Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kindle Fail

We were talking about the Kindle at dinner last night. I've had one for a few months. It works well for normal reading, like novels, where you start at page one and read to the end.The battery life is excellent, the display is crisp, and you can readily make the font bigger - a nice feature for us oldsters.

It's less useful for technical reading, when you're reading for information, to find out how to do something. You may want to skip around a lot, reread sections, and take notes. The Kindle lets you do all this, but not nearly as conveniently as a paper book and a pen. And the display's awkward for tech reading, too: graphics are poor, and things like the lines of a computer program don't wrap gracefully. 

But the big problem with the Kindle is its complete lack of a sane book-sharing model. In the non-virtual world, I can hand a book to someone else when I'm done with it. She can then give it to a third person. That person can hand off to someone else, or sell the book to a used bookstore, or give it to charity. The book can change hands till its binding falls apart. That's a lot of reuse.

The Kindle has nothing like this. You can share downloaded books across multiple Kindles as long as the Kindles are on the same Amazon account. This is fine if you're sharing within the family, but a challenge when you want to pass a book to a friend - do you really want to open up your credit card to anything he may download? And, of course, resales and donations to charity are out of the question. (You sometimes have the ability to lend books to other readers for a limited time, but this is at the discretion of each book's publisher, and I haven't seen it turned on for any of the books I've bought.)

Amazon needs to fix this. I should be able to easily transfer anything on my Kindle to another person's Kindle, just once. After that, the e-book belongs to the owner of the other Kindle, who can do what she wants with it. That should include transfers for money, to create a used e-book market. Of course there should be a limit to the number of transfers, maybe 8 in total. (Yes, hackers will find a way to subvert the transfer limit. I expect that most Kindle owners will play by the rules anyway.) 

It's interesting - I never realized how much book-sharing was part of my reading experience till Amazon took it away.



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