Two Great Ideas For The Kindle

November 26th, 2007 · 12 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

Last week’s reception for Amazon’s Kindle was, to put it kindly, rough. I admit it: I was expecting something more exciting. Something more egalitarian. Something I could put on my Amazon Wishlist. Good thing I’m an eternal optimist. I really do think a good e-reader is important to the world, and here are two reasons why.

Save trees, money, space. All with one device.

One of the so-called perks of being a book reviewer are the books. They just keep on coming. Lots and lots of books. More than I can ever read, even though I really want to curl up with all of them. I love the serendipity involved with plunging my hand into the overflowing baskets of books (a misguided attempt at organization…will I never learn?). But man, talk about waste.

I am flabbergasted by the amount of money publishers spend in the often vain hopes that a book will be read, reviewed, and talked up to the point of hitting the viral scale. Every physical book mailed to a potential reviewer costs publishing houses money: printing costs, those fun little cover letters, envelopes, postage and shipping.

Oh, and don’t forget the unscrupulous reviewers who take these “free” books and turn around and sell them on eBay. Gotta love that kind of business ethic.

Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to distribute Kindles to reviewers, with easy access to electronic ARCs. Yeah, I can hear all of the traditionalists out there screaming, “No! I must have my book book!” Forget them. In a world where costs never seem to decline yet technology offers such great opportunity, why not rethink the review copy supply chain?

Publishers would save money in the long, I am convinced of this. And while I am not a proponent of Digital Rights Management (DRM) as it is used by most entertainment companies — why is the inclination to make electronic media less user-friendly than physical media? — I think that when it comes to locking down review copies and preventing ARC reselling, the Kindle’s misguided DRM system is just dandy.

Wow, so many good things going on here. Saving trees, saving money, reducing the stacks in my office, giving reviewers an easy way to pack lots of books for tropical vacations (you realize that books weigh pounds and airlines are getting meaner about overweight luggage, right?), eliminating a form of piracy. The good news goes on and on.

Plus, it would introduce the Kindle to a great range of readers…the voracious ones.

Then there’s the other key market for the Kindle. This one is a bit trickier, given the way the educational system works, but here goes. I have long been convinced that the key to widespread acceptance of e-readers will come from today’s youth. I am not wholly convinced that the Kindle is an ideal device for the educational community (eInk is still black-and-white, and I think today’s students deserve full color), but it’s a great tool.

It’s really kind of sad, watching today’s students as they trudge to and fro. They look like sad turtles, what with all those heavy books and lack of on-campus storage (what we used to call “lockers”). Plus, it seems like you always need your book for homework. We are raising a generation of serious back problems.

Then there’s the cost of physical textbooks — which, especially as the college level, seem to go up, up, up, while instructors require the newest edition for optimal learning. The economics of textbooks is lousy…for the students, school districts, and parents. If we’re serious about educating the next generation to take its place in this brave new world, then we need to think of ways to get books to kids in a practical, economical manner.

Also, see above re: saving trees. See above re: overall cost savings. Even though the citizens of this nation believe that education is important, there are practical solutions to managing budgets. Now the textbook publishers are screaming, “No!” Yes, everyone must change. Textbooks should not be a boondoggle.

I remain unhappy about many aspects of the Kindle — especially the proprietary format — but I firmly believe it can (and hopefully will) usher in positive growth for how we read and distribute books. And sign up me for one of those review copies…that way I can get new pots and pans for Christmas instead.
[tags]kindle, amazon, amzn, reading, publishing, book reviews, textbooks[/tags]

File Under: Non-Traditional Publishing

12 responses so far ↓

  • Dorothy // Nov 26, 2007 at 10:31 pm

    Oh yes, this is exactly the kind of blog post I needed tonight. Tell it like it is, sister! Now I love books. I get lots and lots of books in the mail to review. It’s like Christmas every single day of the year. But…this new Kindle. I’m hearing a few reports that it has bugs, but I’m so dying to try it out. Imagine downloading a book immediately…any kind of book you can imagine. My library is overstocked now…just imagine downloading would save space! Actually, I’m quite excited about the Kindle and really hope it is something that I will purchase soon because it just seems so innovative. Not to mention saving those trees!

