Can a Kindle Save You Money? Oprah's Coupon Code Makes It Easier

By Carrie Kirby on 24 October 2008 (Updated 18 August 2011) 28 comments

Amazon's Kindle digital reader is like a Wii for readers: Endless entertainment options, loveable hardware, extra features galore. Just today, Oprah showed how, with the addition of an digital memory card, the Kindle allows you to carry around FOUR THOUSAND books. An entire library, in your carry-on bag. Instant gratification when you want a new book or magazine. Plus blogs.

But two things have held me (and my credit card) back: price and price.

That is, the $359 price tag, and the cost to buy books and magazines to put on it. Even though Kindle books cost about $6 less than hard copies, if you get most of your books through the public libarary or second-hand sales like I do, keeping your Kindle stocked will end up costing you more.

In a moment, more on whether a Kindle could actually save you money. But right now, here's something that's convincing me to take the Kindle plunge: This morning, that booklover Oprah offered a $50 off coupon code, making the Kindle just $309.

The code is OPRAHWINFREY, and it's good through Nov. 1.

Now, to the question of whether owning a Kindle can save you money. Many have asserted it can -- in fact the Wall Street Journal argued that it can in two different columns. The best way, the Journal points out, to save money with the Kindle is not through buying books -- saving $6 a book, you'd have to buy 52 new books for it to pay for itself even with the Oprah discount.

The way a Kindle can really save you money, WSJ columnist Brett Arends says, is with its mobile data features. With Kindle's keyboard and basic Internet browser, some users may replace their cell phone's mobile data plan with the free Kindle service, saving $20 a month or more.

If you set aside your $20 a month for mobile data toward the $309 for the Kindle, you are only paying $5.75 a month for a year, then it's paid for. So if you buy one book a month, and cancel a $20 data plan, the savings WOULD pay for a Kindle in a year.

Then there are subscriptions. When I was a business reporter, I used to subscribe to the New York Times to read on the train. It currently costs about $6.70 a week to have the Times delivered to your doorstep. On Kindle, it's $13.99, a savings of more than $13 a month. So if all you did was read the NYT, it would take you two years for the device to pay for itself at the Oprah price. But other magazines, like the Wall Street Journal, currently offer better deals on the paper version than the Kindle version.

In conclusion, I'd say that SOME people would save money with a Kindle. Daily train commuters and people who spend a lot of time in airports could clearly save -- and would most benefit from the convenience of not having to go out and seek physical copies of their reading material. For me, a stay-at-home mom with no mobile data plan, there would be little to no savings.

But you know what? I kind of, really want one anyway. And my birthday is coming up. And, since I have a free trial of Amazon Prime, I could have one here tomorrow by paying just $3.99 to upgrade to overnight shipping. Oh, wait! I thought of something. I'm about to spend about $500 on a nice oak bookshelf for our dining room. To hold all those old-school books we buy at second-hand sales, etc. If I stop buying paper books, I won't have to buy any more expensive bookshelves. And there's always the savings to the environment if I convert my Chicago Tribune subscription to a digital one, even though they're the same price.

Commenters: Can you help me come up with any more justifications so my husband will read this and buy me a "money-saving" Kindle for my birthday?

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Tagged: Coupons, coupon, kindle
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Myscha Theriault's picture

Love the intro paragraph, Carrie. Very clever. Actually, the whole article is extremely clever. I'm drooling over one too, to tell you the truth. It'll be a while before I can afford one, mind you. But that doesn't stop me from drooling. Good job.

Guest's picture

I've considered getting the Kindle too, but the cost of both the unit AND the fact that I can still get those books for free from the library has definitely held me back. I don't buy books normally, so I think having this device and the "sunk cost" feeling would make me spend more than I normally would on books. As tempting as it is, I'll pass for now unless the device comes down to like $100 and you save 70-80% off the price of the hardcopy book. I mean c'mon, it's digital and no printing costs for the publisher. Give me more savings than just a few bucks!

Carrie Kirby's picture

Yeah, I would spend more. Although I think i would subscribe to some blogs and enjoy reading those when out and about, for a pretty low price.

 i used to pay for an audiobook each month from Audible.com. I think if i get a Kindle i will get into audiobooks again. Listening to those while doing housework is a lot more fulfilling than watching TV, which is what I have resorted to.

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Guest's picture
Debbie

So you can also listen to audiobooks on the kindle?

Can anyone here confirm if you can also load PDF files and free ebooks onto the kindle? I have personal and business documents that would be useful to have with me for reviewing in transit.

Thanks for the coupon code - if these other two options are also viable for the Kindle, them I'm likely to be getting one soon too.

Debbie

Guest's picture
MsKyle

I think it's the instant gratification thing that would end up costing me a lot of money with the Kindle. I read a few books and magazines a week on average, but they're almost all from the library (I'm a librarian). If I had the power to instantly download a book onto a Kindle anywhere in the world, I think it's safe to say I'd end up paying a lot more for books/media than I do right now. It's really attractive, though. 4000 books in my commuting bag! Never running out of things to read on a train or bus or plane! The bliss!

