With proper respect for the views of fellow PCW blogger Zack Stern, none of his six reasons why I am supposed to spend $359 on an ebook reader really impressed me
The apologetics necessary to make Kindle–a name perilously close to “kindling”–sound like a good deal reminds me of the excuses made when Larry Ellison was planning to introduce a $500 PC. Back then, it seemed like a good price, but achieving it required some major tradeoffs. In the end, Ellison failed, but today we have lots of $500 PCs that traded nothing to reach the price point. Prices just came down.
Even if I thought Kindle was a really great idea–and I don’t–$359 is way too pricey, especially as a business toy. There’s a recession going on! When it’s over, however, a nicer Kindle might cost a more-interesting $99.
It’s no secret why Amazon is so Kindle-crazed: Electronic books are a major preoccupation in the publishing industry, which would love to replace its addiction to wood pulp with a closer relationship to ol’ Reddy Kilowatt. Then they can charge us (over time) just as much for books that they no longer have to print.
Remember when record companies told us that with volume shipments CD prices would drop back to what vinyl LPs then sold for? I don’t think Kindle will be a big driver toward less-expensive books.
It might, however, turn Amazon into the text-equivalent of the iTunes Music Store, allowing it to replace the humans who work in its many warehouses–which all seem to be located in places where people work really cheap–with our old friend the electron.
As for Zack’s six-pack of Kindle spin, here’s one small businessperson’s response. Zack’s reasons are in boldface:
1. It takes less space than books.
So does my iPod, iPhone, and many of the new webpad sub-notebook PCs. I very much like listening to Audible audiobooks, so that is how I carry my electronic library. I also like the feel of paper and the ability to throw a paperback across the room to frighten the cats when one starts growling at another. No, I don’t hit the cats, and for heaven’s sake, don’t heave your Kindle. I also read books in the bathtub and don’t believe the Kindle can swim.
2. Abandon your laptop: It reads your docs.
Abandoning my laptop is out of the question, so Kindle is an extra device to carry, not a replacement. I am looking at a webpad for some applications, where its smaller size and lower weight (compared to my MacBook Pro) might be an advantage. But, the Kindle is, essentially, a single-tasker, something TV chef Alton Brown has taught me to despise.
3. See clearly on the new screen.
Swell, Amazon welcomes us to a universe in 16 shades of gray. That’s better than the pervious version’s black-and-white display. Next?
4. Abandon your laptop: Download blogs and browse the Web.
Kindle doesn’t excel in online functionality and, again, I already have an iPhone for the sort of limited web browsing I do on the run. Yes, I understand Kindle would be better for reading a book on an airplane than a notebook PC would be. But, I like books, a prejudice may people have and Kindle will have a hard time overcoming.
5. Look up information in new ways.
I guess it’s nice that Kindle allows me to search for a word or phrase across my entire electronic library. As for it providing access to Wikipedia and other references, so does my iPhone and all the webpads I’ve seen. And both of those do way more than kindling, er, Kindle does.
6. It reads while you are driving.
Does it also see me when I’m sleeping and knows if I’m awake? Even Zack admits he may not get used to having a synthetic voice read aloud to him and falls back on being able to download Audible books to the Kindle. No, that’s what my iPod is for. It’s also, as earlier mentioned, smaller than Kindle.
I think a gadget needs to clear a much taller hurdle to be of interest to business instead of a mere consumer toy. I don’t think Kindle can jump, thought it’s always better to get the boss to buy something when you’re not willing to pay for it out of your own pocket.
David Coursey admits that he could live in a much less cluttered home if he could just have his entire library digitized. Write him at email@example.com.