From the Laboratorium Archives: Don’t Buy That Kindle

As I said a year and a half ago:

Amazon’s named the device the Kindle, “to evoke the crackling ignition of knowledge,” in journalist Steven Levy’s phrase. Unfortunately, the name is more revealing than intended. The only “crackling ignition” most Kindle users will hear is the sound of their e-books going up in flames.

In related news, I now own a Kindle and I love it. It’s an amazingly convenient way to read, and I expect it to cause a substantial increase in my fiction consumption. With Amazon’s help, we’re finally figuring out how to do e-books right.

That’s why it’s all the more important to get the law and policy right, too. With dead-tree media, the bookstore can’t come to your house and steal back your books, and copyright law doesn’t put pressure on them to try. It’s time for a real law of digital property, one that’s capable of trumping intellectual property, just as first sale rights in physical property trump intellectual property.

James, has Amazon at all changed its DRM policies? Or do you think the convenience of the device outweighs DRM’s flaws?

Like Steven, I’d be curious to know why/when the bit flipped from “the DRM should be a deal-killer for Joe Consumer” to “I now own a Kindle and I love it.”

I’m still in the ‘DRM is a deal-killer’ camp, but it is only a matter of time before I buy something in this class. The only real question is if I vote with my dollars now by buying another device that comes less tethered to DRM, or wait it out for Kindle to become less DRM-y, or if I should just go ahead and get the Kindle because my dollars don’t matter anyway.

(The irony of all this is that it was Amazon’s mp3 store that finally allowed me to ditch buying mp3s after years and years of waiting.)

One factor is that I got mine as a gift. Another is that I treat anything I “buy” for it as potentially subject to Amazon’s calling backsies. So far, I’ve primarily been using it for books I don’t expect to need to hang onto once I finish reading them. A third factor is that, contrary to my initial assessment, it’s now relatively simple to put your own content, from whatever source, onto the Kindle. I plan to start converting PDFs of law review articles and reading them that way. That recreates the iPod ecology if you stock it with MP3s.

I didn’t actually own an ipod, for similar reasons. (I did own other similar devices that weren’t so intimately tied to a leading purveyor of DRM.) But yeah, there are a fair number of sources of content out there that aren’t a problem; some friends are working on high-speed book ripping as well, which may reduce some of my other concerns. (I’d heard that pdfs don’t actually convert that well, but obviously the DX eliminates that concern.) But yeah, I wouldn’t look a gift-horse/reader in the mouth.

(Obviously in my previous comment I meant that it was Amazon’s DRM-free mp3 store that allowed me to ditch CDs, not ditch mp3s.)