Who’s Giving Away Free Kindles?

Microcosm Zine Store trades Kindles for books
Detail from an image by Rio Safari)

When I was young, banks would give you a new toaster if you opened up a bank account. But now, a bank in Oklahoma is offering customers something even more enticing.

MidFirst bank in Oklahoma has 52 branches across the state, and until the end of March they’re giving away a free Kindle if you open a new checking and savings account. (Limit: one per household.) The only restriction at MidFirst.com/Kindle appears to be the opening balances on both accounts – $500 for the savings account, and $100 for the checking account. Alternately, customers can instead choose to receive a $125 credit to their accounts – but getting a free Kindle seems much more exciting. And it even comes pre-loaded with a free ebook about personal finance.

But it turns out that this Oklahoma bank isn’t the only business that’s trying to lure new customers with a Kindle give-away. In Portland, an alternative book store is offering to let customers trade their Kindle for their equivalent value in books. “And make sure to bring a friend to help you carry all your loot,” they explained on their blog. Because they also sell used and “remaindered” books (along with zines and other independent small-press books), “most of the store’s books are priced in the $2 – $6 range so a $139 – $189 trade-in…you might be carrying your books out in a fleet of wheelbarrows!”

Of course, they couldn’t announce the offer without taking a few digs at the Kindle on their blog. (“Do you want to trade in your soulless faux-literary technology for its worth in good old fashioned books? Well, friends, Microcosm Publishing’s got your back!”) They even quote a review of the Kindle from Amazon’s own web page, where one users gushes that the Kindle’s screen looks like an absolutely perfect page, without any of a print books grain or pulp. “Well, you know what, Jeremy? We love the and grain and pulp. Long live the grain and pulp! Long live the PAGE.”

It’s not a national trend – but I think it means something. For one thing, obviously, it shows that the Kindle is really popular — so popular that other businesses are using it to lure customers into their own store. But I think the Portland publisher should be cheering for the Kindle, since it’s giving them a new market for their independent authors — in ebooks! John Makinson, the CEO of the Penguin Group publishers, shared his enthusiasm for the future this weekend with an audience at a literary festival in India. “I think this is a wonderful time for books, to enlarge the audience of the book and draw in more readers,” he told the DSC Jaipur Literary Festival. More than 50,000 people attended, and in a panel discussion, the book-industry insider made it very clear that he’s still optimistic about the future. “The idea of the book
dying comes up all the time.

“It’s wrong.”

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