Kindle and the wealth of nations

Kindle My Kindle just arrived.  It’s a stunner.

The first thing to say is that this device is just not photogenic.  It is much more pleasing to the eye and touch than any photo, including this one, prepared me for.

My Kindle recognized me without registration.  To get things started a bought a copy of The Wealth of Nations, a little more than $3 in this format. 

It arrived immediately.  Whispernet?  Whistlenet.

The first sentence of The Wealth of Nations begins: "The annual labor of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniences of life…"

Beautiful to read this black type on gray text (and, yes, thrilling to be one of the first people to read the master in this format).  What caught my eye was the term "fund."  We use it a lot these days, but what does it mean exactly?  I asked Kindle’s on-board dictionary.  It gave a definition and then this:

ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin fundus ‘bottom, piece of landed property.’ The earliest sense was ‘the bottom or lowest part,’ later ‘foundation or basis’; the association with money has perhaps arisen from the idea of landed property being a source of wealth.  (The New Oxford American Dictionary.)

How great is that?  It is very great.  (Gives "the lower 40" new meaning, among other things.)

I used the Kindle keyboard to capture this thought  It’s little, the keyboard is, but much better than the sort of thing we must now endure from our cell phone.  Let’s put it this way: no one is going to write the next Wealth of Nations on this thing, but notes it can do.   And this makes the Kindle dramatically better than its Sony competitor.   

The design issue: The early chatter online has gone out of its way to scorn the appearance of the Kindle.  It is a good way off the iPod standard. It is not something that you need to hold, that you have to own.  But it is attractive and likable in its way. 

The cost issue.  The Kindle seems to me cheap at ~$400.  It is creates a lot of value, not the least of which is that it gives us the first credible device for the delivery and transport of the digital book.  This is $400 well spent. 

As to the cost of books, well, I think any time you can buy the work of the master for a little over 3 bucks, Amazon and capitalism have triumphed yet again.

6 thoughts on “Kindle and the wealth of nations”

  1. Hi Grant, congratulations on your new Kindle!

    The Kindle launch reminds me of the first iPod – I was using a Yep mp3 player that completely sucked (both device and software) along with a portable CD player, lugging around lots of CDs in my backpack – quite cumbersome. The iPod seemed a terrific device, but the features+pricepoint made me think twice, so I waited and continued carting everything around. I hated the “confinement” of CDs – that I was stuck listening to individual CDs – even those that had only 1 song I liked (at the time I didn’t have a CD burner either – too expensive).

    While doing my long tedious treatise, I finally caved & purchased a 3rd generation iPod (the one with 4 buttons at top). I’d just upgraded to a laptop with a CD burner. Suddenly my eyes opened to the possibilities the iPod provided – and for the first time in many years I saw my dusty CD collection from a new perspective. I’d never before had so much CONTROL over my purchased content – all the boundaries were suddenly gone. I spent 2 months going thru CDs building my online library. It helped that the iTunes software is so intuitive. Then I began purchasing songs from iTunes, filling out my music collection. Except for the crappy battery life, I loved that iPod (I’d never “loved” a device before). It saved me on many a long road trip, long wait, boring treadmill routine, you name it – and I finally appreciated all the CD content I’d acquired but hadn’t listened to in years. When the battery started to falter earlier this year I ponied up $350 for an 80 GB Video iPod, and my love affair with the device blossomed further with the addition of video.

    The reason I’m so reflective is that I think owning and using devices like the iPod and Kindle aren’t just purchases – they’re PROCESSES, and if everything is “just right” (hardware, software, content) the “love affair” begins and there’s no looking back. Compared to the iPod, I think the Kindle has 2 out of 4 points going for it:
    1) Its easy to use – both hardware and software are quite intuitive (especially the wireless purchasing)
    2) Content variety – books, newspapers, blogs, RSS feeds, so there’s plenty of CHOICE and like having a suitcase of text anywhere you go.

    These areas need work:
    3) Price vs functionality – $400 is alot for something that doesn’t display color (purists can argue, but there’s plenty of content out there that just isn’t the same w/o color). The scroll-thingy is also a bit 1970s-klunkish (how about a blackberryish scroll wheel or scroll button?).
    4) Content acquisition – unfortunately I can’t load my home library into the Kindle like I could do with my CD collection and iPod. I guess I could scan everything into PDFs – but even then, Kindle won’t open it. It would be nice to have a “bridge” device that could help me turn my favorite books into digital files I could keep on the Kindle. Once I digitized my home library I’ll be ready for new purchases at Amazon, but I’m not going to repurchase my favorite books at $9.99 each just to have them digital.

    I’m not bashing the Kindle – I think its great for a 1st gen device and, being a voracious reader, I’m quite excited. But lugging a paperback or two on a plane is still more convenient for now. I think in 2-4 yrs they’ll have worked out the bugs, enhanced the features, and somehow addressed the home library issue to some satisfaction – and the process will be an enjoyable journey. Then I’m in!!!

  2. Wow, Grant, I can’t believe your first purchase was a public-domain work and you didn’t even mention DRM in your post! As Patricia gets at with her home library lament, the usability issues will be with the software controls, not the hardware.

  3. Grant,

    I got mine too and think this is a game changer. With its search function I’m still researching the best converters to get all of my stuff I want into it. Then I’ll never lose them! And I sure wish the Financial Times was on the subscription list .

    I have found it easier to browse for content from my Mac and then automatically transfer it to the Kindle. My *only* complaint is the pages turn a wee bit slowly for my casual book reading.

  4. I’m not convinced at all. And reading your second post, I’m really not convinced on this. It’s just not what I like about books. It’s not the words only. It’s the books that I like. The actual feel of paper. I’m tactile that way. And frankly, I am a sucker for a room full of books. If I walk into someone’s house — I want to see their books! And there is a communal aspect in that. And a bit of showing off. (I remember every move in college — I was sure to put my most pretentious books on the outside of open crates. And I always felt a need to read things like Marx in public spaces — the more commercial the public space together. This is probably why I left an academic program to study performance art at an art college!)

    But, but, but… the packaging for Kindle is amazing. Absolutely stunning. It seems worth it just for that. Apparently, Amazon has not forgotten the importance of touch.

  5. Santa brought my Kindle. I love it. I’ve used it to read 2 1/2 books since Christmas. I love being able to make the type bigger or smaller at will. I love being able to manage a piece of fudge and a page turn without any disasters (except, of course, for Fudge Remorse), I love 95,000 books (or whatever) a minute away. But my brain’s got that foggy, tired feeling of “too much, too much.” I remember the first time I realized I wasn’t going to be able to read all the books in the library. My WV hometown (pop 1300) library was a store front. I couldn’t imagine wanting to read all the stuff that was there, but I think I kind of figured I could wade through. At least, I must have had some basic assumptions about that, because my first visit to a (not very much) bigger library in a (not very much) bigger town was a shocker. Wow. They probably had more Hardy Boys and Nancy Drews than I could manage in the allotted time of my six-week visit. Plus, all the rest. Rows and rows. I was thrilled, of course, but also, a little … dazed. That’s how I feel about my Kindle, a foggy, dizzy, never gonna get there funk. It’s my ongoing digital conundrum. I can almost imagine the possibilities, the magic permutations, of the downloads, uploads, connections, functions, convenience, solutions, evolutions, revolutions and it triggers a kind of greedy, avaricious, restless … hopelessness. But in a good way. Maybe I just need a nap.

    So, I tried to get this Blog on my Kindle, but they don’t seem to offer it yet. What? Are they crazy?

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