a major issue. An electronic gadget like Kindle have a lifespan of only a few years. After that, it either breaks or become functional obsolete. Can I count on Amazon to make a compatible replacement at a reasonable cost in the future? Can I even count on Amazon as an commercial entity to live on? And if it folds, a totally legitimate concern of mime, what is going to happen to my books collection?
All these highlight one major different between buying a physical book and a E-book. The E-book purchase doesn't buy you anything but a long term lease to be use on some designated device. And I'm not happy to pay $10 to rent a book that I may not be able to renew.
There is one good guy in this market. O'Reilly, a major publisher of computer and technology book, offer their E-book free of DRM. You can keep it forever and read it on any existing or future devices. I hope more publishers will do the same. Ironically this is what Amazon have done in the music space. Their music store offers DRM free download against incumbent Apple's DRMed download. That was the reason I prefer Amazon over Apple.