Kindle Everywhere

There was a homeless dude that camped near my home as a child.  We always saw him walking along the business strip and he often came into the shops and diners while we were there.  He’d chat with the business owners, something would change hands and he’d walkout.

Everybody liked him.  He was always nice and polite and even as a kid I recognized that he would do odd jobs for the business owners in exchange for a few bucks, a cup of coffee or bite to eat. That’s just the way things were.  They were that way for a long time before I was born.

His name was Kendall.  My brother and I would see him and say, “Man, that Kendall is everywhere.”

Back then, I never would have guessed our childhood observation would inspire the title of a blog post.  Nor could I imagine what blogs or computers were.

Back in this post, I wrote that one of the things keeping me from buying a Kindle was that I couldn’t check out library books on it or it didn’t have a Netflix-like subscription plan for checking out books.

I only buy a few of the books that I read.  I didn’t want to have to start buying more just to have something to read on a Kindle.

Not long ago, Amazon.com started offering Kindle library checkouts through a service called Overdrive.  My library hooked up with Overdrive.  I have a Kindle app for my iPhone.  I’ve read portions of a few free Kindle books on my iPod and iPhone, but nothing that has had held my interest of yet.

Until now.

I borrowed (or downloaded) Daniel Hannan‘s The New Road to Serfdom.  It’s holding my interest.  And, since the phone goes just about everywhere I go, so does the Kindle App that is loaded on it and my library checkouts.

Now, I’m finding new snippets of time to read my library books that I could not use to read before because it was too difficult to carry library books everywhere.

For example, this evening while I waited in line at a retailer, I pulled out my iPhone, tapped the Kindle app and read a few screens of my borrowed library book.

And for good measure, here’s a great quote from Hannan’s book that I read while standing in line.  Here, he’s contrasting the Constitutions of the United States and the European Union (p. 44):

Where the one was based on empowering the people and controlling the state, the other was based on empowering the state and controlling the people.

I’m sure you can guess which was which.  Or maybe not.  Who knows?

Anyway, thanks to the folks at Amazon, Apple, Overdrive and my local library and the ever present communications networks (that allowed me to check out a library book and receive it instantaneously and not have to worry about getting it back on time) for helping me improve my life a little bit and read books in places I would not before.

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Kindle Under $100

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Welcome to your new library

I just noticed this today.  Amazon has some new Kindles that come in well under a $100. Apparently, that’s the “sponsored” version which includes a sponsored screensaver.  It’s $109 without that.

And, you can get library books on the Kindle now.

I bet this will be a hot seller for Christmas.

Netflix for Kindle? II

This post expressing my desire for a Netflix-like service for Kindle-like devices continues to be one of my most popular.  Most people find it through search engines.   That’s Exhibit A that there’s interest in the idea.

My local library just announced a new ebook loan service.  The loaned ebooks can be read on most devices, except Kindle. Darn.  But, it’s still a welcome move in the right direction.

The library reported that they reached their capacity on loaning ebooks within days.  That’s Exhibit B that there’s interest in the service.

Dear Amazon.com:  You can be the iTunes and the Netflix for ebooks.  Some people like to buy their books.  Some people like to borrow.  Some do both.   Currently, you serve one-and-half out of three value propositions (the first and half of the third), when you could serve all three.

While libraries, like mine, will get in the game, folks will find a value prop in a wider selection of titles, better queue planning and being able to use such a service with the Kindle.

As an analogy, I pay for Blockbuster Online (I still haven’t switched to Netflix mainly due to laziness), I still rent movies at the local Blockbuster and get some DVDs from the library.

P.S.  If anyone out there uses Netflix on the Wii, let me know how that works for you.  Did you have to buy extra memory or download any additional software for the Wii?

Value Prop: Print vs. Kindle

Amazon.com will be attempting to fix one advantage print has over Kindle by introducing a book loan feature (maybe my local library will be able to use this somehow).

Amazon.com states that the loan period will be a 14 day window.  If I were designing this feature, I’d make it as true to print loaning as possible.  When you loan someone a book, you don’t have access to that book until the borrower returns it.

