I got my first Kindle a year ago this week. It arrived on February 24, 2009. Here are some statistics about my book-buying (and book-reading) habits in that year.
I “bought” 176 Kindle books at a cost of $873.43 during that year. I put “bought” in quotes, because a lot of the books, especially at first, were free or nearly so. 62 of those books cost $0.00 each. Another 9 cost $1.00 or less. I read only five of the free books, and four of the under $1.00 books. Another six of of the free books, and the other five under $1.00 books, were books I’d read in the past and figured, hey, maybe I’ll want to read them again someday, and this is a good deal.
From here on out I’ll leave out the free books I was never seriously interested in. I’ll also leave out the 6 non-free books my wife bought for her Kindle that I didn’t read. (She’s read books I’ve bought and vice-versa, but for this post I’ll just treat everything I bought or read by itself.) That leaves 112 books bought for $817.01, for an average price of $7.29. The Kindle itself cost $359.00; amortized over just the first year, it added $3.21 to the cost of each book. Of course the Kindle’s still going strong, and new ones are cheaper, so the actual cost of the hardware per book should be considered to be much lower.
The most common price I paid for a Kindle book was the famous $9.99 that’s always talked about. 41 books cost me that much; slightly more than a third of my purchases. I paid more than that for 9 books: one was $15.83, three were $14.27, and the others ranged from $11.20 to $13.73. Most of those books are now $9.99 or less (after all, many are now out in paperback), but two have gone up about $0.50 each. The majority of books I bought were less than $9.99; they averaged $6.13. Most of the Kindle books (80% or more) were fiction.
I’ve been pretty price-sensitive for the Kindle books. I’ve notice that a lot of the prices over $9.99 fluctuate from day to day, so I’d watch and buy them only when they dropped enough for me. It’s not that I’m not willing to pay more for a Kindle book, but I’m not willing to pay more than I think they should cost. Which, despite what publishers and many authors insist, is significantly less than a paper book. I’d say about a third less than a hardback. (And that’s a third less than the price I actually pay for a hardback, not the list price.) Say about 40% of the list price of a hardback. I could go up to about 50% of list if they’d get rid of DRM and offer books in formats I could use on any device. Why not more? Well, I generally pay 65% of list for a physical book, and not having to print, handle, and ship the book should result in savings passed on to me.
What about other books I bought during that year? Not counting gifts or books for work, I seem to have bought approximately:
- 3 novels in Kindle compatible format for a total of $14.99, an average of $5.00 per book. I wanted to buy all three from Amazon, but the publishers didn’t offer them that way. One was bought directly from Baen books for $6.00 (I would gladly have paid $9.99), one from Fictionwise for $8.99, and one downloaded from Cory Doctorow’s personal site for free (again, I would have gladly paid).
- 21 physical books from Amazon for $325.06, average price $15.48. Some of these were special editions from small presses (Subterranean Press and University of Chicago Press) not otherwise available, one (Donald Westlake’s last novel) was sentimental, a couple were remainders cheaper than the Kindle editions, two just weren’t available in Kindle, and the others (travel and comics) had a lot of images not well suited to the Kindle.
- 3 physical books bought from overseas because they weren’t yet published in the United States. It’s a pain to look up their prices, bit I recall them being about $30 each, when shipping was included.
- 14 technical books from Manning and Pragmatic Programmers, all in electronic format, for $332.86, an average of $23.78. About half these books were both on paper and electronic, the rest only electronic.
- A handful of paperbacks bought on impulse while traveling.
So, putting it all together, I bought around 158 books and spent about $1600, or $10 per book. If you add in the cost of the Kindle itself, I spent about $2000 on books during the year. And contrary to what some people think, I completed more of the books I bought on the Kindle (at least 95% of them) than the ones on paper, even if you only count fiction.
I have become very reluctant to read a novel in paper form, especially hardback. They’re too heavy while reading and inconvenient to carry on trips. If a book isn’t available on the Kindle, I’m very unlikely to buy it now. Minotaur Books, you should take note. You’ve lost a few sales to me I would have bought in hardback a year ago because you won’t offer Kindle editions.