Guest's picture
Stuart

It will encourage you to read more. The more you read the smarter you become. The smarter you become the more money you will make/save!

Myscha Theriault's picture

For me, one of the big temptations is the fact that I would have less to lug around, particularly while traveling. That, and we are trying to downsize to have less clutter overall. While the flood certainly helped with that, there is a huge shipment still to come that has been stored with the military this whole time. Confession? My husband and I are both book sluts. So when we are able (and it's way down the list for a while) we may choose to get one as a way to force ourselves to have less of them to pack up next time. Hopefully, the prices will be a bit lower by then.

Guest's picture
James

If they had all of the textbooks I buy, I would gladly invest in one. As it is, I read alot, so that would be a double bonus. Be even nice if you could write on it for notes and have it save them.

Guest's picture
Jennifer

Carrie, I wish I could help you justify the cost. I want one, too. Think about the cost, how long will the battery last, what is the replacement cost for the battery, do you sell your books after you read them (I often do)? If it has the same effect on your eyes as a computer monitor, will your eyes get tired in the same way? I agree with "Clever Dude." Not only does the publisher have on printing, shipping, etc costs., but it's one less used copy out there, since as I alluded to, you can't resell it. The cost of the "books" should definitely be lower.

Be strong! Don't do it! Maybe when the price hits $200. MAYBE.

Guest's picture
Colin

$10 for a digital copy of a book I can't transfer or sell is an insult. Sell me a reader for $20 and a book for $0.50 and *maybe* I'll buy it.

Guest's picture
pidgeon92

I've been considering getting one for myself for a while now.... My husband has one, and gets his Wall Street Journal subscription through it. Since he travels a lot, I don't get to read the paper daily, and am frankly too lazy to go back through a week's worth of papers. Now that I will have my own, we can share the subscription. I will also use it to pick up those books that I can't read within a week or so; non-fiction books that are dry that I only read a few pages at a time.

Guest's picture
Guest

Take a page from razor and printer companies: sell the Kindle for $99.95 plus shipping--i.e., come close to giving it away to make the profit on "refills"

Pyschologically, we human have three price points: FREE (dah), $19.95 and 99.95 plus S&H

Guest's picture
Tammy

Yes you can put free books on it, I have several classics that are out of copyright on mine. Also, Amazon sometimes has free books that it gives away. It also plays audiobooks through a built in speaker or a headphone.

It is true that it is a total luxury, but it is one of the best devices I have ever bought.

Guest's picture
Guest

Did anyone else notice that Oprah kept calling it a "KENdile."Oprah, it's a KINdile." She should figure out how to properly pronounce a product she's endorsing.

Guest's picture
Rick

- Several sources exist for free books.
Etexts (text format): http://www.gutenberg.org/
Audio books(mp3 & ogg vorbis): http://librivox.org/
SciFi: http://www.baen.com/

- The above sites provide books in standard electronic formats: text, pdf, ogg vorbis and mp3.
- I've not looked at Kindle since the early announcement. The first press releases didn't indicate that text, PDF or mp3/ogg format would usable on the Kindle.
- If Kindle has been made usable by adding these, then Kindle may be worthwhile.
- The Gutenberg/Librivox books are great classic literature. Their offerings are in the public domain (no copyright). If modern stuff is you taste, little will be available through Gutenberg/Librivox.
- Baen is a publisher with some web savvy. The recognize the complementary nature of Web versus books. They appear to realize most readers would like to taste via the web/ebooks, but will still buy hard copy of favorites.

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm having difficulty parsing this sentence: "It currently costs about $6.70 a week to have the Times delivered to your doorstep. On Kindle, it's $13.99, a savings of more than $13 a month."

Huh?

Guest's picture
Guest

6.70 per week * 52 weeks per year = 348.40 per year

13.99 per month * 12 months per year = 167.88 per year

Guest's picture
Guest

What's there to understand? there are a little more than four weeks in a month, four times 6.70 is a little less than 27, then subtract 14, and you have roughly $13.

Guest's picture

The confusion is that it's not explicitly stated that Kindle's $13.99 price tag is per month, not per week. Just changing that portion of the sentence slightly to read "On Kindle, it's $13.99 per month," would clarify it.

(Of course, I realize it's years and years past the publication of this post... I just thought the commentor had a point.)

Guest's picture
Guest

My husbands travels the majority of the year as well, which is one reason why we own a ton of books instead of getting them from the library. The upside to this arrangement is at least I get a chance to get my hands on the books once he's home (and luckily we have similar tastes). With music, we can share our song libraries.

Does anyone know if one Kindle user can share his book or subscription with another Kindle user? If we can't, it might mean we would actually pay *more* for reading materials. . .

Guest's picture
Guest

However it simply will not take off while publishers keep trying to do the RIAA/MPAA trick of overcharging for them.
Let me explain.