If you wish to give them the book, so be it.  Amazon.com might argue that the inability to pass the book along is reflected in the lower price, but I don’t buy that.

It would be really neat to be able to gift a Kindle copy of a book away when you’re finished and then track where it goes from there.  Maybe 10 years later, you see the copy of Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell that you originally purchased was read by 20 people.  Might be a good conversation starter when you meet those people.

One other advantage print has over the Kindle is more reading time on airplanes.  With print you can read gate-to-gate.  Since Kindle is an electronic device airlines require you to turn off and stow at the beginning and end of flights, you can lose a considerable amount of reading time on planes leaving you to stare at the seat back in front of you when you could be getting in some quality reading.

It would be nice to be able to overcome this restriction.

If you plan accordingly, you can have the bulky books on the Kindle and a slim magazine to read during Kindle stow time.  But, it would be nice not to have to do that.

Netflix for Kindle?

Is there a Netflix-type service for the Kindle, Nook or other ebook devices, where for a monthly fee the subscriber can have any book or two checked out on the device?  It would essentially be a fee-based ebook library.

If not, I can provide a sample size of one (me) that there may be a market for that.

One thing keeping me from buying a Kindle, or similar device, is that I don’t really want to buy all the books I read (thank you local library) and keep them.  But, I can see myself paying a monthly fee to have an ebook or two checked out at a time.

Maybe this service already exists and I don’t know about it.  Perhaps my local library will start the service soon.  They do have a similar service for audiobooks that you can download onto your iPod devices, but the title selection is limited.

Below are a couple other reasons keeping me from buying an ebook device.  Again, maybe there are existing solutions to these and I don’t know about it.

One concern is  with book file formats.  Will today’s ebook files work on tomorrow’s ebook devices?  I’d hate to keep having to buy or convert my ebook library files every time a better ebook device came along.

I do buy books that I like and want to keep in my personal library.  The reasons I buy books for my personal library are to have easy access to those books that I’d like to reference in the future and to be able to lend to others who are interested in reading my recommendations.

As far as I can tell, the ebook device would be great for reference.   But, I’m not sure whether I would be able to lend my ebook files to friends.  Is that possible?

Perhaps, the more limited versatility of ebooks, along with a cheaper distribution (printing, shipping, etc.)  is reflected in the lower price of ebooks, and these are things I will have to give up to move into the ebook world.   But, I’m sure there are creative people out there who can figure out how to retain more of the benefits of hard copy books, while still capturing a lower cost for a cheaper distribution method.

The New Library

I’ve posted recently about my late adoption of Blockbuster’s online business model, about my satisfaction with my local library and about Apple’s iPad vs. Amazon’s Kindle.

The thought occurred to me this morning that these are all on a crash course and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.   Here are some thoughts on what might happen:

1) Libraries begin to offer media checkouts for the iPad, Kindle, etc. that can be handled online.  Mine already does this with audiobooks, so there’s some precedent for this.

2) Amazon, or other online sites, will begin offering a subscription service like Blockbuster Online/Netflix.  For a monthly fee you get to have two to three books checked out to your reading device at a time.

3) Long-term: Libraries will not need as much space to hold books.  They will struggle for relevance.  Some will figure out other creative ways of using the space.  My library already offers story times, book clubs, entertainment for children, internet access, classes and lectures.  Maybe they’ll expand these types of offerings and become more of a hub for community education and activities.

The Other Seth on the Kindle

Seth Godin has some wonderful ideas about what the Kindle should do to beat back iPad.    But, I have news for Seth.  Even a $49 or free Kindle isn’t going to beat the iPad.

Kindle was an awesome product. But, from what I can tell, the iPad is that much better.  The price is relatively immaterial.  Why have two devices that do about the same thing, but one does it much better?

Kindle may be able to occupy a profitable niche for book-0-philes, but unless it pulls an HTC leap in product development, it’s going to lose to iPad.

Kindle is a sunk cost. My guess (and as always, I could be wrong) is that Amazon would better off tying in with the iPad early before Apple’s iBookstore starts taking a chunk of their business.

I wish both devices would support pdf’s better.