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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Why I won't buy a Kindle (even though I REALLY want one) 
3rd-May-2011 10:45 am
Goldie pbhttt
(BLUF ETA: Thank you all for your comments. Specifically, WOTW has made an argument that I appreciate regarding accepting restrictions in return for happiness. See his comment.)


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.

pause

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.
Comments 
3rd-May-2011 03:13 pm (UTC) - my $0.02
It turns out that the bulk of what I've been doing with my kindle is downloading free ebooks from project gutenberg or similar sites. I've also bought a few ebooks from non-amazon sites. All of this lives on my kindle quite happily and is out of the control of amazon.

I'm not saying you don't have a legitimate concern. However, it turns out that your concern is not with the device, but with one of the many tools you can use to deliver content to that device. As it turns out, you can read thousands of books on a kindle without ever buying a single book license from amazon.
3rd-May-2011 06:56 pm (UTC) - Re: my $0.02
Can you keep Amazon from getting back into your Kindle at all? Or does Amazon retain some back door to the software that runs the Kindle?
3rd-May-2011 09:49 pm (UTC) - Re: my $0.02
Amazon still sends software updates to the kindle, although you can turn off the wireless connection (or just never enable it) if you don't want to have them getting access to your kindle.

Even if for some bizarre reason they did delete one of my non-Amazon books off my kindle, though, it's still living on the hard drive of my computer in a non-Amazon folder. They would have no way of completely deleting an ebook I'd acquired elsewhere. The difference is that amazon-purchased ebooks are tethered to the amazon website, while other ebooks are just files that I have downloaded onto my computer and then sent to my kindle.
3rd-May-2011 04:05 pm (UTC)
I was definitely in the "kids, get offa my lawn!" camp about ereaders. But. (you knew that was coming :) ) I've changed my tune.

My kid's a reader now, because of the nook. She still primarily reads off the nook, but she didn't read *at all* by choice before. The ability to scale text to her needs and to not freak her out by the size of the books she's interested in (all books look the same on on ereader)have converted my "I won't read" to "did you bring the nook?" wherever we go. I wouldn't be surprised if in a bit longer, the size of books will no longer be daunting (after she read The Graveyard Book on the nook, we looked at the paper copy & she was intimidated by its size. Even though she'd just finished reading it!).

So far, all the books I have for the nook, I own in the same way I own my mp3's. As long as I keep a copy of the digital media, it's mine, and I can use it any device that can read an .epub. I can loan or give copies to friends, but I'd need to be sure to manage my own good citizenship there - if I decide to give a friend a digital copy of a book I purchased, I should delete the digital copy just as I'd no longer have the paper copy. (So far I'm only grabbing Gutenberg & other free books for me.)
3rd-May-2011 06:58 pm (UTC)
I've followed your kid's discovery of a non-threatening entrance into the reader world, and I'm so glad for both of you. As a technology that grants further accessibility to people who wish to read but have some hurdle to jump, e-readers provide a multitude of services.

So, my question - does Barnes and Noble retain a back door into the software that runs your nook? Can they reach into your e-reader at any time regardless of what you have on it?
4th-May-2011 12:13 am (UTC)
I have a connection to the Barnes and Noble store through the nook. I'm assuming like all devices, they have a backdoor through which they could reach. I assume the same thing about iTunes & my mp3s. I make backups outside these applications and thus have a reasonably high confidence level that I own my content. It doesn't hurt that if B&N does have a way to hijack a nook, I can just boot it rooted & it's mine again & I can use whatever eReader I'm comfortable using. My content remains safe in my backups.
4th-May-2011 12:18 am (UTC)
Oh! I should probably also mention we currently own almost all the books we have on the nook in paper form. Partly because we only recently started trying out the nook as a reading encourager, but also because I consider paper books the "best" book form. There are plenty of books I'd read in digital form - all those books I have no desire to keep. We struggle for shelf space (sound familiar? :) ) so reading a digital or library copy is a Good Thing in our household.

But I don't think, for example, I'd ever only have a copy of _Where The Wild Things Are_ or _The Chronicles of Narnia_ in digital format. There's something special about a book-book.
3rd-May-2011 04:32 pm (UTC)
This seems like a great argument for keeping a book collection and against replacing it with a Kindle, but not necessarily against supplementing it with a Kindle.

