Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Kindle Library Theory

This xkcd comic (cropped to fit by me) has little to do with the official Kindle Library Theory (except that the issue might not exist if the Kindle was really The Hitchhiker's Guide...). Still, it serves its purpose as a great prelude to what is, in my opinion, the greatest flaw of the Kindle and the main reason why I won't be purchasing one in the near future.

First off, amendments from my previous Kindle post: According to sources (which may or may not be reliable... I'm still looking into it), the Kindle does allow other eBooks to be uploaded in the same way as you might send yourself a document. This is the feature that costs 10 cents, though according to Amazon, there's a loophole. Weeks into reading and rereading the Kindle's product page have made no advancements in my understanding of this feature, thus making it rather moot. However, I have learned that documents or eBooks cannot be shared from Kindle to Kindle. I somehow doubt this is a problem with other eReaders, seeing as I don't think most eReaders have a huge Amazon store behind them providing them with eBooks. Still, it exists in the Kindle - the only way to "lend" a book to a friend is in the literal sense of lending the Kindle.

And here's where it gets complicated. Normal libraries have a standard formula: pay once a flat fee, pay for overdue books, and then everything is free. The registration fee is also usually quite low. Overdue fines make sense. Most libraries can't last on donations alone. So how does this translate to an eReader? A few ideas.

1. Make it possible to "rent" books. For different prices, you can have different programs. Say, for a certain yearly price, you can check out two books at a time (check out periods of a month), one renewal allowed and then you can't check that specific book out again, only buy it. This encourages readers who love certain books to come back and buy it anyways while readers simply seeking a quick, free read and do that as well and don't have to worry about buying a silly book they'll never read again anyways. If you pay more, you can check out more books at a time and can renew them for longer too.

2. Have some sort of price reduction for previously checked out books. If you're in a higher ranked program, get special privileges in regards to Kindle purchases while still making most books available for free.

3. Make it possible to "lend" books for limited periods of time. Again, have some sort of trick to limit the time a book can stay "lent" and insure that the person on the receiving end can't get the same book again.

Just as libraries didn't destroy the book industry (if anything, made it bigger), a library service must be thought up for the Kindle. Mine is really rough (I'll try to do some casual calculations later, but this is it for now) but it's the basics that count - this can't mimic real library services, but it can create a whole new method of looking at reading books for free. It's absolutely ridiculous to pay 400$ for a machine and then another 10$ per book as well. If not for the environmental issue, it's a lot more worth it to buy ordinary hardbacks which I can lend or simply go to the library where I get books for free. If the Kindle is truly "revolutionary", it needs to take this into account.


  1. this is a valid point consider the true avid reader is usually a library lover. however, not so sure the renting/lending thing can work the way you're suggesting. i'm sure you know some people (i certainly do!) who read Very Slowly. others are just very busy and read only on the occasional rainy day or weekend. how would a program like that apply to them?

  2. As to the renting, I would think some sort of NetFlix sort of thing might work...don't get another until you return the first..

    Bottom line, I am with you that no time soon am I paying $400 for the privilege to them pay almost as much as I pay for a 'real' book.

  3. Right. I was making a point back when we discussed eBooks that unless one is willing to lend the Kindle to a friend, there is no way to share books. I cannot get over the fact that each book will cost $10 after I spend a fortune for the device. Is there a return policy if I don't want the book?

  4. Love your improvement ideas. I'm on the fence on Kindle. On the one hand, I love the physical presence of books. They are my life blood and I can't imagine not holding a real book with pages in my hands. But on the other hand, I travel a lot and toting around 20lbs of books with me when I'm on a trip is a pain in the butt.

    I'll just stay perched up here on my fence for now.

  5. How about just trading Kindles with people!

    You may never get your original back but you're then free to trade the one you've gotten with anyone else...

    I don't know, I still like my books...

    Although, I've batted around the idea of an ebook product for the classics (which are free) and, as Michele mentions, travel.


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