I’m on my way from Florida to the Pacific Northwest. I don’t mean I’m about to set out. I mean, right now I’m in a plane flying across North America from Orlando to Seattle. This in-flight WiFi lark is quite wonderful.
There are some other technological inventions that make long journeys more bearable. There’s podcasts, of course. I’m catching up on all the audio I’ve been huffduffing and there’s some truly wonderful stuff in there.
Then there’s the Kindle. Having a choice of reading material packed into a small but comfortable to read device is extremely convenient. Mind you, for take off and landing, you’ll still need a nice slim non-electronic book, such as Erin’s marvelous The Elements of Content Strategy.
But for all of its convenience, some things about the Kindle really stick in my craw.
First of all, there’s the DRM. It’s utterly, utterly pointless and may even be infringing copyright by violating the right of first sale—remember kids, copyright isn’t just about protecting the rights of the content producer; it’s about the rights of the consumer too.
Then there’s the pricing. There are some books I’d really like to buy right now. I’ve got my credit in my hand, ready to hand my money over to Amazon, but then I see that the Kindle edition costs more than the paperback. Often, the Kindle edition is closer in price to the hardback. That’s just not right—or even if it is “right” for economic and legal reasons, it doesn’t intuitively feel right to me, the potential customer.
Kevin Kelly figures that electronic books will cost about a dollar within five years. Sounds about right to me. He also extrapolated that Kindles could be free by November.
The ludicrous asking price for DRM’d electrons is even more galling when the publishers clearly put no effort whatsoever into the production of the work. I really wanted to buy Surface Detail, the latest Culture novel from Iain M. Banks, but when I found reviews bemoaning the conversion quality, I put my credit card away:
I read the Kindle version, and the Kindle version has been lazily put together, I’m guessing from an earlier manuscript version. It has missing or half completed paragraphs. Very frustrating.
Jessica had already bought The City And The City by China Miéville—another book I really want to read—but she had to get a refund because the formatting was so awful.
Phil Gyford, speaking in the context of shoddily-printed physical books, sums up my frustration with the way publishers are treating Kindle editions:
I want to love books, but if the publisher treats them merely as interchangeable units, where the details don’t matter so long as the bits, the “content”, is conveyed as cheaply as possible, then we may be falling out of love.
Cennydd doesn’t even bother with the book-reading aspect of the Kindle, using it instead as an interface onto Instapaper.
The Kindle is a great lightweight reading device that’s particularly handy for travelling with—and the 3G version provides an almost miraculous permanent internet connection without any monthly contract—but the Kindle ecosystem, for all its Whispernet wonderment, is kind of nasty.
Now Amazon have decided that this ecosystem will not include third-party additions like Lendle. Even nastier.