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I bought a Kindle for $279US from   The complete (out-of-copyright) works of Charles Dickens (51 volumes) are available for $3US; Paul Krugman’s The Return of Depression Economics is $9-22US.  If it turns out to be a feasible technology – in other words if I use it to read* – it will change my hefty monthly book bill and create a lot of unused space on my bookshelves. 

I have been searching for microeconomics texts available on Kindle that might save my students some money but they all seem to be in the $60-$90US range.  Not a good deal unless there is a convenience advantage in using Kindle. I’d be interested in the experiences of others.

* I have loaded a couple of novels onto my iphone but find reading from it a trial.  Too small and hence difficult to read.

8 comments to Kindling

  • Jacques Chester

    There’s not much of a discount right now for Kindle editions (I was just looking at one that goes down by only $10), but don’t forget the cost of freight and convenience of having a book nearly instantaneously.

    The real problem is that the Kindle is too small. The Kindle DX is better but not yet sold internationally.

  • Jacques Chester

    Also, you can apparently download .mobi formatted files and load them onto a Kindle. So instead of paying someone US$2.99 for the collected works, you can go to Project Gutenberg and get them free.

  • derrida derider

    My prediction is that it will be much longer than it should be before the massive potential advantages to consumers of ebooks are realised. That’s not for any technical reason (though there’s still improvement in both price and quality of hardware to come) but because of the publishing business’ peculiarities.

    You can already see from ebook prices that publishers simply have not “got” that not only has their cost curve taken a permanent fall downwards, their demand curve is flatter. They are trying to keep prices at their accustomed levels, willing themselves to believe that their local monopoly (which is actually as much a result of physical distribution arrangements as product uniqueness) is unchanged. Publishing is full of personalities who are really uncomfortable with risk and change; like the music business (and old-fashioned monopolistic computer firms) they’ll talk about not letting the new technology cannibalise their existing business. Which of course is missing the point that if they don’t then it’s only a matter of time before someone else will.

    Now if I was a major publisher like Blackwell’s, here’s what I’d do. I’d set up my own proprietary formats and hardware (this makes DRM a lot more effective for a start) and sell the hardware dirt cheap (think razors and razor blades). All my textbook and reference books – ie the stuff where the advantages to the consumer are largest – would be published exclusively on this. As a bonus I might convert the whole of Gutenberg to my format (this ought to be easily automated) and flog ’em for a pittance, and convert all my journals too (not flogged for a pittance and also not exclusively, obviously).

    Your professor prescribes a Blackwell’s textbook, you have to have a Blackwell’s reader. But the readers are so cheap, and the advantages over the dead trees that other publishers have stuck with are so large, that both you and the professor will want Blackwell. Which will then put Blackwells in a position to screw their authors (yes, sometimes those same professors – a corrupt business) even more, particularly if Blackwell’s have the discipline to restrain their immediate greed, keep their own margins modest for a few years, and so lock in that market share.

  • hc

    I agree with these views. Printed books are under attack from the web and now from e-books. I cannot see any reason while all texts are not sold online – major texts currently offer printable online versions at a discount – as well as all scientific journals. Ditto for all daily newspapers and magazines many of which already have Kindle versions.

    The environmental benefits would seem huge.

    I pay for texts for 2 of my progeny at university – it is close to $2000 per year. The effect of such high costs geneerally is that many students don’t buy texts at all – they photocopy others or just go without.

    My guess too is that big publishing houses don’t like these trends because they see themselves being bypassed.

  • fxh

    The text book problem is a scam participated in by uni profs and lecturers.

    In most subjects the new required text is barely different by more than a few words from the 10 years old book. But its just done differently enough to make it difficult to tell when you are buying.

    Unis colluded with these scams – they could easily run up a web site comparing all available text books 10 years old and new and comparing prices and rating them as well as putting all the decent open source or free online stuff available.It would be easy and a legit academic pursuit for a final year student of tutor.

    But the unis just dont care – they love the scam.

  • hc

    That’s unfair FXH. Academics know about this scam – academic articles have been written on it – but what to do? Putting out new editions every year or so is an attempt to kill off the second-hand market – one way around this is to provide reader guides to current and past editions and some academics do that at personal time cost. Giving free copies of texts to lecturers is a way of reducing their price sensitivity.

    Free source material is coming – I am compiling my own set of free online microeconomics notes now – but we are not there yet.

  • fxh

    harry I didn’t mean you were part of a scam at all.

    (well not this particular scam – I reserve my judgment on other possible nefarious activities)

    I have you down (not that I run a database or anything)as one of those who have spoken out against it in the past. But some Profs and others will always push their own text book.

    In most subjects knowledge doesn’t change that much or that fast either.

    you said: “one way around this is to provide reader guides to current and past editions and some academics do that at personal time cost”

    Why don’t unis make this a project for some senior students or just kick start a wiki – once the initial effort is made updating it would be trivial and a “wisdom of crowds many eyeballs” project

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