Amazon Kindle, By The Numbers

The Amazon Kindle was released today, which much fanfare, including Steven Levy’s Newsweek article on the future of reading (a great example of Jeff’s breathtaking vision and his power to impact the popular wisdom) and his review.

Having held a pre-release Kindle a few months ago and noted its flaws, the Newsweek articles still made me want to rush out and buy one. So let’s use math to justify it.

The current Kindle catalog has 91,000 books, the vast majority of which are $9.99. The Kindle page promises “all NYT Best Sellers and New Releases” and says today that it “offers 100 of 112 books currently found on the New York Times Best Seller list.”

There are at least 2400 books which are more expensive – Amazon’s sort-by-price search stopped working at 2400 – but these seem to be specialty texts. Anecdotal checking showed that Kindle versions were 10%-30% less expensive than hardcover versions.

As of today, the top 24 Hot New Releases in Books (25 was a repeat) and the top 16 NYT Hardcover Fiction average $15.90/book. (This includes three books below $9.99 – Kindle probably will match – and two books I would never buy in electronic form – a PostSecret book and a Star Wars Pop-Up Book.)

Oh, and of course, the Kindle costs $399 ($434.52 if you live in Washington). No startup costs for books just yet.

So that makes the over/under

$399 / ($15.90 – $9.99) = $399 / $5.91 = 67.5 best sellers to pay for the Kindle.

OK, that’s a lot of best sellers, especially when you have two kids and can’t even finish a book a week anymore. One per week, the Kindle pays for itself in 13 months. Let’s keep justifying it.

I don’t get the New York Times daily anymore, but let’s pretend I do, and pretend I don’t read it for free online. Well, then, the daily NYT in print is $25.60 for the first three months, then $51.20. The Kindle version is $13.99/month. So that’s a difference of $11.61 for the first three months and $37.21 after that. (Let’s assume I also don’t serially cancel every three months to restart, because that makes me a bad person.)

Then the first three months, Kindle saves us $11.61 + ($5.91 x 4) = $35.25. (I’m reading a book a week now, good for me.) Future months, $37.21 + ($5.91 x 4) = $60.85. Now the Kindle pays for itself in 8 months.

Add a few magazines and you save $10-15/year here and there (though it’s hard to match up since the prices on the Kindle page don’t match the prices on the per-magazine pages). That’s like free money you can use to get yourself ahead on a few best-sellers, and now all of a sudden you’re at 7 months. Don’t pay for blogs, because c’mon.

So that’s it: with the help of some math, buy a Kindle and pay for it in seven months. Buy me one, you’ll get priceless thank-yous and a photo of me licking the Kindle on this blog page right here. Cuz I want one.

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5 Responses to “Amazon Kindle, By The Numbers”

  1. Jason Says:

    I’d love to have a Kindle, but personally I only read one or two books at a time — and for that, the Seattle Public Library’s hold system works well enough as a queue for me. Total cost: $0, with some obvious technological and availability differences.

  2. Mike Says:

    The Kindle sounds like a great device, but I still think its price is a little high. Of course, like you, I wouldn’t mind getting one as a gift. Thanks for the good post.

  3. Eric Says:

    Nice math Scott but it ignores the fatal flaw in your logic. There is no *way* you find time to read a book a week anymore. Hell, I can’t find time to read one a month most months and your lives are crazier than ours! I fall back to Audible.com. Avg audio book size: ~10 hours. Average days to read? ~10 (30 minute commute, twice/day.) Actually finishing a book before it gets covered in dust or has to go back to the library? Priceless.

  4. Mike Koss Says:

    I’ve been using a Kindle for about a week – about 100 pages into a book, read Seattle Times, WSJ, and NYT every couple of days.

    I’ve been very happy with it. Newspapers are NOT as nice as reading the physical paper – missing lots of the photos and the layout is just not as easy to scan. I think they could do better with some re-formatting (even better would be to customize subscriptions to the sections and story topics you want to be highlighted).

    But, I’ve canceled my paper subscription anyway – looking forward to the day of getting ALL my magazines and most of my books this way (I was running out of shelf space at home, anyway!)

  5. N. L. Snowden Says:

    I think the Kindle is a great way to save our environment, present a means for new authors to expose their work, and save space in one’s house. I think it will be the book of the twenty-first century when we old dinosaurs die out.

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