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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Amazon's Kindle: Great Invention or Waste of Money?

It's all over the net here, here, and here, and everywhere else. Amazon has released probably the only e-reader that has the potential to take off. While I am very interested in this product, I can tell you now that I'll never buy it. We'll get to that in a minute.
Now, the Kindle is a rather remarkable little tool. It's better than some of the other readers because it looks easier to navigate, is not too complicated, and has a lot of features. I'm not going to get into the details of what it can do. If you want details read the links that I've given. If any reader to date has the potential to make e-reading a market-holding fad, it's the Kindle. But, like Sony's reader, this too has a high likelihood to flop.
Why? Because it's $399 USD. That's 193 British Pounds, 270 Euros, or 393 Canadian...err bills (sorry, I don't know exactly what you guys call it over there). The Kindle is currently only available in the US, but still, that'sone hell of a price. You also have to take into account that the ebooks that you will be buying will cost the same as buying them in paper format. $9.99 US for bestsellers, etc. Another point we'll be getting to in my reasons why I'm not buying it.
However, the good news is that it actually looks very well put together and does seem to have a look that could provide for a decent reading experience. The Amazon folks have gone at this project with the intention of creating a reader that will allow you to get immersed in a book without you realizing that you're looking at a screen. If they have succeeded in doing this then perhaps this thing will take off, or it will do what the Dreamcast did for online console gaming--spark a wave of new products that do it better.
Now to why I'm not going to buy it. First off, it's $399 USD! Why the hell would I spend that kind of money on something that lets me read books when, like Scalzi pointed out, I can easily buy fifty paper format books for that--or alternately I could buy almost a hundred used books, which I would rather do with that kind of money anyway. That's absolutely ridiculous to me. For that price you could buy an Xbox 360, or a PS3, or a Nintendo Wii, or even a new computer. That's a sizable chunk of change if you ask me, especially for something that is only replacing the avenue for reading. How many people read three or four books while sitting in the airport? How hard is it to simply bring a couple books with you or buy one at a kiosk?
The next reason I'm not going to buy it is I cannot stand reading novels on the screen. Yes, I do critiques and the like through the computer, but the difference is that critiques don't involve doing entire novels at one point in time. When I read I like to read a lot. If I get immersed in a paper format book I can end up reading for hours and not realize that so much time has passed. I can't do that with a screen. My eyes hurt after a little while and I have to walk away. There are a lot of online magazines that I really want to read, but I just can't bring myself to do it because reading online is just so bothersome. I'm talking fiction. I read blogs and the like on here, but blog posts are generally short and to the point. Stories and novels require attention and thought.
Another reason, for me, is a concern about piracy. Perhaps the DRM format that the Kindle is going to use will protect the files, but in all honesty, how long is it going to take for someone to figure out how to get around that? A week? Maybe two? I fear for the authors who find that their work is being cast out into the abyss we call the net to be scooped up like a blockbuster movie. Authors don't get a lot of money for their work in the first place--at least new authors or ones that aren't bestsellers like Stephen King don't get a lot--and to lose funds because someone has pirated the hell out of a work would really suck. I realize that you shouldn't write to be rich, but what if someone depends on their royalties for survive?
In the end, I just can't bring myself to spend that kind of money on this product. I'd rather hold a real book in my hands anyway. I'm old fashioned I suppose. Does anyone else have thoughts on this product?

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