I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t even a little interested in Amazon’s Kindle.
The iPod comparisons are expected, but the differences between how we consume music and books may break the Kindle. For instance, an album usually lasts for about 40 minutes. A 200 page book usually takes something like 3-5 hours for me to read. Because of music’s quicker consumption I understand why someone may want to bring their entire music collection with them wherever they go. But with a book I can’t stand reading more than once at a time.
Most everybody enjoys listening to music, but books are another thing. For a while it looked like people were getting back into reading, but it turns out that it was mostly Harry Potter. Books still have an uphill battle against TV, videogames, and movies.
One incredible competitive advantage that books have against all these other mediums is that in some places you can get books for free. They’re called libraries. You can even get more than one at a time if you want.
Do you read books more than once? I rarely do – only the good ones. With music I might listen to something I didn’t like after a year to see if my opinion has changed. Not so with books. I’d only need a book on hand for reference.
What makes a public library great is that you can borrow a book for a while. Due dates usually last 2 weeks, but you can renew without problems. And since you return the book there’s no clutter in your living space when you’re done.
But libraries aren’t cool. They’re for old people. They’re for awkward, nerdy girls and single women in their 40s with cats. They’re for eggheads. They’re not hip to youth culture like TV, movies, videogames, and music are.
Although, on the web, it doesn’t matter. You know when I go to a library? When my books are in and when I return those books. That’s because the bulk of my interaction with my local library system is on their website. I can request books, create a queue, and check on the status of my requests.
Imagine if libraries thought more like Netflix. What if there was a social network that integrated right with your local library? You could create a queue, maintain a log of the books you’ve already read. You could see what your friends have out and what they’ve requested. Like Netflix, you could view top books by region. You could get recommendations. The discovery process would completely revolve around the reader.
Would you join?
If libraries thought more like Netflix then libraries might be cool. People would like reading again. When people talk about getting a book they’ll use a phrase with a made up word that sounds like “Oh – I Netflixed that.”
As for the Kindle, I love the idea, but not the price tag. Many of the criticisms of the Kindle sound like the same ones that the iPod got when it was first released, but I can’t get all the books I own right now on the Kindle either. I don’t know if it will flop, but $400 for entry to a $9.99 library of DRMed books that I can’t lend to friends, but could also get for free, is a hard sell. It doesn’t solve many problems for me. Getting a new book in a minute is cool, but I’m still reading ones on my queue. I won’t get to it until I finish those.
I think I’ll wait for Kindle 5.0.