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30 January 2011

Why I didn't buy a Kindle

I've always liked the idea of having an eReader of some description. It's a gadget. How could I not want one? The thing was, there was never anything available that looked like it could do the job. And where on Earth would I get the books from?

Amazon's Kindle is the first eReader that has come close to enticing me. It uses eInk technology to reproduce a paper-like screen - check out the close-up shots if you want to be impressed - and has a readily available catalogue of titles. And they say that it can go for a month or so on a single charge.

This is ticking a lot of boxes!

I recently put it to friends that I was in the market for a Kindle and the overwhelming response was not to do it. I remember a similar backlash when CDs first came out, but nothing as a bad as this. The question was: Do I have a particularly staid and negative set of friends or was I genuinely missing some important facts? Actually, there was a little of both.

For the benefit of the general Kindle debate I thought I'd stick up some of the arguments that ultimately lead me to remove the Kindle from by Amazon basket.

It's another nail in the coffin of traditional art. It'll have the same consequences as mp3 had on the record industry.

I'm not sure that I completely agree with this, but yes, the Kindle and its likes will certainly revolutionalize the book market. But it's going to happen whether I buy a Kindle or not. Who knows whether we'll all be better or worse off as a result. Personally I think that the general spread of knowledge that the internet has achieved is a fantastic thing. Think back 20 or 30 years and how difficult and expensive it was to discover new music or a new author. The Market just needs to find a away of making it work... and I have faith that it will.

Do I condone pirating books and music? No I don't. My biggest gripe with the music industry prior to mp3 was that the model that was in place never seemed fair anyway. Even though prices were fixed high by the Record Companies, the recording artist's themselves didn't see much of it. If you ask me, it was all ripe for a shake-up!

Don't smell the same as books!

Not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, there's a reason why Glade doesn't market 'Smell of the Library'. But there is a more general question here about the usability of the Kindle. It's got buttons for God's sake. How can this be a good thing? Do we really need them when we've got devices out there with touch-screens? Is the Kindle out-of-date before it starts? It doesn't even have a colour screen!

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I'm not sure that it's fair to compare the Kindle with an iPad. But how can you not? None of us live on a desert island. We've got more choice today than we've ever had. Wouldn't I be stupid not to consider the opposition. It's not a like-for-like, but I don't just read books... perhaps the grass is greener elsewhere...

Single use technology = bad

I think I agree. Even if the Kindle was simply the best eReader in the world, I can guarantee that as soon as I got it home I'd be looking for ways to do other stuff on it, like surf the net, GPS, listen to music, take notes, play video... The list is endless. The only reason you'd compromise on all this would be the price. At the moment the Kindle is attractive at a fifth or so of the price of the iPad. But saying all that, I do have an iPod which I won't be replacing in a hurry. Hmmm.

You can leave a book on the bus or drop it in the bath and it's a couple of quid to replace - Kindle OTOH

I tend to shower - but it's a good point, well made.

So we've come a full circle. We've mentioned the evil 'money' word and wrestled with the moral dilema that eReaders bring. We've thought beyond the thrill of the impulse buy. Hell, we've even sniffed the cover of a dusty tome. And suddenly it all made sense. I had my eureka moment.

I don't really want something to simply replace reading 'real' books. I love reading 'real' books! And if I want to read a 'real' book, then that's exactly what I'll do! If I'm going to shell out for a new piece of kit, it's got to be better than what I've already got, and I'm just not convinced that the Kindle (as it stands today) is any better.

Here's a fact that doesn't get mentioned much: You can't read the Kindle in the dark. People sell clip-on lights for Kindles. Good god! In this day and age! It just reminds me of those magnifying glass attachments they used to sell for the Gameboy. It all smacks of something not being quite right.

Anyway, I've rambled far too much, but seeing as I've been through the emotional wringer, I thought I'd share my thoughts with you. Ha ha! Come on... it's not the end of the world! I've read that the Kindle will be going colour in a future version with the possibility of a touch screen. Still plenty of time for me to change my mind. Never say never!

[Update: 31-Jan-2011] Uncannily, on the same day that I posted this, Amazon announced an important milestone: They now sell more eBooks than real ones. So, even if the Kindle doesn't last, it looks like the eBook is here to stay!

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