My Amazon Kindle is just slightly past its one year anniversary and showing signs of very ill health. Half of the pixels on the screen are stuck following a light knock. I called Amazon and they’re happy to fix it… for $180 plus $7 in shipping (free if you’re a Prime member). The Kindle is more fragile than a laptop computer but less likely to be pampered given that you use it in all the situations where you’d use a book.
I may have to rethink my enthusiasm for the electronic book. Realistically the way that people handle books, the Kindle is not going to last more than one year. That means you’re spending $360 for the initial purchase and $187 every year for hardware repairs. Some of the Kindle editions of books are edging their way up towards $20 (see this Naipaul biography, for example). Suppose that you read one book every two weeks, or 25 books per year…
Kindle: $250 per year for hardware (spreading the cost of the initial Kindle purchase a bit) plus $312 for books at $12.50 per book = $562 per year. Good for individual travel and treadmill usage; bad for having to worry about forgetting it somewhere; bad for taking on vacation with family due to difficulty of sharing; terrible for illustrations and photos.
Paper: 25 books at $15 per book = $375 per year. Probably 50 percent of those books can be recycled into gifts, so the true cost is closer to $200 per year (assuming you need to buy gifts for friends and family periodically). Heavy for long trips; awkward for treadmill usage; good for carefree life (risk of forgetting in coffee shop limited to $15); great for sharing; great for illustrations and photos.
Library: free! Great for Great Depression 2.0.