Monday, October 17, 2011

Ordered a Kindle

Most people on the internet are mainly consumers of content. They contribute very little beyond the occasional link or comment, but they read and listen and watch a lot. I attribute it to the genius of the late Steve Jobs that he realized that existing personal computer were built by content creators for content creators, enabling him to start a revolution of devices built for content consumption instead, which was closer to what the public wanted. This included the iPad, which instead of earlier, failed, attempts at making tablet computers did away with content creation features like handwriting recognition, concentrated on features to consume content.

Unfortunately I am more of a content creator than a content consumer. I don't listen to music much, nor do I spend a lot of time watching videos on the internet. Instead I spend a lot of time writing, mostly in the form of this blog. As a result I don't own a tablet computer (nor a smart phone), as these devices simply aren't all that suitable for content creation. You *can* send an e-mail from an iPhone, or write a blog entry on an iPad, but given the choice you'd rather do it on a regular PC.

But before I started writing, I did a lot of reading. And I still do. Thus a tablet computer mostly suitable for reading wouldn't be all that useless to me. Especially if it didn't cost quite as much as an iPad, and wouldn't demand a monthly fee for 3G mobile connectivity. Thus this weekend I ordered a Kindle from Amazon, the version with keyboard and free 3G (although I'm aware that it only has limited internet capabilities). Even with accessories and shipping that cost me only half of what an iPad would have cost me. And instead of having a monthly cost for 3G, I expect the Kindle to save me money, because in many European countries English language books are quite expensive, and a Kindle E-book version will be almost always much cheaper.

Nevertheless it is far too early to declare myself a Kindle fan, I'll have to receive it and test is thoroughly first (probably during my Christmas holidays). One weird first experience with the Kindle results from the fact that I live in a country without its own Amazon store. In case you aren't good at European geography, Belgium is a little country between Germany and France, across the Channel from England. All three of these neighbours have Amazon shops. But as I found out, I am not allowed to buy a Kindle in either of these countries. Oh no, I am an "international" customer and have to buy the Kindle directly at in the USA. After exchange rate, value added tax, and shipping, that cost me about 10% more than if I had been allowed to buy the thing in Europe.

I have already been looking into what books I would like to buy for the Kindle. 870,000 of the 1 million Kindle E-books appear to be available for "international" customers (Europe), not bad. And there are a lot of "classics" available for free, as well as books for prices like 99 cents. But in other respects the Kindle store is still very old-fashioned, and does not use all the possibilities of digital distribution: For example I would like to buy all of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels; Amazon sells them as E-books, but doesn't offer them as a bundle. They aren't even much help in determining which books I would need to buy to have a complete collection, as a search for "pratchett discworld" gives 83 results for the 39 Discworld novels. I'll have to get a list somewhere else and buy the books one by one. And then I'll probably have to fiddle with the settings to get the books to show up in the right order on the Kindle. It appears that only for authors that have a "complete works" print edition, you can buy the books together. And I've already noticed that while the Jane Austen books are free individually, the complete works of Jane Austen costs money. I'd say Steam does digital distribution better than Amazon.

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