Monday, February 16, 2009

Why I Haven't Bought a Kindle 2

I read a very interesting article which lists and debunks the common reasons why people don't like e-books. I think the author is a bit cynical and judgmental (he thinks that the people who don't like e-books are basically wrong and that the industry will thrive once these dinosaurs die, along with their unfounded prejudices), but he gives an insider's perspective that I found quite thought-provoking.

I love to read - so much so that I write a comic with the pretentious aim of increasing your vocabulary. Furthermore I am somewhat of a geek, having been a computer programmer and UNIX administrator for most of my adult life. So, you might think I would be a prime candidate for the Kindle, the new Kindle 2, or for e-books in general.

Indeed I have a lot of interest in the Kindle, but it took me a while to figure out exactly why I can't muster the enthusiasm to purchase and use one for my daily reading. It isn't really for the main reasons cited in the above article. I don't mind reading from a screen, and I have no problem with the type resolution or contrast, nor with the metaphysical implications of mistaking the media with the medium (e-book reader vs. e-book). Also as someone who cares about the environment, I am automatically attracted to the tree saving nature of e-books. After some consideration, I realized I am mostly turned off by the high price tag.

First of all, the Kindle 2 costs $359. That's a lot of money, and at this point, you don't have a single sentence from a book to read. You need to buy the books themselves, which seem typically to cost from $7 - $12 (New York Times Best Sellers and most new releases are $9.99). That is about as much, or more, than you would pay for a paperback copy of the book.

Now as much as I am open to the potential of e-books, I cannot truthfully say that e-reading is in any way a better experience than reading paper books. In order to get my business, Amazon would have to make me feel I was getting a decent bargain in return for the various minor inconveniences of reading a book on an electronic device. Additionally I - and I suspect many others - mainly get my books used. I read the entire Harry Potter series and paid no more than $5 (shipping included) for any one book, ordering them from, finding them in a used book store, or simply borrowing them from a friend. Why would I want to buy a $359 device and pay $10 per e-book, for a decidedly sub par reading experience?

Ultimately, I want to join the next, exciting phase in literature. I want to be able to choose from a vast virtual library on a razor thin electronic tablet. But for the same reason I wouldn't buy MP3s if they cost twice as much as buying the CD, I just can't justify paying an arm and a leg for the electronic version of the same books I've been buying second hand for a pittance.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


This week's comic was inspired by an interesting phenomenon I recently read about. Apparently there are people who believe they cause street lamps to go out. I have the feeling that this is purely the result of confirmation bias, for haven't we all been surprised by a street light blinking off over our heads at one time or another? Most of us wouldn't attribute ourselves as the cause, but who knows, perhaps there are people to whom this happens all the time. In the world of the Remonstrance, Princess SLIder definitely possesses this mystical power.