Saturday, March 7, 2009

Diamond Age

Dear Amazon,

I'm quite cross with you.  I am what I imagine would be your target market for your new electronic book product, the Kindle 2.  Even as I write this, part of me screams "must get this!"

But I spank that part of me like an petulant child.   "NO," I say, "because I'm the boss of me!" Sometimes I spank too hard.  Sometimes I cry.  Sometimes I imagine myself so small I will go away and live among the electrons flying around inside a magical electronic book.  But my book is nano-tech and will get to know me and be my friend.  It will help me develop into a person who'll bring down THE MAN and free my people from the impoverished life the new economy has created for them. 

Oh wait, that's the plot of one of my favorite books, Diamond Age.  If you click on that link, you'll get brought right to the Amazon page where you can buy it.  New for $11!  Used for $.89! or you can come over and barrow it from me for free if you promise to bring it back or lend it to someone else when you're done.  I don't really lend books out any more because we all know no one, including myself, ever gives them back.  Not out of malice, it's just the way people are.  There's something about books that beg to be passed around again and again and again until they end up in a used book store or recycled into pulp that will become the books of the future or toilet paper.   Instead I give my old books away.  If they come back it's like I got a little gift!  If not, they become part of paperback karma.   It's really nice.

So along comes the Kindle 2.   I really want to like this but frankly there's no way I'm going to drop 9.99 on something I can't lend or sell to a used book store.   Diamond Age is an old book.  I can get it from Amazon used in hard cover for $5.48.  Used paperback for $3.33.  Yeah, they are going to take up some space on my book shelf and destroy some trees, but the cost savings and flexibility of the dead tree editions makes them arguably superior.   The fact that they sit side by side on the Amazon page make me think that not even Amazon cares that much for their new toy.

So, here's what I would do if I were king.  I would make all ebooks $3.  That's fair right?  I might have to do some more research on the average cost of a used paperback, but that's how much I think it would be fair to charge for a bit of data streamed to you.  Especially considering the cost of the Kindle itself is way more than I spend on books in a year.  If Amazon really wants this thing to work, they had better trim down that cost, or give some crazy deal where if you buy one you get a year of free book downloads.   That's a lot of simolians to plunk down on something that has no content at all.  Think about it, you could buy a TV and get free content, an iSomething and get access to tons of free podcasts and music or Satellite radio and and get a few hundred channels of music and talk.  Yeah, the Kindle had a basic web browser, but the web is interactive and you're barely human these days unless you can post a picture of your friends doing something embarrassing or letting the world know you're happy it's friday. 

So, for the time being there will be no ebook in my life.  Sad, as it's one of my top dreams, next to having a robot friend or piloting a Battlestar Galactica Viper.   I predict any similar device will fail until someone finds a way to make one that's similar in function for under $100 that comes with a bunch of book credits... oh yeah, and a vast library of books that can be purchased for less than $3.  Maybe this day will never come... maybe I'll have to wait for my cybernetically enhanced eParrot that can download books and read them too me.  Now that will kick ass.   Fuck ear buds, imagine how cool we'd look if we had a parrot on our shoulders reading to us. 


Hedr_goblin said...

I love that book. I was just recomending that series to a friend recently. One of the best series I've ever read.

I've owned that particular book, like three times or more. Read it to pieces once. Bought to to lend out, and never got it back, more than once.

Love stories like that, that play in the back of your head.

zerocrossing said...

I know. It is an amazing story, even if his endings seem more like the publisher hit him over the head at some point and said, "just end it now!" I love the idea that technology can flatten the world in a way that it will no longer matter if you have money to access knowledge, it will be available to anyone who cares to seek it out.

Thanks for following my blog too! That makes me happy.