Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ebooks and the Kindle

Having advocated/wished for some form of an electronic book for over 20 years now, I was very excited to read about Amazon's new Kindle ebook. They got a lot of things right, it is always connected to the internet via the cell phone network, there 10s of thousands of books available and best of all it uses epaper -- which is much easier to read than an LCD screen, and uses no power until you change the page.

Unfortunately, titles cost $10 and you can't share them of course, DRM strikes again. But this post is not so much about the Kindle as it is about ebooks in general, and their impact on society.

Is the Kindle the future of books? Yes, and no, the Kindle is not a "true" ebook anymore than a model T was a self parking Lexus, or an MP3 player circa 1999 was an iPod. In time, someone will address all the concerns expressed here. For now, I will say that the Kindle is extremely ugly and I won't reiterate its many deficiencies. Despite the Kindle's problems, I will say that the day of dead tree data is over. Killing a tree, grinding it into a pulp with poisonous chemicals, then packaging it with yet more dead tree boxes, shipping it thousands of kilometers with giant polluting trucks, storing them in the huge museums that some people call libraries or book stores, until they are worn out, and then packing them up in more paper boxes and burning them or burying them somewhere is beyond stupid - it is criminal.

As far as paying $10 dollars for a book, this is theft, it is too much. The only true value of a book is in its IP. The ultimate goal is to cut profiteers like Amazon's Bezos right out of the loop. For those dinosaurs who still love the smell and feel of books -- you can always recreate the "experience" of reading and recycle by collecting some old newspaper and wrap your kindle in that. That way it will even dirty your fingers - just like a cheap romance novel.

The Kindle of the future will hold hundreds of thousands of books! And in no way will the paltry power requirements and this tiny bit of plastic be worse than all that trash. Besides it will be solar powered. Why do we still have newspapers? It is insane! Megatonnes of waste so some dino can get his sports scores! I do not think so.

Think about the possibilities for students who will be able to download the latest textbooks for cheap - assuming that we can get greedy billionaire thieves like Bezos out the loop. Impossible you say? They are already doing it in Korea, a country apparently not crippled by the turgid thinking of stuck in a rut bibliophiles and greedy lawyers.

A book is a terrible way to acquire data, you cannot look up a word, check a reference, resize the text, and you sure as shit can not read your email in between. In 20 years there will, thank god, be no books. Just like you cannot buy a ridiculous film camera anymore. (And good riddance to an outdated, polluting technology.) Oh, in the future there may still be specialty books such as coffee table books and the like for a while, but even those will be superseded by upcoming superiour storage and display technologies.

I do not love books -- I love the stories and the information. And I do not love the dry dead corpses of what were once living trees that breathed, shaded, and were homes for animals. Save a tree, save the environment, and buy an ebook, just not the Kindle, it is ugly and Bezos has enough money. Most of it stored electronically by the way, not on paper - yecch!

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