Friday, May 29, 2009

"So cheap, so accessible"

Charles McGrath tries the Kindle:

Books for the Kindle are so cheap and so accessible, turning up on your device within seconds, that you wind up buying them impulsively and almost indiscriminately.

One evening my wife wanted to check a passage from Dombey and Son, which she had been listening to in the car. Ninety-nine cents, a typed-in phrase and, bingo, there it was.

By-the-Book Reader Meets the Kindle (New York Times)
That's great for Amazon. And for Mrs. McGrath, of course. I've used Google Book Search many times to check a sentence or passage. But when a novel becomes almost disposable, something one can buy for one-off use (like a cheap hat or umbrella), I worry that what's happened to music is now happening to books.

The comments on this article are worth reading too.

A related post
No Kindle for me

comments: 3

Stephen said...

Thank you for the link to a most interesting article.

Apart from the challenge of reading 400 pages on an electronic screen, there seem to be some other issues - if the device was accidentally dropped - could one lose a whole "library"? And with it using a proprietary format on a proprietary device - in what sense would one "own" a book? Will the book be transferable to competing devices? The situation is akin to being able to play an RCA LP only on an RCA phonograph.

Michael Leddy said...

All good questions. From Amazon: "Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon."

So it's licensing, not ownership, limited to the Kindle.

Also: "With the Whispernet feature, you can wirelessly re-download books for free anytime. This allows you to make room for new titles on your Kindle, knowing that Amazon is storing your personal library. We even back up your last page read and annotations, so you'll never lose those, either. Think of it as a bookshelf in your attic — even though you don't see it, you know your books are there."

That's good to know, but I'm still skeptical about depending upon one vendor.

sysadmn said...

"But when a novel becomes almost disposable, something one can buy for one-off use (like a cheap hat or umbrella)"

Almost disposable? Remaindered hardbacks, many paperbacks, and most of Half Priced Books' inventory cost less than two hours of the minimum wage. With an estimated 172,000 titles published in 2005 (the latest data available at, the shear volume of titles alone is enough to render most works disposable, if even noticed.

Commentary from 2001: