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February 09, 2009

The Many Problems with Kindle

Allah, the technojunkie, is swooning over the new improved Kindle. I'm not, and I don't think most will.

For one thing it costs $360. Quite an investment.

For another thing, books are not precisely difficult to carry around, especially on the places where you'd read a book outside your home -- subway, airport, Starbucks, park. The Kindle is a bit thinner and lighter, but who's sweating the weight of a book?

For yet another thing, books are intrinsically pleasurable as objects. People like books -- the feel of paper, the smell of them. Kindle is not going to replace that attractiveness anytime soon.

But here's the big reason Kindle will never catch on, as a friend explained to me:

"How do you know what to read?"

By which he meant -- without the pleasant ritual of going to a book-store, browsing the stacks, picking up a book and reading its back cover and first few pages -- how the hell do you know what you want to read in the first place?

Netflix has the same problem -- It's a pretty convenient service. They certainly get your movies out quickly. But I have trouble figuring out what movies to rent based on their interface. For whatever reason, the video store stacks continue to be a much easier way to find movies I'd like to see. The Netflix interface offers lots of pictures of from the video boxes, but still, I never know what the hell to order from Netflix. Mostly I order movies I've already seen twenty times just because I can't think of anything else.

Netflix is great, but they need to improve that interface so that -- somehow -- it's more like browsing the stacks at Blockbuster. How? I have no idea.

And Kindle, one would imagine, has the same problem. Sure, there's a huge collection of books you can buy. Sure, you can book-covers and probably read a few sample pages. And yet it's still going to be difficult to buy a book without actually getting to see that tangible thing and hold it in your hand.

Kindle solves a problem which is not in fact a problem -- no one ever really says "Crap, I'd like to read a book but I'd sure like to avoid all the hassle and unpleasantness of a book store." A lot of times people will go to bookstores with no real intention of buying anything -- they just want to browse.

So what is the point? Yes, immediate delivery-- but you can have immediate delivery, pretty much, by driving twenty minutes to a book store, too.

Well Here's Something I Know I Want to Read: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the classic book of romance, now with a zombie apocalypse to make it awesome.

Thanks to MattM.

In Defense of Netflix: Dan-O writes:

do you rate the movies? If not then you should, their user interface kind of relies on that. Once you start rating movies (you need to do a few hundred of them), then the "suggestions" and the movies that it puts in front of your face start getting much better

Nope, I didn't. Netflix never suggests I rent anything I want to rent. I rented a few action movies earlier and now Netfix seems to think I have a hard-on for Steven Segal and Vin Diesel. I guess that's because I don't rate them. I'll try that.

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posted by Ace at 05:12 PM

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