Monday, November 26, 2007

Thoughts About the Kindle

You've heard about the Kindle, right? I kind of want one. (You might remember my past lust for another one of these things.) The Kindle sounds better than the Sony Reader, but at $400, it's just a little too much for me. If I were traveling as much as I used to, maybe. I really like the feature that allows you to download new books (and other content) from any location with cell phone coverage.

Three thoughts, besides wishing it cost a little less:

  • I'd love it if you could "rent" books. Rather than $10 for a permanent copy, how about $1 for a lease of, say, two weeks? Ideally, a future version would work just like a library (read: free loans), but I wouldn't mind paying a buck for the convenience.

  • Can you use this thing on an airplane? That is, can the wireless feature be temporarily disabled, or does it only come on when you try to shop?

  • What's going to happen when someone buys one of these, loads it up with purchased ebooks, and then wants to sell it for more than $400? Sanity would say this should be no different from selling a bookcase and the books upon it. DRM lawyers, however, are not often accused of sanity.


Anonymous said...

The trouble with leasing a book for two weeks is that you geeks would figure out a way to copy it while you had it leased for just two weeks and then you'd be selling it around the internet for an in between price. Same problem they have with DVDs in China.

bjkeefe said...


You're right about that, as a concern that Amazon (and all the publishers they had to get to sign on) would have.

Two things, though. First, if I can crack the code for a loaner, I can crack the code for an owned book, too. If I'm interested in reselling ebooks, the difference in investment cost between borrowing and buying seems insignificant.

Second, the DRM technology for downloadable media seems to be pretty good. Think about Apple -- not too many people seem to be reselling music bought through the iTunes store. Maybe an even better example is Rhapsody, which sells music on a loaner principle of sorts -- as I understand it, you pay a monthly subscription fee to listen, but you don't ever own the songs you're listening to. You have to pay an additional fee, I think, to unlock them so that you can, say, burn them to CD.

I am basing this on last night's experience of getting a "free song" from Rhapsody via a drink container -- it appears that I now own the song in the sense that a file resides on my home machine, and I could burn it to CD using the Rhapsody player, but I can't open the file with any other music player. Probably I could burn to a CD and then make copies from the CD, but I'm unlikely to try this. Which sort of brings me back to my original point: if you can sell something for a buck, who wouldn't rather buy it from the rightful store, as opposed to dealing on the black market?

So, Jeff Bezos, if you're listening, implement the short-term lease for a dollar program. There are plenty of thrillers and political screeds that I'm likely to want to read only once, and in the rare that I really like something, I'll pay the full price to own it.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you. The Kindle's pricetag makes reading more expensive, instead of less, which kind of defeats the purpose. I find that actual books still make me happy, though. I have a subscription to (it's like Netflix, but with books), so I can read as many books as I want each month, without worrying about the library's late fees, and since they have different plans for the different number of books I can have at a time, I actually wind up paying even LESS than $1 a book. And just like your suggestion, if I fall in love with a book, they let me pay the few bucks to keep it. I put the link with my name so you can check it out.

bjkeefe said...


The Kindle's pricetag makes reading more expensive, instead of less, which kind of defeats the purpose.

I don't know if I agree completely. There's a price break on new books, for one. There are also considerations like space required to store books and bookcases on which to store them. There's also environmental considerations: it takes a lot of paper and fuel to produce a book and get it from the publisher to your home.

Thanks for the link to BookSwim. Looks interesting, but at the prices they offer, I'll stick with the public library for the moment.