Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Book vs. the Kindle, Round 2: buying a book

Here's Round 2 of the smackdown between The Book and Amazon's Kindle e-reader. An intro to the series is here, as is Round 1.

Enjoy, and check back tomorrow for Round 3.


Stacey said...

oh yeah!

Rebecca said...

The video is cute, but if you had shown the REAL way to buy books on the Kindle, Kindle would win hands down. In under 60 seconds you can have the book you want, without even having to leave your house. Plus, e-books are certainly cheaper than print book list prices. In all fairness, the Kindle wins this round.

Anonymous said...

Rebecca: Once you pay $300+, the (few) books they have are indeed cheaper, which may prove unsustainable for the publishing industry. As you'll see in Round 8, many great books are unavailable on the Kindle. And Amazon controls your Kindle, whereas if you download a book on other e-readers, it's yours forever and can be transferred to your computer, your phone, etc.

S. Sparks said...

At present you really can't have just any book you want on the Kindle. In time I'm sure Amazon's selection will grow, but at the moment I know I would have a hard time finding something I wanted to read on the Kindle.

And I like leaving the house.

In the end I think this whole thing boils down to two not necessarily mutually exclusive camps - those who embrace a new format and those who are OK with an old one. I don't know if we're trying to convert anyone as much as entertain them, but we're a bookstore, we sell books. We really like them.

Alex said...

$9.99 for a Kindle e-book is certainly cheaper than a new hardcover. But you can find a lot of great reads from a store like Green Apple (including new "remainder books) for $5-7. Also, you need to remember to amortize the $300 upfront cost of the reader across your purchases, and to factor in the value of what you can get when you trade the book back in, or the free books you get when a physical book gets shared between readers.

And no doubt that it's more convenient to push a button and have what you want to read in your hand in 60 seconds. That kind of efficiency is appealing. But there's something to be said for inefficiency and inconvenience as well. The late great Kurt Vonnegut expressed this beautifully in this 2005 interview with PBS's David Brancaccio:

DAVID BRANCACCIO: There's a little sweet moment, I've got to say, in a very intense book-- your latest-- in which you're heading out the door and your wife says what are you doing? I think you say-- I'm getting-- I'm going to buy an envelope.


DAVID BRANCACCIO: What happens then?

KURT VONNEGUT: Oh, she says well, you're not a poor man. You know, why don't you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I'm going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope.

I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don't know. The moral of the story is, is we're here on Earth to fart around.

And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don't realize, or they don't care, is we're dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we're not supposed to dance at all anymore.

LP said...

I can't wait for the rest of the series: "Kind on safari", "Stop that thief! He took my paperback!", maybe "Harry Potter and the 1/2 Blood Prince's Kindle."

I think the e-reading platform is viable and useful for some needs. To meet my needs (having a classic handy, carrying reference material) I prefer to use an iPod I already own + a free app (Stanza) + free books ( So aside from the more philosophical experiential aspects, there's also the simple fact that the Kindle is a limited, restricted device that's engineered to make $, not make your life better.

mamafrog said...

I've been checking out the Kindle and other ereaders with an eye to buying one, but haven't been happy with what I've seen. I too, am a bibliophile of long standing (You wouldn't believe how many boxes of books were involved in my last move!) and I love the smell of a new book. There are times when the convenience of an electronic reader, not to mention the weight versus a heavy book in my purse would be good, I haven't found one that is worth the problems that seem to abound. Plus, you can't donate books you don't really like to the library book sales! I use Gutenberg for new/old authors I've never heard of but want to sample. It's helped me look for new ones to add to my shelves since I love to re-read my favorites. maybe someday these ereaders will work out the kinks and make buying one worth it to me.

Spiros said...

Here's to farting around. Here's to the warm, tactile sensation of paper in one's hand. Here's to the olfactory pleasure of ink on paper. Here's to getting out of the house. Here's to not having what one reads tied directly into a marketing survey.
Here's to books.

Anonymous said...

I love books and I love bookstores. I never liked to buy books on-line. I do have an IPod touch and it is nice. But I got a Kindle for my Bday 3months ago and I can't leave the house without it. You are able to totally forget what you are holding and get into the story. Two big problems I found: 1. I've missed my stop two times and 2. It is way too easy to buy books.