  • Jim Murdoch // Nov 26, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Despite the fact they got it wrong the most important thing about the Kindle is the fact that Amazon is behind it. E-book readers have been around for years. I’ve got one that must be a good seven or eight years old and there was a lot I enjoyed about it. The problem was I couldn’t get copies of the books I wanted to read. Amazon is backing up its product with a huge library; that was what was needed.

    So the design is a bit retro. They’re not daft – at least I hope they’re not going to be daft – and the product will evolve. At least they’ve started. Things can only get better. I just want to see the prices come down and not just for the hardware.

  • Shannon // Nov 27, 2007 at 6:32 am

    Great post. Amazon should hire you–it’s clear you’ve thought this through more than they have. I will always want my book books for my treasures, but for throwaway reads, travel, having something with me for those unexpected waits and research, a good e-book reader would be a godsend. Of course, it will need to be able to bookmark, annotate, clip, create references, all that great stuff, for it to be really viable.

  • David Thayer // Nov 27, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Everyone in Wellington Leg rushed out to buy a “Kendle” a cheap knockoff of the Kindle. Kendles
    come stuffed with a little Mailer, a little Burgess
    and the opening lines to Valley of the Dolls.

  • Darla // Nov 27, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    I’m not a reviewer, but you’d think I was with all the books I have. I’d love to have all my books in e-book or audio book format. I like the idea of it. I tend to keep my books forever and this would be the best way to have them and not worry about them falling apart with age…not to mention it would save so many trees!

    I’ve been watching the reader wars so to speak and will break down and get one when they finally come out with something that fits everything and dosen’t cost so much.

  • Susan // Nov 28, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Of all the things I am LEAST concerned about, it’s saving trees. Trees are a renewable resource. They are purposely GROWN to be used for pulp, wood, Christmas trees, etc. So, let’s stop weeping for the trees, huh?

    On the other hand, saving space and backs — that’s something I can get behind. (Behind your back. snicker.)

    Saving money, too. But as of yet, I have not seen much evidence of saving money by purchasing ebooks, since I can find most paperbacks for the same price or cheaper than an ebook, and that’s just WRONG. (Especially as publishers have long been weeping/wailing/gnashing their teeth over the costs of paper and ink as they raise the prices of mmpbs.)

  • Joe Wikert // Nov 28, 2007 at 2:37 pm

    The one thing we all need to keep in mind when talking about the Kindle is that it’s truly a version 1.0 product. IOW, there will be future versions of this that will make this one look silly. Consider the iPod. Compare the iPhone technology of today to the original iPod from 2001. There’s almost no comparison.

    Yes, I agree that the original iPod approached design perfection and the Kindle is far from that standard. My point is that Amazon will learn plenty from this first offering and you can bet they’ll improve on it down the road. I just hope they figure out a way to lower the price while also adding in much-needed functionality…

  • Kirk // Nov 29, 2007 at 8:09 pm

    Joe:

    You’re absolutely right. The difference is that consumers were demanding a portable solution for playing mp3 files prior to the iPod release. Apple capitalized on that demand.

    Amazon has a harder sell with the Kindle. Most consumers aren’t aware of ebooks. To the average book buyer, Kindle looks like a solution in search of a problem.

    Lower the price of the device and the titles, and consumers will start to see the value. In the meantime, Kindle is clearly for early adopters who can afford to $400 on an experimental ebook reader.

  • Kristen O // Dec 5, 2007 at 11:05 am

    You’re so right about the textbooks – making them available on Kindle would be the best way to get young people to adopt them. It justifies the cost, and once people have the basic device, it’s easy to adjust to using it for everyday book purchases.

  • Living By Learning // Dec 12, 2007 at 1:04 pm

    Already, I’m hearing from parents who are hoping the Kindle will inspire reluctant readers. I predict that, within two years, this will be the “hot” holiday gift.

    I love the potential of the Kindle, but I wonder how do you underline and tag interesting passages?

  • G. Elizabeth // Jul 25, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Kindle sounds amazing, but what if people don’t want to have to spend $4oo dollars. I mean, if you are a kid and you want one but can’t because you don’t have enough money.

  • Kassia Krozser // Jul 25, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    G. Elizabeth, the price will drop as demand increases. Early adopters know they’re going to spend more only to be able to purchase an item for far less in the future. That’s good — those who can afford it now are funding innovation and development.

    As the price drops, I think more schools will see the benefits of buying a Kindle/other e-reader rather than paying for hard copy books. Over the long run, ebooks are far more cost effective.