There was an interesting article by Justin Wolfers on the Freakonomics Blog called Puzzling Over the Invisible Economy, about the difference between digital presents and physical presents (we don’t seem to like giving digital presents as much as physical presents).

Reading these comments to the post about physical books vs. digital books as gifts gave me an interesting insight. I love reading and I read voraciously, but I haven’t been willing to jump to a Kindle yet, and I just figured out why.

I already own a large collection of books. I purchased them, I’ve stored them, I’ve read them, and I’ve kept them (moving them with me from Montana to Wyoming to Michigan). If I begin using a Kindle, that collection doesn’t go with me unless I repurchase each book – and that’s lame. With CD’s, you can rip your collection to MP3 and thus transfer your collection to the digital world.

So let’s just say it was theoretically possible (it’s not) to purchase every book that I already own (about 1000 books) in Kindle format at a cost of $10 per book. That’s $10,000 to convert my existing collection of books to a digital format.

Thus, the $350 cost of the Kindle is just an entry fee … if I really want to take advantage of the “portability” of my library, I will have to repurchase many of the books that I already own at a likely cost of several thousand more dollars.

Now, if there was some way to “rip” a personal collection of books to Kindle, then I would be there in a heartbeat. How could this be done? Suppose there were Kindle Service Centers in every state. You could drive your collection of books to the service center, and, for a small fee per book (maybe 99 cents?), Amazon could verify that you DO own the book already, place some kind of permanent marking in the book to show that it has been “Kindle-converted” and give you the Kindle file for the book (or log in that you DO own the book in case the book becomes available on Kindle in the future). THEN I would easily make the leap to Kindle.

Interestingly, although I have been hesitant to repurchase books in Kindle, I do have a collection of about 400 audio books (all downloaded from the Internet), some of which are duplicates of books that I own physically. That never bothered me because audio provided an added service (reading the book to me) that was not available in my paper copies.

The subscription feature of the audio site I use ( means that I get a discounted price on brand new books. For roughly $20 a month, I get 2 books. To buy two new bestsellers in their physical form would be around $50. I almost always use my subscription to obtain brand new books, so I am saving $30 a month, and honestly, I enjoy listening to the books and I can get many mundane household tasks done while I listen.

I consider this audio collection my “portable reading” – and I wonder if the true future of the book isn’t in an mp3/digital text/video version.

Possibly Related Posts: