How to handle the E-Book Problem is an issue that is constantly being debated in the dusty, tome-filled aisles of independent bookstores everywhere these days. For the moment, most indies cannot sell e-books at all – as the technology for sales hasn’t caught up yet – and none of them can sell the Amazon Kindle, the world’s leading e-book reader. So, out of my disdain for the looming fall of the book industry as we know it, here is a Top Ten list of the things that I think are problematic about the Kindle. (Some – marked with an * – are not proven yet, but I believe that they are true and this is my website, so…)
1. It makes you go blind and it gets so hot that it leaves you with 3rd degree burns on your hands and lap.*
2. Toni Morrison, Oprah Friend, Nobel Laureate, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, loves her Kindle. (Watch the Amazon promo video of Morrison extolling on the virtues of her little electric friend.) Is there anything sadder than this? I can understand the appeal of being able to travel with multiple books all in a slim unit that fits in your carry-on bag (the big plus for her), but she claims to love the versatility it offers, with its “underlining” ability and notetaking features. Huh? Pencil? It scares me that someone so well regarded in the world of print would sell her soul to Amazon to such a degree. James Patterson I can get (he also has a video – say “delightful” again, James), but Morrison just leaves me baffled.
3. It is not a book.
4. It is not a book.
5. Independent booksellers cannot sell you one, nor can B&N or Borders, actually – Amazon has proprietary rights over the unit and the software. And indie bookstores with Indiebound websites still cannot sell e-books via the internet yet (this is an internal problem, not an Amazon one, but it still sucks.) Even if they could sell e-books, they wouldn’t work on your Kindle anyway. The potential good news though, is that Google has entered the fray and announced that they are working on a method for selling e-books to customers via their site. Presumably, the Google supplied e-books will not be of a proprietary nature and you should be able to download them to the e-reader of your choice. Will they be any different that Amazon? Where is Steve Jobs on this? As for the large chain bookstores, as much as I despise them, depending on how the next few years go, this whole thing could drive them right off the map. Which would really be a death knell for the printed book.
6. You can’t jump in the ocean & leave your Kindle on your beach towel. Someone will steal it. If they are a bookseller, they will most likely throw it in the ocean. (Seriously, think about that – do you ever read books in a public place? What a drag that would be to have to worry about some d-bag stealing your ENTIRE library while you’re in the men’s room…)
7. Did I mention that it makes you go blind?*
8. Amazon is deliberately selling e-books for a massive loss in order to force anyone else out of the market. Publishers – who you, the consumer, cannot buy directly from – are selling e-books for similar costs to the regular printed books – somewhere in the $25-30 range. Amazon sells them for $9.99. By selling the sleek Kindle unit and their ebooks for 10 bucks, no one can compete and still stay in business. Google plans to negotiate a lower-than-MSRP-rate with the pubs, but it will most likely be higher than $9.99. As for the indies – what small business can afford to sell anything at a 70% loss?
9. The e-book library will eliminate the ability of book snobs to judge other people by their physical libraries of books. How can I know what sort of man you are if I cannot sneer at your Anne Rice collection? What about judging a book by it’s cover? Will it become “You can’t judge an ebook by it’s file size”? Barf. (Check this from the NYT a few months back.)
10a. (Since I couldn’t limit myself to 10 problems) The following is perhaps the worst thing yet to come about concerning the Kindle. This announcement was posted by Amazon this week:
The Kindle edition books Animal Farm by George Orwell, published by MobileReference (mobi) & Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) by George Orwell published by MobileReference (mobi) were removed from the Kindle store and are no longer available for purchase. When this occured, your purchases were automatically refunded. You can still locate the books in the Kindle store, but each has a status of not yet available. Although a rarity, publishers can decide to pull their content from the Kindle store.
Holy crap. Holy crap. Holy crap. The clocks are striking thirteen! Big Brother can sneak into your Kindle while you sleep and take back the books that they don’t want you to have. Is the reference lost on them? (At least Fahrenheit 451 is not available as an e-book yet…)
10b. This is perhaps related to 10a, as the Kindle is a product of a soulless, corporate giant that is attempting to run our lives. They are cold, lifeless, and will never love you back. (This one is true.) There’s nothing – and I mean nothing – better than holding a book in your hand and escaping inside.
As a bonus, I’ve included this official Amazon video of the “Kindle Drop Test”. I find it sort of cathartic.