20 November 2007

Kindle

Dear Amazon,

You’re so almost there with your new Kindle e-book. There are just a few minor details you need to fix to get me on board.

First of all, you need Mac support, and preferably Linux support as well, both for content creation and for reading books. There’s really no excuse for not having reader support, as you have a working Mobipocket reader in Java that will run on Mac and Linux, you just haven’t taken the time to package it up properly. The creation tools ought to be a pretty simple task to port too; a command line version would be fine. I don’t even care if it can’t apply DRM; I just want a way to be able to package up free text.

Secondly, you need to either drop the DRM, or drop the price of the books. Let’s consider a real example here. I’m about to start reading Charlie Stross’s The Atrocity Archives.

Let’s get one thing straight here: because there’s DRM, I can’t sell the book when I’m done with it, which breaks the first sale doctrine. Therefore, you’re not actually selling e-books, you’re renting them to me for an indefinite period of time, a bit like Netflix does with DVDs. I’d respect you more if you admitted that.

Anyhow, If I go the Kindle route, it’s $9.99 for the book.

Suppose I go the paper route instead. I can pick up a new copy on amazon.com marketplace for $12 plus $4 shipping = $16. When I’m done reading it, I can sell it for $9 second hand. Total cost to me = $7.

So the Kindle is more expensive, and I can’t actually buy the books. That to me is a poor deal.

Oh, sure, Kindle prices include network bandwidth… but with paper books, I had to include the cost of physically shipping dead tree across the country, and I still came out ahead. If you can’t beat the paper book price-per-reading, you’re doing something seriously wrong.

We’ve all watched the music industry flail around overcharging for DRM-burdened files and get nowhere. Learn from their mistakes. Drop the DRM, or drop the book prices to $5 or so (comparable to a DVD or video game rental, plus some markup to cover network costs) and I’ll order my Kindle tomorrow.

Update: Of course, if you gave me the Kindle for free, I’d use it to buy books from you, and look on the extra cost as a convenience fee.

© mathew 2017