That’s right, the Kindle is out of stock just in time for the holiday rush. It is that cool and great that more people want one than Amazon anticipated (or maybe Amazon played a marketing trick on us all by using the ol’ econ lesson of less supply=more demand, those sly dogs).
Just so we’re clear, I am pro-Kindle. I am pro-digitization. Since Amazon released Kindle in November, a litany of blog posts and news articles have swamped my Google Reader on the subject, commenting on everything from the hideous design to the relevancy of such a device among modern readers. Unfortunately, I can’t argue that Kindle isn’t ugly and expensive, but I disagree with the traditionalist readers out there that e-books are unnecessary and even potentially harmful to the book business. The digital wave has already washed over the economy, and because publishing has not successfully fought off its own technophobia, the industry isn’t making as much money as it could (and everyone is underpaid for what they do).
E-books are not required, and they will not replace print books any time soon. What they do is represent another format for reading. I don’t understand why people are so afraid of this. If you don’t want an e-book reader, don’t buy one. Let me address some of the typical arguments against digital books.
1) The book format is already ideal. Ok this is true, but e-books are not meant to completely replace the p-book, but rather provide an alternate format design for speed and convenience. You can still purchase those very special and sentimental tomes in print, then download a little light reading or reference manual. E and P can coexist in publishing, people!
2) Piracy will cause publishers and authors to lose money. Umm, has it occurred to anyone who makes this argument that piracy already exists among p-book readers? Once you buy a book, you have free reign to copy it, loan it to all your friends, whatever. If you buy an audio book on a CD, you can email the files to people, burn them onto new CDs, and share them online. How is an e-book any different? Just because there is no physical form backing up the file doesn’t mean it will be a beacon to people looking to rip publishers off. We all saw the music industry fall to its knees because of piracy, but we should also acknowledge that the audience for e-books is somewhat different than MP3 users. Can you really imagine college kids pirating e-books in their dorms at 2 am?
3) Nobody will pay that much for a device that doesn’t do anything else. The Kindle is the just first step. It is ugly and expensive, but Amazon got a few things right. They are going to pay for your internet connection so you can painlessly buy and download books. Like iTunes, Amazon understands that if it is easier to buy a file than to steal it, most people will buy it. Wait a year or two. I predict that the Kindle will be sleek, reasonably priced, and popular.