The cost of a book (cover price) stems from a variety of costs associated with publication. The least of all costs is the royalties cost - the new author is typically lucky to get a few cents on a dollar for a new book, while more seasoned authors can get more.
The rest of the cost is wrapped up in publication, syndication, advertisation (is that even a word??) - and other necessary costs. Cut out all the need for print (this cuts a big swath through the costs), and you immediately reduce the cost to the publisher.

eBooks are currently more than half the price of a printed softcover book. This does not sustain itself, and is not value for money. Add the fact that you can simply get the book from the library for free.. you get the picture.
To date, I refuse to buy ebooks based on that simple problem. I'll loan them from a library, heck I'll buy them in print from a secondhand shop before I buy an ebook.

Personally, the ebook version should come free with the hardcopy; but that's unlikely to happen. The next best thing is making ebooks WORTH buying. Sell the at 1/5 of the cost if you buy 10 for example - would be worth my while; and instead of borrowing the book at the libraries I'd start buying them.

Guest's picture
Terry Alewine

This sounds like a very fun gadget... Oprah can afford to promote it since she gets it free for the audience- although she is very excited about this product and it seems genuine.... I think if it were $200.00 I would take a chance on it.... I too enjoy going to the library, and putting books on reserve if they are best sellers.... There is something about sitting in a chair with a BOOK BOOK..... maybe we are getting too techo...

Guest's picture
Mark Ross

Listen, I know what you're doing. I can recognize it as I have done it so many times myself in the past. You are gadget-lusting. You are trying very, very hard to convince yourself that this thing will save you something, somehow: time, money, whatever. The "Amazon Prime" comment is a dead giveaway... You simply *want* thing thing.

There's no way it's worth it. I completely agree with the above posters re: the ridiculous price raping going on for ebooks. There is simply no way this thing is cheaper than going the library/inter-library loan/used book route.

I guess it's kind of a neat toy, but so not worth the money. There are many devices that do much more for much less. Come on, this is WISE BREAD!

Guest's picture
John45223

I've had my Kindle for almost a year. I read so much, I actually unplugged my cable. Television has lost all it's appeal compared to a good book. My Kindle has already paid for itself, considering the greatly reduced price of books, not to mention the shelves I haven't had to buy. Plus, I get Newsweek for $1.43 a month. The wireless connection is great--I used my Kindle extensively in France and Italy earlier this year. Email and web surfing are effortless. I will say that Kindle works best on text oriented pages. Some pictures or graphics make it through, but most don't. But Kindle is about reading, and any avid reader will appreciate it.

Carrie Kirby's picture

1) To the commenter who wanted to know if you can view your own documents, the Kindle page on Amazon says, "Email your Word documents and pictures (.JPG, .GIF, .BMP, .PNG) to Kindle for easy on-the-go viewing."

 2) To the one who was confused about the price comparison for NYT, I should have said, "$13.99 a month." So as the above Guest pointed out, at $13.99 on Kindle you'd pay $167.88 a year, but at the $6.70 weekly delivery price, you'd pay $348.40 a year. Now that I look at it that way, I"m getting $15 savings a month. (I was just dividing the monthly price by 4 before, so I got a smaller savings figure).

If I was a commuter who subscribed to the NYT to read on the train, I would DEFINITELY get a Kindle instead. But, as Mark Ross said, I'm not in one of the particular situations where one could save money with a Kindle. It's just gadget lust.

 

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Guest's picture

The Kindle is a good option if you are willing to read public domain content or own a lot of other ebooks for other devices.

manybooks.net has thousands of classic books you can download to your kindle for free:

http://manybooks.net/help/devices/kindle.php

You can also listen to LibriVox audiobooks.

More sites with free books that you can download to the Kindle are listed at http://thekindle.wordpress.com/2008/01/19/free-books-for-the-amazon-kindle/ .

Also, I have read on the amazon site that they will convert your old ebooks into Kindle format if you email them to Amazon.

Guest's picture
Wes

That is why I created StudentBookTrades.com. An easy way to find college textbooks that other students have already completed courses for. Students are automatically matched with each other to trade textbooks for classes they have completed. Trade, Swap, sell, or buy college textbooks from other students. Search the book database, contact the student at your home campus, city, state, or nationwide about the book and save money.

Guest's picture
chaitra

im a stay at home mom, with a part time job for a few hours and love the idea of a book on the job.i carry it everywhere.if happiness and joy dont count as a primary reason to buy an item like K2, im not sure you will find any satisfactory reason. I got it as a gift from a cousin of mine, who has been very generous and thoughtful and i can assure you i would not have bought it on my own, having said all this, i must confess i would have missed out on something spectacular had i not been given this as a gift.This is the first time, i have really appreciated technology in giving me happiness unbound...it did not happen with my HTC phone either...and i love a shelf full of books dearly.im old fashioned to the core but reading is my passion...and on that i will gladly invest more money.I would say you have bought umpteen number of book shelves, why not a K2?? you'll be surprised by the convenience and pure joy.