I'm rather enamored of the idea of a book that will turn its own pages, that stays open without help, that fits in the treadmill magazine holder, and that will presto-chango into any book that I want without me getting out of my seat. I love the thought of one book-like-device holding a multitude of stories within its shape, without the weight or volume of the shelves of books being crammed into my backpack. Amazon's Kindle is a particularly well-executed version of this concept, with a non-flickering screen and an incredibly long battery life.
Books are wonderful. Books contain a multitude of universes within their covers, crafted out of the organization of words and letters laid down on paper in regular fashion. In description, books are solid objects with mass and volume, that a person may purchase and own in perpetuity for a one-time exchange of legal tender.
On the other hand, Kindles are not books, however much I want to project that ability onto them. They are simply boxes into which one loads licenses to software which takes on the magical form of books. That software is, by Amazon's own definition, "digital content." Digital content is not a book. It is, in modern copyright standards, always and forever owned by the company which originally published it. What the purchase of that license grants is permission for that software to be used, not owned.
Kindles are "tethered" to the Amazon system. They are linked in by a user account which is established at either point of sale or point of registration when the user-owner first purchases books from the Amazon system for reading on the device. From that point on, the device is an extension of the Amazon user system, and is basically a delivery point for Amazon software and services.
I treasure my books, and I also treasure the freedom to own, lend, and give away those books as I choose, whenever I choose, to anyone who is interested. That person does not even have to be capable of reading the book to receive it. The closed ecosystem of the AmazonKindleUniverse does not allow for me to perform these actions of transferal in complete freedom. In fact, by the definitions of "ownership," I cannot do any of them. I am merely transferring a license, and only to another person with a compatible device. This does not have the same feeling of permanency or the same freedoms allowed in the exchange of a physical book.
Then there is the invasion of privacy that started my wagons circling. In July of 2009, Amazon deleted copies of 1984 off of fielded Kindles without so much as a "gee, you need to know..." warning. Yes, under the terms of the licensing agreement, this was a legal step that Amazon could take - not a theft at all. And this is also the strongest reason why I am leery of purchasing a "tethered" e-reader. I do not want to give anyone the ability, nor the permission, to reach into my library and pluck out a book which I have purchased, without warning nor recourse, with simply a refund left sitting in its place.
The Kindle is a good concept whose time has come, with intelligent execution and a strong infrastructure behind it. I don't deny that Amazon has done extremely well in their choices of blending device, software, and services. I simply deny that company the right to retain ownership of my books. If I want to borrow a book, I'll go to the library or ask a friend. In the meantime, I'll purchase what I want in physical form, and own its presence as well as its representation of content.