28 September 2011

Kindle News

The Atlantic | Alexis Madrigal | Amazon Fires Barrage at Apple: Cheap Kindle, Touch Kindle, Tablet Kindle
Let's start with the bottom line: Amazon's announcements this morning were the most important in the gadget world since Apple announced the iPad on January 27, 2010.
I believe that.
With the announcement of a $79 regular Kindle, $99 touch-enabled Kindle, and $199 Kindle Fire tablet, Amazon set itself up for a Christmas clash with Apple's iOS juggernaut. While many tablet contenders have come at Apple, few can throw as many punches as Amazon.

Amazon can hit Apple high with the Kindle Fire, which is the first non-Apple tablet that will offer as integrated a media service as Apple's ecosystem does. And it even comes with a hard-to-believe-but-awesome-if-it-works feature that Apple doesn't have: cloud-enhanced web browsing. The Fire will supposedly offer better mobile browsing because it offloads the computationally intensive bits off to Amazon's cloud computing service.
That is an awesome idea.
Amazon can hit Apple low with the $79 Kindle. Because so many gadgets are sold to price-insensitive early adopters, we all tend to underestimate the effect that a sub-$100 price has. [...] For people who don't own an e-reading device, a device that is substantially below the $100 barrier may be just the move they need to make the switch to digital reading.
I'm hardly the typical consumer, but I feel the need to get this out there anyway. A $79 reader is super cheap. We agree on that. But most e-books I'd want to read on it are still about $10, which is not cheap. Well, sure, it's cheap next to a hard-back, but how often do I rush out to get the hard-back? I read a lot, but I can only think of a couple of times in the last several years I've done that. (Given the choice between one book published recently, and 2.5 books published previously, I always go with more, older books.) And $10 is more expensive than a lot of paperbacks.

Plus most of the books I read I get for free from a library.  (Like, 19 out of every 20.) The books I do buy fall into two categories. Category 1 is the books I get used, through Amazon, for about $4 a piece. An e-book is no substitute for that. Category 2 are the books I've already read but want as part of my collection, sitting solidly on my bookshelves. Again, an e-book is no substitute.

Again, I know I am not typical, so perhaps this a pointless excercise. I feel like I am swimming against the tide here. But I am so often left wondering why should I pay even $79 for the privelege of paying $10 for books that I had to say this.


  1. As the owner of a Kindle (2nd gen) allow me to chime in with how I use it. I don't buy many kindle books - I think I've probably spent less than $80 total on books through Amazon, yet somehow have around 450 books on my Kindle.

    The only books I've paid more than $6 or so for were to get electronic copies of my favorite cookbook and study bible, which were impractical to carry along for a summer-long business trip.

    There are a ridiculous number of free (or dirt-cheap) books out there. Much of the old public-domain stuff can be found for free, or cheap if you don't want to dig around to find it (e.g. my free collected works of HP Lovecraft, or the $0.99 I spent to get all the Sherlock Holmes stories/novels in one organized book file). In addition, there are many publishers and authors that give away free e-books in hopes of enticing you to buy more real books. (I read a lot of sci-fi, and Baen has released free copies of a lot of their books on an ongoing basis, and Tor sometimes gives them out as promos.) There's also the occasional Kindle Daily Deal that sells current books for around a buck (I actually bought today's).

    On top of all that, many library systems lend e-books. I haven't tried it yet, but the Kindle system for this literally launched less than a month ago (lagging other e-reading platforms).

    All that said, I still do more than half my reading from paper books. I think of it less as a replacement for, and more as a complement to normal books. It allows me to have a part of my recreational reading in portable form for travel (or just keep the big fat fantasy novels from breaking my wrists), and allows cheap convenient access to lots of classics.

  2. That's all good to know. Thanks.

    Most of the cheap e-books I've seen are the same sorts of things I can get from the library.

    I had heard of that Kindle partnership with libraries, but all I know about it is that neither of the library systems I'm a member of participate, so I'm ignoring it for now.

    If I traveled more I could see the benefit of not toting a half dozen library books around with me, but I haven't taken a trip where I need more than two or three books in a long time.

    I could see a Kindle being a nice enough complement to paper books, but I still have access to far too many completely free library books that I want to read to make even a very low $80 price seem cheap.

  3. I dunno, I'm thoroughly addicted to reading public domain books using the Kindle app on my Droid. Being able to carry 5,000 pages' worth of Dumas and Hugo around in your pocket at all times is a big enough win I'm seriously considering getting one of the low-end Kindles as a complementary product. I'm guessing a Kindle is going to be vastly superior way to read long novels...

  4. I should probably make something more clear. I'm not saying there is no good use for a cheaper Kindle. I'm sure for a lot of people it would be great. (I have a friend who wants one primarily for cookbooks.) I think a Kindle would be a great way to chew through some Dumas, which is something that I want to do one day.

    All I'm saying is that for the type of reading I do right now, and my financial position right now, even a sub-$100 Kindle strikes me as a bad proposition. If you're competing with a public library (free) and a handful of used books (effectively free + s/h), $79 plus $5-10 per book is a LOT of money.