Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why I hate the Kindle 2.0

Because this new toy is a game changer. No one likes game changers.

I already eye paperbacks differently, which I used to love.

The stack at the bookstore where I enjoy browsing, attracted to titles by their cover art, their display, or their screaming point of purchase special offers appears needlessly wasteful, even physically redundant. Border's can't entice me with deals--even their 40% knock down off the cover price is still more than the Kindle Store. Barnes and Noble is charging me for 80% distribution and 20% inspiration--all those trees to carry the words! All that fuel to transport the tonnage! All those people engaged in picking, packing, and shipping!

I look at my newspaper askance, though it's as essential to my morning as the smell of dark coffee.

It's so...big. Full of all those ads I never read for things I never need. And most days I don't notice most articles. The paper is a general interest omnibus, and like the term, seems quaint and slightly out of place in my house, where over time the issues accumulate, ending up under the dog's dish, in the trash, or in the recycle bin. The delivery person wakes me up every morning at 5:45 with his gear-grinding crapmobile. Poor man will soon be out of work. Amazon's Whispernet delivers my new "paper." Amazon even archives my old issues. Plus I can clip articles to highlight and save. I can start and stop subscriptions with a thumb. Or enjoy my "papers" wherever I travel (in the USA, that is) and never lose my place. But what will I put under the dog's dish, I wonder?

I'm questioning the relevance of my book shelves.

I've carted these thousand or so books with me from apartment to apartment, from house to house, for thirty years of relocations, across the Atlantic and back four times, and in every new home I've added a bookshelf or two to accommodate the growth in bulk. The packed book boxes somehow meant I'd learned something along the way, and that I was carting that knowledge around with me. But really, mostly, the works just add color and insulation to a home, and provide occasional winks from across the room like old friends saying hello. Kindle could hold most my old friends, and Amazon could archive the rest. Minus books, my house could be considerably streamlined. (Less a room or two, now that the CDs, DVDs, and photo albums are digitized.)

And magazines. If they want to target their widely dispersed special interest groups, their current distribution model is too cumbersome, too exposed to the vicissitudes of commodity prices, labor practices, the cost of postage, and the price of fuel. What does any of that have to do with the magazine content?

The glossy publications haven't been worth their weight in paper for years. Everyone seems to have figured that out except for the publishers. The advertisers and subscribers have certainly made their opinions known--taking their business and readership elsewhere. Any publisher with half a brain is already throwing her considerable heft behind e-readers, and revamping her business model to eliminate any cost not directly associated with the creation and delivery of content in digital mode.

So why do I hate the Kindle?

Because it's so sleek, so elegant. I want to shoehorn all my content into it for later retrieval. And I would hate for any single device to have that much power over a lifetime of accumulation.


  1. And just when you had come to accept Kindle, now there's Kindle 2! It's worth recalling how the ever onward march of technological progress keeps rendering obsolete earlier versions of whatever.

  2. Is there an autobiography of Shakespeare somewhere in the ether formatted for Kindle?

  3. I think you mean "The Shakespeare Diaries," which hasn't been Kindled yet, but is available widely as an e-book download. One disadvantage of e-books is that they can't be autographed by the author.

  4. This one?

    The Shakespeare Diaries: A Fictional Autobiography
    By: Wearing, J. P.
    Published By: Santa Monica Press


  5. That would be it. I'm told it's a fascinating read.