Can An Amazon Kindle with Ads Pay For Itself With Coupons?

This is the story of how I ended up buying an Amazon Kindle with Special Offers (WiFi) today for $114. I am one of those guys that loves the feel of traditional books and really didn’t know much about eReaders. I figured the Kindle with Special Offers basically meant it came with ads. How annoying! But it turns out the ads never show up when you’re actually reading an book, and the “Special Offers” include some pretty good deals (mostly coupons good at Amazon). Past offers include a $20 Amazon gift certificate for $10, or any mp3 album for $1.

Right now, if you have a Kindle with Special Offers and “claim” it by 11:59pm Pacific August 8th, you can get 20% off select laptops at Amazon. The list actually includes laptops from Apple, Dell, and HP. Thus, if you were going to buy any laptop $570 or higher, this Kindle would essentially be free (plus more deals in the future). Apple laptops rarely go on sale, and you could be getting a $1000 Macbook Air for $800. The highly-motivated could probably buy/resell a higher-end Apple laptop on eBay and make some decent profit. (This is how I paid down a lot of student loan debt during the dot-com boom.) Some folks have been buying just the unique coupon code itself from owners for up to $50.

Of course, today is already August 8th, so to participate you’d have to buy a Kindle today from a retail outlet like Best Buy or Target. Some Apple laptops on Amazon have been going in and out of stock, but you have until September 8th to redeem your coupon.

(Update 8/9: The 20% off laptops is now over. The current offer I see is $15 of $30 in School Supplies at Amazon and $5 off Kindle lights.)

In any case, with some discipline hopefully this Kindle thing will continue pay for itself and my travel bag will be lighter. eBooks are only slightly cheaper than paper ones, especially if you consider resale value, but I do buy around a book a month. I’ve also thought about writing some cheap 99 cent eBooks for the Kindle bookstore. I haven’t even started reading about ways to hack this thing…

Here’s a question I couldn’t get a clear answer to… If you have a US Kindle with 3G, can you use their included web browser internationally? It seems to promise that you can buy and download eBooks over 3G abroad in 100 countries, but I’ve read conflicting reports about web browsing. If I can, I would be very tempted to upgrade to the WiFi+3G version with Special Offers. I know that with 3G coverage across the US you can do simple tasks like check your email on the road, which can be useful for the non-smartphone-with-data-plan crowd.


  1. Update: A reader reports via e-mail that free web browsing over 3G did work in Italy, Paris, and Israel over this summer.

  2. When I am done with a paper book [particularly an expensive hardcover or textbook], I can resell it on Amazon. I can also buy used mass market paperbacks in very good condition for less than a dollar [plus 3.99 shipping]. Neither of those options is available with Kindle or it’s competitors. Someone please explain the financial advantage of purchasing an expensive upfront reader [yes, I know they are cool] that could be lost or stolen while traveling.

  3. Everything I’ve read seems to indicate that the web browser only works on WiFi. However, I don’t have a 3G kindle, haven’t hacked it, and haven’t gone abroad with it so I’m just trusting Amazon’s word here.

  4. Nice! i wanted to figure out how to get free international web… Does kindle support skype?

  5. Note: at this time Amazon is sold out of/ not carrying the base model (“$1000”) Macbook Air.

    Joe: It does not support skype.

  6. I just found this post on Lifehacker regarding overseas 3g browsing, as of early 2011:

    In the comments is also a nice list of Kindle-friendly bookmarks.

  7. Thanks for this. I had been wanting a Kindle and we were in the market for a new mac. I used the code to buy the base model MacBookPro ($1199 on Apple’s website) for just $908 on Amazon. By the way, the web browser does work on 3G but it says it is “experimental prototype”.

  8. Don’t see the value in the ad supported one. $20-30 is a small price to pay to be ad free for life.

    That said, my sister loans me her kindle books on my iPad 2 so no reason to get the Kindle until it drops below $50.

  9. D’oh. Just bout a Nook Simple Touch last month. And a new laptop a month before that. Oh well.

    The Nook is pretty cool tho, after rooting it’s pretty much an eInk tablet. Runs the Kindle app too!

  10. I don’t see anything about the 20% off laptops on the sales page. It is 1:30am EST so I have about 2.5 hours left to pull the trigger. The only reason I would pick up the kindle now would be to pick up a mac at 20% off. Can somebody please confirm this is still on the table. Am I missing something? I would guess that 20% off laptops would be prominently displayed on the page.

  11. @Erik P – Don’t buy it online if what you want is the 20% off. It’s too late. You need the physical Kindle in hand, which is why you need to buy from a physical retailer like Best Buy.

  12. Update: The 20% off laptops is now over. The current offer I see is $15 of $30 in School Supplies at Amazon and $5 off Kindle lights. After using the Kindle for a bit, I find the ads are unobtrusive, and the special offers should continue to save me money.

  13. Hi,

    To add a few more to the list of Kindle 3G accessible countries, I have used my Kindle 3G in Colombia, South America and now in Tokyo, Japan.

    Browsing the Kindle Store and purchasing and downloading ebooks is free in these countries. The only extra charges I have run into are extra delivery fees for magazine subscriptions.

    The ways to avoid these fees are to either download to a laptop, then transfer the subscriptions to the Kindle; or, if you have the WiFi model, find a WiFi hotspot for connecting to Amazon.

    Another important point is to make sure you get your Kindle set up and registered before leaving the US. If you attempt registration while overseas, you will have problems. Many items are priced differently by Amazon according to which country you are registered from. You could end up paying Euros, Pesos, or Yen for your purchases.

  14. Concur with above. I have used the kindle in Guam (everything else feels like a foreign country), Singapore, Japan, Malaysia(Port Klang/ Kuala lumpur), Thailand, Seychelles, Dubai, Bahrain, among others. There is a list of countries and coverage in “Traveling with Kindle”.

  15. Just to verify, when you say “used” the Kindle, do you include using the web browser to check for example or to look up travel/hotel information? or just to download ebooks and/or browse the Kindle store?

  16. Christopher McKay says:

    Hope its not too off-topic, but if anyone still has one of the 20% off laptop codes and is not using it, I am a student (at ucla) and I need a new laptop since my m1330 is really crapping out. I found out about the special offer kindle just too late, otherwise I would have bought one myself. If you could help me out with your code, you can email me at and I would be eternally grateful and willing to help compensate you a bit. Thank you so much and I wish you all the best.

  17. Hello Jonathan,

    In response to your question, I was able to use my Kindle 3G and the built in browser from my apartment in Tokyo, Japan to view your website. I couldn’t get access to your web site’s comment system to reply, but I could view your posts and comments by you and the other users.

    I then went to Gmail and was able to view my email over a https connection. The viewing experience was pretty bad, but it would work in a pinch. I was also able to compose and send a short email from the Gmail account.

    Since websites are usable, looking up travel information should not be a problem. However, the user experience, due to the slow speed of the connection, is low.

    Hope these comments answer your questions.

    Phil Gabriel

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