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Cutting the Rising Bill for E-Books

Amassing an electronic library may be getting pricier these days, but shoppers still have plenty of opportunities to cut their bill.

E-books are often much cheaper than buying a hardcover or paperback, but that price difference has shrunk in recent years – and some e-books are now more expensive than the paper versions, according to today’s WSJ. The shift is noticeable enough that, as we’ve previously reported, regulators in the U.S. and European Union are investigating the pricing model.

That may force publishers to cut e-book prices, analysts say. Competition as more people buy e-readers, and tablets with e-reader apps, is also likely to push prices back down over the long run, says investment blogger Andy Nyquist. In the meantime, shoppers looking for cheaper reads can take advantage of the growing number of e-book titles available to borrow for free at local libraries, peer-to-peer lending sites and free resources such as Project Gutenberg. Amazon also recently said it would allow members who pay $79 a year for unlimited shipping and video streaming through its Amazon Prime service to borrow one bestseller each month, free of charge

Readers can also take advantage of the booming market for secondhand gift cards to fill their e-readers. Sites like and sell gift cards for less than face value — a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card, for example, sells for $23, an 8% discount. Sites also buy consumers’ unwanted gift cards, offering cash or Amazon credit in exchange. At, selling a $50 Abercrombie & Fitch card yields $38.50 cash, or $40.43 in credit.


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    • Of course the elephant in this room is that it is very simple to share ebooks at no cost whatsoever. And of course that act is denounced as a great evil. I can lend my paper books to others until someone fails to return them. I can lend my ebooks only by breaking a truly bad law. And I can sell my paper books and buy used ones with ease. This has been made impossible in the case of ebooks since I don’t actually own them at all, just lease them from some benevolent vendor. Until these matters are successfully addressed the ebook market won’t make a great deal of sense.

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