I’ve long wanted a Kindle, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’d easily spend over $300 when you factor in tax and a case. I buy around one book per month. At $10/book that’s 30 months before I cover the cost of the Kindle, many more before I break even because I’d still be buying said books on the device. Then I’d have to worry about charging it, even if the battery life is amazing. I’d also be locked in to Amazon’s proprietary format. The Kindle is great in sunlight, but the book is better. Books can be bent, crushed, and spilled on and they don’t stop working. If I lose one book I don’t lose the ability to read them all. They can easily be marked up in any way I chose. Plus they look nice on my shelf – they add character to a room. In terms of environmental impact, I’m not so sure that the manufacturing of a Kindle combined with the energy required to use it and (lets be realistic) the eventual cost to destroy it is really any less than that of the paper in my book. The Kindle is a really cool device. In a lot of ways I want one, but in my opinion it still isn’t better than the book.
When it comes to CDs, I know a lot of people who are audiophiles and want to be able to rip the lossless audio from the CD. I know some people who collect the album art. I do neither, but I do use them for my podcasts. I find it infinitely easier to just have a CD in my car that picks up right where I left off. No wire to run to my iPod. Nothing to carry in and out of the car during the warm weather. No worrying about charging or building playlists or any of that stuff.
When a new technology replaces an old technology, I feel like we have a tendency to talk in absolutes. Newspapers and magazines are dead, we have the internet. CDs are dead, we have the MP3. Books are gone, we have the Kindle. For some, this is definitely the case. I know a lot of people who don’t read anything in print or listen to anything that isn’t on their iPod or computer. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t use-cases where the old platform still wins. The interesting thing to me is that the companies that are making newspapers or books are so focused on the new emerging markets that they forget to focus on those situations where a book really is better than a Kindle, or a CD is better than a MP3 file. These platforms may be in decline, but it’ll be a long time before they are dead. Some business will find an opportunity there.