Ithink I’m finally going to buy a Kindle. Not, you understand, because I necessarily want one. And certainly not because I need one.
No, I’m going to buy a Kindle just so that I don’t have to listen to one more of my American friends lecture me for half an hour about how Amazon’s electronic book reader has changed their life and how I can’t possibly understand what I’m missing until I get one of my own. I imagine people in Surrey have children for much the same reason.
And, yes, I admit it. The Kindle is cool. The cool way the words magically materialise on the page, the cool Whispernet wireless service that allows you to buy books any-and-everywhere without needing to find a wifi connection and the cool fact that just like a real book you can’t read it in the dark. Also, any piece of technology that costs just shy of $300 must be cool, right?
The three hundred dollar price point is interesting because it represents two fairly annoying things about the Kindle. Firstly that it’s clearly being marketed at early adopters who are happy to plunk down the price of maybe 30 paperback books before they can even start to spend money on ebooks. Ebooks which, by the way, cost just about the same as traditional books, despite having none of the associated print and distribution costs of dead tree publishing. And secondly that currently the Kindle is only available to readers in the US. Amazon puts this down to a combination of licensing issues (publishers are still wedded to ridiculously anachronistic ‘territories’ when it comes to book distribution) and the fact that the device works using the US mobile phone network, rather than standard wifi.
(For now, UK readers have to make do with the Sony Reader. I just returned to San Francisco from a month in London where I didn’t hear a single person extolling the virtues of their Sony Reader. Maybe the Californians are just more effusive about their gadgetry or maybe the Sony Reader just isn’t cool.)
But $300 is a small price to pay to shut up my Kindle-convert friends and so earlier today I called one of them to say that he’d worn me down and that I would finally be moving my reading on to the digital plane. At best I thought he’d be pleased – at worst, smug.
“No!” he cried. “The Kindle is evil! I’m moving back to proper books”