So far I have had 3 Kindles. The first two I got from Jeff Bezos (thank you!!). They did not last much in my hands. Alexa my eldest daughter got the first one and Isabella, my second daughter the second one. They use them a lot. They read more than I do, they deserved them. When I was going to get my own Kindle I learned that the Kindle 2 was coming out and I waited. I bought one last week. And I love it even though in Europe the wireless does not work and it does not come with WiFi. I see the Kindle as a great single purpose device, right up there with the iPod or the Nikon D90 (my favorite digital camera). It does what it says it does: it makes you read books in digital format. It also has some other advantages like instant search for unusual words, or the ability to write notes with out destroying the original document (i.e. the book).

Now here´s a comment about digital rights infringement and the Kindle. If you go from simplicity to complexity and organize books, songs and movie content, as you go along the scale, you jump orders of magnitude in file size. A book, like The Age of the Unthinkable by my friend Joshua Ramo, which I just ordered for my Kindle, only has 368KB in file size. A song tends to occupy around 10 times more than a book. If they ever made The Age of the Unthinkable the Movie, the file size, even compressed, will be 200 times bigger. In other words you can fit 200 books in the file size of a very compressed movie. Still it is surprising to see that there are very few torrents made of say the New York Times Best Seller list (if there are I have not found any). And the whole best seller list and more would be a smaller file than just one movie. Very easy to copy in any P2P system. So far the only books that I see torrents for are computer books, books for geeks.

Personally I think it is a matter of time until book torrents or book file exchange become common. But it is suprising that right now there are perfectly legal ways of downloading books. You can go to ManyBooks.net and legally download thousands of books for your Kindle for free. And these are books that Amazon actually sells. Here for example is how you can download Rashomon a book I read in college for free. And here´s Rashomon for $3.99 if you care to pay for it. And ManyBooks.net is not fighting digital rights but rather giving books for free whose rights have expired. But it is surprising that even though these books are free only 6000 were downloaded this week.

Now one reason why torrents, and P2P may be less common in the world of reading is that there aren´t so many people who actually read books compared to people who listen to songs or watch movies. Or that those who do are less tech savvy, older, or maybe less likely to want to break the law in the countries in which downloading movies, books and songs for persona use is illegal (in Spain where I live downloading content for personal use is not punishable by law). But if I were in Amazon shoes I would do what Apple does. As we know most iPods are not loaded with content whose rights are owned by the iPod owner. But Apple tells you “do not steal music” and the rest is up to you. They make a lot of money with the gadgets themselves (disclosure I am an Apple shareholder). In my view Amazon should do the same thing. While books themselves are not pirated mainly because the cost of printing in bulk beats the cost of printing at home, and also because people just love books as objects, books lose their love appeal when they go digital. Especially on the Kindle as they all tend to look alike. So if Amazon does things right, soon the only object people will love is…the Kindle. And Amazon will design a gadget in Seattle, have it made in China for $50 and sell it for $359. And others will make them for much less, as others make MP3 players for much less. But if Amazon gets things right. People will want the Kindle.

Follow Martin Varsavsky on Twitter: twitter.com/martinvars

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Charbax on May 4, 2009  · 

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