Kindles have dropped in price to the point where they've become disposable, like cell phones and laptops and digital cameras. Ever notice that you buy a new cell (or computer, or camera) every few years, even if your old one still works?
"Disposable" as a price point seems to have a pretty wide window. To me, it’s a lot closer to $20 than $114 (for the ad-bearing Kindle). Of course, I’m not the people he’s talking about: I’ll use a cellphone or computer until it wears out, or just won’t do what I need it to do. For me, MacBooks have a five-year use life (if they endure the life of hard knocks that laptops are heir to). Since I live in a rural area, and am often doing outdoor kind of things, my cellphones get banged around even more than laptops — if they last three years, they’re limping across the finish line with multiple injuries.
Yes, I’m a cheap so-and-so, and eBook readers are (IMO) nowhere near the “disposable” price point. But fear not, they’re following the same curve as calculators. When I was gifted a Kindle a couple years ago, it was 1974 for eBook readers: $250+, limited functionality. It's now 1976, maybe 1977: prices approaching $99 for basic models, features considered “premium” last year (touch, color) are rapidly becoming standard in the mid-range.
Come “1980” (3–4 years from now), the price wars and standardization shakeout will come. Most of us will have to replace our eBook readers, but that won't matter because they’ll be $49–$79 and will have tablet-like functionality yet with amazing battery life. If what I’ve been hearing about solar panel developments is true, we could see the high-end ($119) sporting a solar panel on the back (again, like calculators except for placement). Lay your reader face-down near a sunny window to recharge it while you’re off doing something else. If you read outside a lot, you could have potentially infinite battery life.
The next step is “1984.” That’s when I had a calculator built into my watch. I don’t know how the equivalent would work for an eBook reader — maybe a goggle display with controls based on eye motion? The end-point is around 1990, where calculators (with solar cells and lots of features) ended up in supermarket checkout racks at $19. The thing is, I don’t think it will take 16 years to get to that point for eBook readers… it might happen by 2020 instead of 2025. Either way, that’s when paper books will finish dying out — when eBook readers are truly disposable.