Matter of perspective, I guess: as a heavy user of the library I already make a distinction between books I need to own and books I'm fine with reading and giving back. The Kindle seems like it would be perfect for the latter. Plus, now that they've gone library-compatible, there's easy access to all those free books, even for people who don't have a daily home-delivery library service.
3rd-May-2011 06:59 pm (UTC)
I already make a distinction between books I need to own and books I'm fine with reading and giving back

Absolutely. I have no argument against this. Libraries are amazing creations which I wholeheartedly support.
3rd-May-2011 07:39 pm (UTC)
And I have no argument with what you said above: nothing will replace owning books. There will always be books I'll pick up at the used bookstore every time so I can give them away, rare books I want to be sure never ever disappear, and books I just want to have available to hold in my hands no matter what. But I think kindle could replace libraries and airport bookstores for the books I want to experience but don't need to own (or don't yet know if I need to own) in a long-term or constant way, and can't afford the space for anyway.

Mostly, I covet one to prevent the dilemma of finishing books during the commute. At some point your purse space is finite, so when there are 50 pages left do you grab a new book and wait a whole day to get the ending, or do you read for half a commute and then lug around a finished book and have nothing to read for the other half? Kindle says you don't have to choose!

3rd-May-2011 04:44 pm (UTC)
There are a lot of things you're not allowed to do with the books you "own".
You're not allowed to throw them through people's windows, for example.

Whenever you buy something, you're always buying the right to do some things
with it, but not to do other things with it.

This is true for books and it's true for electronic content. The line is
drawn in somewhat different places, but that seems to me to be a difference
of degree, not of kind.

So if I were to adopt a rule that says I won't buy anything unless I have
absolute control over how it's used, I'd never buy anything at all. Instead
I buy things that I think I'll be happier with than without, accounting for
all the restrictions on how I'm allowed to use them. My Kindle has made
me very very happy.
3rd-May-2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
the I bought a book concept elicits certain feelings of ownership, and possession that don't translate exactly to e-books.

The e-books disappearing in the middle of the night, through no action of my own and with no notice or trace that something has been done is not something that generally happens to my paper books.

I imagine reedrovers feelings to books are just about the same as my feelings to music. I want a physical copy. Something that won't go *poof* in the night, something that I can convert into other forms as I see fit. Something that can be held, liner notes that can be read etc..

Sorry to cut this short, but I think there is someone on the grass I need to go chase.
3rd-May-2011 07:03 pm (UTC)
Instead I buy things that I think I'll be happier with than without, accounting for all the restrictions on how I'm allowed to use them.

This is a universally-applied argument, that can work for purchasing and using cars as well as e-readers. I'm willing to purchase a car with the restriction that I'll only drive it on the road (more or less).

My current argument/issue is with Kindle's inseparable tie to Amazon and their redefinition of "book" into something I can't own, but only borrow. I'm unhappy with the idea that someone out there can arbitrarily reach into my life and remove my books from next to my bed without my knowledge or consent. That is where my happiness/unhappiness balance falls into unhappiness. I can't see paying money for happiness that can be destroyed so capriciously.
3rd-May-2011 07:31 pm (UTC)
My personal objection to Amazon's particular interpretation of DRM as it applied to Kindle, and the reason I don't personally own one, was that not only did they delete the e-books they no longer had rights to sell off the Kindle, they also deleted user-created content (notes) related to those e-books. I'm not sure whether the recent exceptions granted to various copyright statutes for academic use cover that particular case or not, but that kind of shows a willingness to delete first and ask questions later on Amazon's part.
5th-May-2011 01:40 am (UTC)
Actually, my droid2 is my favorite mobile reader. I still love my paper books, but adore the flexibility of 80+books in my pocket.

Moon+reader is my favorite reader app (after testing out MANY). I like that it scrolls, which is wonderful when I'm working out.

If you do go this route, email me and I'll share how I get my books. Not a tethered source. I have objections to paying silly amounts for books I have already purchased in paper form.
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