Print Books vs. E-Books – Part 2

This is a follow up post to my previous post: Print Books VS. E-Books.

A friend of mine introduced me to the idea of general reading during my MBA days. I wish I had picked up this wonderful habit much earlier. I generally used to read non-fiction books in paperback format. One of the problems I have encountered every now and then is that after starting a book and getting the basic message of the book, if the writing style is not to my liking, I tend to discontinue reading further. I also tend to get very restless in reading books that run beyond 300 to 350 pages. I have accumulated so many books over the course of the last ten years that managing them has become a problem (at least the ones that I have not finished reading and don’t foresee reading either). The problem is compounded by the fact that I have lived in four different cities over the course of the last ten years or so and moving and maintaining these books has been a problem.

So the last few books that I have bought have all been in e-book format. I do not own a Kindle e-book reader. I have been thinking about buying one for a long time now. Instead I have continued to read these e-books using the Kindle app in my smartphone or my laptop. The kind of money that I will have to shell out on a Kindle e-reader would transform my book reading experience from simple pleasure to a guilty pleasure. Let’s dig a little deeper in to this.

Amazon has been promoting Kindle e-readers in a big way in India these days. They have stepped up the print and television ads in the last few months. They are also sponsoring a short story writing contest in tie-up with The Times of India. The cheapest Kindle e-reader is INR 5,999, the Kindle Paperwhite is priced at INR 10,999 and the Kindle Voyage is priced at INR 16,499. Most of Amazon’s ads feature the Kindle Paperwhite and to enjoy most of the benefits that are being advertised, one would have to have at least the Kindle Paperwhite. Let’s take the case of Kindle Paperwhite for the sake of this post.

Amazon India sells E-books at a discount compared to paperback versions. The discount is not substantial but let’s assume that the average money saved by buying an e-book is INR 100. If I buy a Kindle Paperwhite, I would have to read at least 110 books to start accumulating actual savings in money when compared to buying all these books in paperback format. On an average I read about one book a month. At that rate it will take me 9 years to realize the above said savings. I am not sure if the e-reader will function fully well till that period (accounting for durability of the product as well as my own handling of it). Amazon itself gives only one year warranty for the product. It’s safe to say that like most gadgets these days it will reach end of life between third and fifth year.

We might argue, the cost benefit analysis is not the right way to look at the Kindle e-reader; it enhances the reading experience. But only as long as I am fine with reading books and/or magazines in black and white. Kindle e-reader is Henry Ford’s equivalent of a gadget: ‘We can read whatever we want to read on the Kindle e-reader as long as its BLACK and White.’ I went to Croma Retail store a couple of days back to check out the Kindle Paperwhite. The children’s magazine (cartoon) that was loaded in the demo version was in black and white. That same magazine (in colorful form) is available for INR 25 in print edition. I am not sure if I or my daughter would ever be interested in reading a cartoon strip in black and white. I can safely say never. If I have to pay INR 10,999 and still make a compromise with my reading experience (on some of the stuff that I would read) then I might as well make a compromise with my reading experience without spending INR 10,999 (by reading on the app on my mobile and laptop). As of now the only person in my circle who owns a Kindle e-reader (basic version) did not actually buy it; his friends gifted it to him!

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