Saturday, August 22, 2009

(Probably not) the last word on Amazon and The Kindle

So our Kindle smackdown is a thing of the past. When I browse through the comments, I see that some people thought we were being unfair. And sure, there is an argument to be made there. If Amazon wanted to respond, they could make a video of someone carrying a box of books onto a plane, and compare it with a happy traveler pulling a slim Kindle out of their carry-on. But then we could respond (production budget allowing) with that reader having to turn off his book during takeoff and landing or, even worse, realizing that he's left his Kindle in the seat pocket in front of him.

We referenced the Nicholson Baker New Yorker piece a few times. If you read it, at the end he ends up reading a book on his iphone, and finds it a much more pleasurable experience. So his article is specifically critical of the Kindle, not of e-books in general, and I think that's where we fall.

I'm starting to think of Amazon as basically a criminal enterprise. It is the natural course of capitalism for companies to expand, to be predatory, to want to crush the competition. It's what makes capitalism work, until a company gets too big, and it becomes counterproductive. A recent example being Microsoft getting taken down for trying to be the world's only personal computing software maker. And now Amazon is following that model.

Amazon already claims to be "earth's biggest bookstore," but it seems they aim to be earth's only bookstore. Two examples:

1) When they decided they would go into the e-reader business, Amazon made their e-reader proprietary. The only reason to do this is so that owners of the device are forced to buy their product from one source. If Amazon were to be successful in driving all of their competitors out of business, then for all practical purposes one would have to buy a Kindle to read an e-book. Personally I feel pretty certain the Kindle is doomed, for the basic reason that the iphone (and its competitors) do the same job and oh so much more for significantly less money. But Amazon's intent seems obvious: to control the market.

2) In the last few months, Amazon has dumped their affiliates in North Carolina and Hawaii, hurting a lot of small businesses. The reason? To raise the ire of people like this, and to intimidate larger states like California and New York into dropping their sales tax parity efforts. Amazon makes a lot of money from their affiliates, and I'm guessing there is no way they would dump all of the affiliates in a state like California, but they're willing to hurt a bunch of tiny little businesses in North Carolina to make their point. Sounds like it's time for a RICO investigation.


Anonymous said...

I see E-books having their place, in the long run it might save school districts money if instead of buying 500 copies of Jane Eyre students could simply dowload a copy whatever and read it that way. Me, I'm old school I LOVE books just ask the airlines after my recent trip to Scotland and England when I had to pay $60 for baggage overage because of all the books I bought.

Michelle said...

I am a Kindle doubter. Love to the blog and my favorite book shop.

Nathan said...

Have you seen the video by North Carolina native The Regulator Bookshop?

North Carolina small businesses strike back!

Vailias said...

The ebook formats a kindle reads aren't proprietary. The main amazon one is, but it also supports HTML, TXT, and a number of "MOBIPocket" formats. There is a freely available mobipocket creator which can convert PDF's and a number of other formats into a nice, tidy, ebook that the kindle will read. I have a good 30 titles on my Kindle, none of which I have purchased from amazon. Some are essays, some are electronic versions of books I own in paper format. Does this seeking and conversion take a little work on the end user's part to accomplish? Yes, but then doesn't anything really worth while? (also amazon will convert the files for you if you like just by emailing them to your kindle address, and send them back to you via email for free, or to your kindle for a fee (bollocks to that))

The kindle is a really nice device, and you don't have to buy into Amazon's business model to use it if that's the main gripe. I think I use it as much for looking at craigslist (on amazon's dime) as I do reading books, and for those of us without data plans and smartphones, it can be a real help with web based info, like where the closest sushi joint is. :)

Neo-Luddite said...

I guess I am showing my age here, but if I want to know where the closest sushi joint is, I tend to ask somebody. I guess I'm still living in the Twentieth Century, but unlike Ray Davies, I don't mind dying here.