Amazon Kindle bites the dust… $187 to fix

My Amazon Kindle is just slightly past its one year anniversary and showing signs of very ill health.  Half of the pixels on the screen are stuck following a light knock.  I called Amazon and they’re happy to fix it… for $180 plus $7 in shipping (free if you’re a Prime member).  The Kindle is more fragile than a laptop computer but less likely to be pampered given that you use it in all the situations where you’d use a book.

I may have to rethink my enthusiasm for the electronic book.  Realistically the way that people handle books, the Kindle is not going to last more than one year.  That means you’re spending $360 for the initial purchase and $187 every year for hardware repairs.  Some of the Kindle editions of books are edging their way up towards $20 (see this Naipaul biography, for example).  Suppose that you read one book every two weeks, or 25 books per year…

Kindle:  $250 per year for hardware (spreading the cost of the initial Kindle purchase a bit) plus $312 for books at $12.50 per book = $562 per year.  Good for individual travel and treadmill usage; bad for having to worry about forgetting it somewhere; bad for taking on vacation with family due to difficulty of sharing; terrible for illustrations and photos.

Paper:  25 books at $15 per book = $375 per year.  Probably 50 percent of those books can be recycled into gifts, so the true cost is closer to $200 per year (assuming you need to buy gifts for friends and family periodically).  Heavy for long trips; awkward for treadmill usage; good for carefree life (risk of forgetting in coffee shop limited to $15); great for sharing; great for illustrations and photos.

Library: free!  Great for Great Depression 2.0.

13 Comments

  1. Alan K

    December 31, 2008 @ 10:20 pm

    1

    If you bought it with a credit card, check with your credit card company to see if you get an extended warranty by using the card.

  2. Saqib Ali

    December 31, 2008 @ 10:31 pm

    2

    Just when I was about to shell out $250 for a Kindle after reading Professor McAfee’s review of the Kindle:
    http://blog.hbs.edu/faculty/amcafee/index.php/faculty_amcafee_v3/my_two_top_2008_technologies/

  3. Devin Dawson

    December 31, 2008 @ 10:48 pm

    3

    Concur.

    I just reached the same conclusion when my 2 year old Sony Reader took a light tap and half the screen is non-responsive. Repair options all appear over $250. I think I’m out of this market until something roughly as durable as an ipod or phone appears. I did love it while it lasted.

  4. David Wihl

    January 1, 2009 @ 8:42 am

    4

    I’m still a fan. I’ve always left it in the vinyl case which has protected it from various abuses like falls or scratches.
    Rumor is a Kindle 2 sometimw in ’09 which will still be black and white. I hope they add a backlight.

    Sharing or loaning Kindle books is a huge lost marketing opportunity for Amazon. It’d spin a virtulous cycle if, for example, I could loan you one of my Kindle books for 60 days. You would have exclusive access to that paid content it would automatically revert to me when the timer expires. One of my frustrations in loaning physical books is not getting them back. This could also work for giving away a “used” (ie read) e-book.

    The wireless free internet is a huge plus. This past weekend, I was oUt of cell coverage for my regular provider but had backup for free through the Kindle. That should factor into your economic analysis.

  5. Wayne

    January 1, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

    5

    The library is better than free – using the web interface to inter-library loan you can order many out of print books and media that Amazon doesn’t carry and certainly not found on the Kindle. From order to pick up is often as fast as super-saver shipping. My library allows me to keep these books for 3 weeks, I can renew on the web. I take it back, don’t pay anything and my house never has piles of boxes to break down. It’s very civilized.

  6. Tiago

    January 2, 2009 @ 7:20 am

    6

    If you lived in the European Union, you’d have at least 2 years warranty on your kindle. So a saving of $187 per year.

  7. Val B

    January 2, 2009 @ 9:51 am

    7

    Tiago: I was about to say that it would cost you in the EU at least twice as much anyway but after not finding the kindle on amazon.co.uk and amazon.de and doing some googeling it looks like there’s no kindle for EU for now so I guess there’s no advantage in having a mandatory two years warranty on something you can’t buy.

    Frankly I don’t see the point in today’s world of devices like kindle. It isn’t rugged, it isn’t really cheap, it can’t display “everything”. If I settle for less I can easily read books on some device I already own: GPS/PDA/smartphone/netbook.There are already quite a few devices out there with internet access and gorgeous displays, there’s no point in getting another one unless it crosses some thresholds in terms of output quality, price, reliability.

  8. Dave

    January 2, 2009 @ 2:10 pm

    8

    I read that a lot of musicians don’t care for iTunes; sells a lot of iPods but doesn’t make much money for the labels / artists.

    I wonder if authors make more money selling a dead-trees book, or Kindle? Zero manufacturing costs, but, maybe Amazon really nails them on the profits. (Not to mention they might sell books they wouldn’t have otherwise sold.)

    Any ideas?

  9. Solar Power Homes

    January 2, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

    9

    Tiago,

    True. To fulfill EU requirements, Amazon would have to provide at least 2 years warranty. Therefore, they would also factor this in their initial pricing and the Kindle would cost way more than what it does in USA. This is why these items are generally cheaper in USA than in EU.

  10. Edward Vielmetti

    January 2, 2009 @ 6:51 pm

    10

    Libraries plus interlibrary loan for books; free e-books on your cell phone. Save purchasing actual books for buying manuscripts print-on-demand of works in progress, so that you can mark them up and send them back to the author for the next revision.

  11. philg

    January 2, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

    11

    http://havemacwillblog.com/2009/01/01/one-million-users-is-stanza-killing-the-kindle/

    claims that a smart phone is a better electronic book reader than a Kindle. You probably already own the smart phone. The smart phone is more rugged. I’m not convinced by this because my smart phone, a Google Android, has very short battery life if the screen is lit. The Kindle, by contrast, is good for a whole week of moderate use, as long as the wireless is turned off.

  12. Gary D

    January 4, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

    12

    Apparently many have noticed the cost-effectiveness of going to the library:
    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/01/04/check_it_out/

  13. Judy Dart

    April 14, 2010 @ 9:39 pm

    13

    I’m very bummed to read this – bought my Kindle Xmas 2008. It hasn’t been used that often but I had some nice books on it. This past weekend I went on a trip and it was in carry-on luggage, even in the protective cover. I took it out of my knap-sack, opened it up, and the screen looks like an Etch-a-Sketch, i.e. grids of dark zig-zags all over it. I took out the battery etc. hoping I could start over, but no, it’s gone. Now I see it cost s $180. Yikes. Forget about this, if I can’t take it on the airplane, why have it at all?

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