At the Ref Desk (11/7/19): Everyone who watched the morning news has come over to ask if that was me on TV. [more...]

Kindle Swindle

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 11/21/07 (12:34pm)

Please stop talking about the demise of the traditional book! To do so in the same breath as the Amazon Kindle gives this contraption way more credibility than it’s due.

The defenders of this device say we shouldn’t rush to judgment while at the same time they make such extraordinary associations.

It’s marketing. That’s all.

UPDATE: Ultimately, we're going to describe all the hype surrounding the Amazon Kindle as "The Little Bandwagon Effect That Couldn't".

I mean, Amazon said to the media, 'jump', and the media responded, 'how high'? (Here's a particularly embarrassing example from Businessweek.)

But the public won't have any of this. The level of resistance is due in large part to how far the claims for this device simply defy common sense.

Hype having not worked, the next level of argument goes along the lines of, 'how dare you pass judgment on this device without actually laying hands on it.'

I like to call this the Rotten Apple Syndrome where one side says the apple is rotten and the other insists that you first have to take a bite out of it before saying one way or the other.

The truth is, we base judgments on spec all the time.

The promo for this device goes on and on about being able to subscribe to newspapers like the NYT and WaPo -- journals that typically publish all their photos online in color. I don't need to see a color image on the Kindle's b&w screen to know it won't be satisfactory.

I don't need to have the thing in my possession to know that a unit unable to handle pdf's natively is inferior to one that can.

Lastly, I see no reason to ignore wildly successful alternatives -- as if this product were being launched in some kind of technological vacuum.

As adults we make decisions based on prior experience all the time. It's what keeps us from getting screwed time after time.


One of the absolutely best write-ups on the Amazon Kindle by William Powers in the LA Times:

...the farce known as the e-book is back this year, thanks to and its new device, the Kindle -- which, like innumerable electronic books before it, promises to kill off books printed on paper. The high-tech industrial complex has been trying to get that antique medium, with its hopelessly unwired pages, out of our lives for years. This is a bit strange because nobody, except a few self-styled digital revolutionaries, views the old-fashioned book as an obstacle to human happiness. In fact, to most readers the book is still exactly what's it always been -- pleasure incarnate.

This is what makes the perennial e-book ritual so delightfully absurd. It's a revolution with no popular support, a technological turning point that never turns, despite the best efforts of its credulous promoters. [h/t LisNews]