A Typical Guy said...

Saw your video on Boing Boing, and had to check it out. Very funny.

I'm glad that you're doing this. There is something antiseptic about reading things in electronic form, as opposed to print.

Since everyone else is giving their US$0.02 on ideas...I'm rough on my material possessions. I drop my *print* copy of "Fight Club" and i dust it off and continue walking. I drop my e-copy...well, that's all she wrote.

Peace out & Print isn't Dead.

Big Jay

Cynthia said...

As one who is a great reader, and has entirely too many books, I adore my Kindle for the following reasons: I can store as many books as I like (and many, those off copyright, are free) and take all of them with me anywhere and read what appeals to me at the moment; it is more comfortable to read the Kindle than to read a paper book, especially if the book is big, and especially if you like to read in bed; I love the dictionary feature, and the ability to search Google and Wikipedia; where I live I can’t get any national newspapers, and now I get them every day before I get up. I also like the fact that I don’t have to keep up with my bookmarks.

Also, the search feature is also terrific. If a novel refers to a character, and I can’t remember what I am supposed to know about that character, I can search and find the first reference. Likewise, if I say to a friend, “Did you see in the paper about so-and-so?” I can search the paper for the entire article without struggle.
I teach a college class, and I can save paragraphs or chapters and annotate them easily, and use them one after the other as the class and I go through a book together — better than marking and tagging pages.
There are a number of flaws that I hope will be resolved in future Kindles: it is true that there is not enough contrast in the electronic paper (though I seem to have gotten used to it.) There is no way to put your books in folders. You have to search through your potentially 1500 books alphabetically. There is no way to save the free books you have downloaded from or whereever, unlike your books from Amazon, which you can put in the archives (i.e., on Amazon.) There is no way to copy a chapter from a book for your students to read, and I have had to resort to the worse of all possible worlds, having the book on the Kindle and in paper. Graphs, maps and charts are generally not readable, and I miss that very much.
I also hope that one day the internet interface will be less clunky. It isn’t so bad, though, that I am willing to get out of bed and search for whatever I’m curious about on my computer.

Nicholson Baker’s comments in the New Yorker are on target about the lack of availability of the more esoteric books. I find that half of the books on my wish list are available on Kindle and half are not. I will say, in Amazon’s defense, that they are increasing the number of available books dramatically, and whenever I go through my wish list I find another half dozen or so that have become available on Kindle.
But in general, for me it has been terrific. It used to be that when I went on vacation, I had to take a suitcase of clothes and a suitcase of books, because I’m a fast reader, and also I vary a lot in what I might want to read at any given moment. The worst time I had was when I went to China for a month, because I just couldn’t carry enough books to last. I found a precursor to the Kindle, a PocketPC, and that worked well enough, but the Kindle is much, much better.

As for the idea of handing down books to one’s children, as the child of a mother who saved every book, newspaper, and anything else that came into the house, I would so much rather buy a fresh, new copy of Anne of Green Gables or whatever for my child than have to search though the thousands of books in my dozens of bookcases for my old decrepit, well-loved copy. I just can’t save books, except for a few (and how I know those is that I have had to buy a second copy after I gave away my first.) My usual plan is, as I read, to try to figure who would really love this book, and give it to him or her.

For me, the Kindle is a godsend and a blessing. Bring on Kindle 4!

Mike said...

This video highlights two important drawbacks to the Kindle.

First startup costs. You need the deivice to buy books. So that first book is really expensive!

Second, rights. There is so much legalese, and you can't transfer books to other devices.

I have Kindle for iPhone/iPod, and I didn't have to buy the unit. So there is a way around the first\ one. But it's very a limited workaround. The second one is a bigger pain. One of the greatest things about books is they are sharable. Kindle books are not sharable in any practical sense.

Cynthia said...

Actually, in a limited sense you can share them. My daughter and I both share a Kindle account, and it turns out that we have access to all our books at any time. I was under the impression that you could only share books in the archives (in other words, only one reader could have the book at one time,) but that isn't the case. Fortunately my daughter and I have similar tastes.

Spiros said...

What you miss with Kindle: the ever present sound of FARTS:A SPOTTER'S GUIDE in the background.
Whether you want to chalk this up as a point for the Book, or for the Kindle, is entirely a matter of taste.