E-Readers: Is It Worth Buying Used?

The Nook Simple Touch Reader gets rid of the color LCD touchscreen in favor of a touchscreen E Ink screen. Photo © Barnes & Noble

UPDATE: Used e-reader selection and pricing has changed since this article originally ran but the initial pointers are still worth thinking about when buying a used e-book reader online. The good news is that pricing for new readers has also gone down significantly in the last few years. For information on e-readers that are worth checking, make sure to browse our features about our Top 5 E-Reader Picks as well as Amazon Kindle Alternatives.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Looking for an e-reader but don't want to shell out $140 or more for a new one and not prepared to put up with an ad-supported Kindle With Special Offers for $114? There are plenty of used e-readers for sale on craigslist, e-Bay and even popping up at garage sales these days. Some people get lucky and find someone who bought an e-reader and never quite clicked with it, or stumble across the chronic upgrader who sells off their gadgets as soon as the latest and greatest version is out. If you're on a budget, used e-readers are definitely worth considering -so long as you use common sense.

Buyer Beware: Things to be Aware of When Buying a Used E-Reader (besides the usual eBay/craigslist precautions)

  • Chances are the hardware will no longer be covered by warranty, so if it breaks down a week after you buy it, the manufacturer is not likely to help out with repairs.
  • The battery will have seen use and since batteries have a limited number of cycles, expect to be replacing it sooner than you would with a new model (note: some e-readers do not have a user-replaceable battery).
  • Make sure all the cables are included. Some of these are proprietary and hard to find if you get stuck having to buy them separately.
  • The seller may advertise free books as being pre-loaded, but unless they are public domain titles, they aren't really yours. For example, you won't be able to re-download Kindle e-books as they will be tied to a specific Amazon account.
  • While you may get lucky and find a seller who accidentally ended up with two of a current generation e-reader, or they need to sell belongings to generate cash-flow, chances are you will be buying technology that's a generation or two behind current capabilities.
  • Sometimes e-readers are selling for more on e-Bay than new versions at retailers, so be sure to compare current prices (this may be because of international buyers who can't buy that model in their own country, added accessories, shortages of a particularly popular model, or people seeking to avoid paying sales tax).

Benefits of Going Used:

  • There is a possibility that you might pick up a real bargain on a gently used e-reader. 
  • Auctions often include extras such as power adapters and covers that would normally cost extra.
  • You probably won't have to pay sales tax. 

Going Prices for Used E-Readers

I checked out the last five completed e-Bay auctions (where available) for each of these popular e-reader models and averaged the selling price, to give some idea of how much you might be able to save if you go used. I only factored in auctions for North America, all products had to be functional and in good shape, pricing variations based on e-reader color was not taken into account and shipping was not included (given that Amazon and other retailers offer free shipping, you really should take that cost into account when looking at a used e-reader).

Original Kindle: $ 68 

Kindle 2: $112

Kindle DX original: $236

Kindle DX Graphite current generation (retails for $379): $345

Kindle 3 Wi-Fi (retails for $114): $133

Kindle 3G (retails for $189): $180

Kobo original: $101

Kobo Wireless (retails for $99.99): $92

NOOK Wi-Fi (retails for $149): $91

NOOK Color (retails for $249): $219

Sony Pocket Edition PRS-300 (original): $69

Sony Pocket Edition PRS-350 current generation (retails for $179.99): $146

Sony Reader Touch PRS-600 (original): $118

Sony Reader Touch PRS-650 current generation (retails for $229.99): $257

Used E-Reader Bargain?

Based on the fact that it is still considered a current generation model (even though the E Ink portion of its display has not been upgraded to E Ink Pearl), its generally positive reviews, the fact that it has a user replaceable battery, and the substantial discount available by buying used, Barnes and Noble's NOOK Wi-Fi really stands out as a bargain in this sample.

 Scooping up a used NOOK Wi-Fi on e-Bay should cost around $91, while buying a new one will set you back $149.  A used original Sony Reader Touch (PRS-600) can also be picked up at a significant discount ($118 compared to the $229.99 retail price of the current version) if you don't mind a previous generation e-reader that had some screen glare issues.