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.


tcwil said...

Today's xkcd is on the topic of kindles... very timely.

Drake said...

Nice! I suppose you can also read Vogon poetry on your Kindle...