Friday, March 13, 2009

But I could buy a netbook for that!

A few weeks ago my old television died. I decided to finally take the plunge into the world of high definition television. I shopped around and found an HDTV that suited me perfectly.

But then it hit me. For the same amount of money, or less, I could have bought so much more. I paid good money for something that does only one thing -- display video -- when I could have spent a little less and had a machine that not only displays video but also plays DVDs and VHS tapes! What was I thinking?! Surely the machine that does it all is much better.

That's the mentality that pervades many who scoff at the Kindle's steep price tag and uni-tasking nature. Read an internet forum about the Kindle and without fail some naysayer will eventually bring up netbooks as a better alternative. After all, the Kindle only does one thing well: display e-books. Why wouldn't you prefer a netbook for the same money since it can do so many other things in addition to that?

The problem is, we avid readers don't want another device that does all those things. We want something designed specifically for reading books. Period. And while netbooks can certainly do the job, the quality of the screen, the battery life, and the ease of purchasing new reading material can't begin to compare to the Kindle.

Dan Ackerman of C-Net's "The Download Blog" discovered just that recently when he pitted an Acer Aspire One against the Kindle as an e-book reader.

"In the end, our Netbook was not a perfect substitute for the $359 Amazon Kindle 2. The Acer Aspire was heavier and harder to hold onto, and while the screen was bigger, unlike the Kindle's muted grey-on-grey, the bright glow of the LCD is tiring to the eyes after a while."

Ackerman still views netbooks as a suitable alternative, especially given the price of the Kindle, but as a pure e-book reader he admits that the Kindle wins.

Don't get me wrong. I like netbooks and would love to have one someday. But not for reading.

Multi-purpose devices are handy, but sometimes you want something that just does one thing -- and does it better than anything else.


Currently reading on my Kindle: Silas Marner by George Eliot.
Follow me on Twitter @phigginbotham.


liz said...

I totally agree. I have a new Kindle 2.0, never had the first version and I bought it specifically because I like to read current books. I never reread a book because I like to move on to something new and also I have no more storage for books in my house. It meets my needs perfectly but if it didn't, I wouldn't buy one and I wouldn't go on and on endlessly about its drawbacks. People that see me reading it keep bringing up how they just couldn't give up the experience of the page-turning, the smell of a new book, etc. etc. and I'm like "what the?". I love reading on my Kindle. I actually read faster on my Kindle because it's a smaller amount of words to read so I don't get lost on a page. Yes, it's expensive but I'm a gadget girl and I've just added one more thing to our houseful of gadgets. I'm also a professional photographer so believe me, I have a load of equipment.

Anyway, what I would like to get is a waterproof or at least water- and sand-resistant case for it that has a window for the screen and allows you to use the buttons so I can use it at the beach and pool this summer. I haven't seen anything on the amazon website but would think there would be a market for it. I realize a ziploc bag would probably work but would like something a little nicer that doesn't slip around. Any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Your comparison is horrible and completely misses the point. The point is that the kindle costs $400 once you factor the taxes and shipping. The average book costs $20.00, which is 1/20th the price. That $400 is just to obtain a device for reading the books. The e-books still cost money, roughly $15 apiece. Why not buy the damn book and save the money? That is why the first argument is "Why not get a netbook?", because for THAT MUCH MONEY, it BETTER do something else.

As for the reasons people think these are book replacements:

Many people quote portability, however, I don't know many hard-backs that require a power cable.

Some say the waste/greenhouse gasses/deforestation involved in printing all the books is bad for environment. I imagine THAT MUCH MORE plastic (which will end up in the ocean in 5 years because this device will be 100% useless in that time) never helped the ozone layer. I will let you finish that point up on your own.

The bottom line here is that some people would rather attempt to rationalize a wasteful purchase by regurgitating the company line. The Kindle is another example of a large corporation trying to invent a market that doesn't exist. Does that mean no one will buy? Of course not, I imagine the Kindle will sell quite well. But not because it is a better way to read books, rather because it is something else for them to blow their money... ooops, I meant credit card balance on.

liz said...

This is what I think is so funny about the Kindle -- the amount of anger it generates. I don't consider the Kindle a waste of money at all and no, it didn't increase my credit card balance at all. I paid for it with my debit card so it's already paid for. It cost exactly $359 including shipping. (Yes, I know I'm supposed to pay sales tax to my state, but Amazon did not charge me sales tax). The books I buy have ranged from $6.80 to $9.99. And I loooove not having to go anywhere to buy my books.

When my father died, my mother had to hire someone to haul away all the books that were left after the used bookseller had picked through his collection. He had all the books he had read in his lifetime as well as my grandfather's extensive collection as well. It was sad because these were men who revered books but no one wanted them after they were gone. Of course, we kept the ones that were valuable or had been written by family members. My house is stuffed to the gills with books that no one will want and I pass a lot of them on to my mother to read. I'll be calling someone to haul away her books after she's gone too. My point there is that my little skinny Kindle will never use anywhere near the landfill space that three generations of our family has filled up with books.

Let the people who want Kindles get them and if you are opposed to them, don't get one. It's pretty simple. There seems to be an attitude that people who buy Kindles must be stupid but the several people I know with Kindles (myself included) are among the most intelligent, well-read people I know.

My Kindle is apparently multi-functional, but I am not interested in any of the features besides reading books on it (I do love the dictionary). Just like my phone has an mp3 player on it, but I do not want to listen to music on my phone, I want to use it for phone calls and texting.

Paul said...

Doug, I see what you're saying. But just because you don't think a dedicated ebook reader is worth $400 doesn't mean it isn't to others. Those are the folks who a)read so much that they end up making up the Kindle price in book savings by buying Kindle versions versus hardbound versions, and b)want the best reading experience possible, which the Kindle provides and a netbook doesn't.

The other good example I heard was regarding cell phone cameras. If all you want to do is take occasional pictures and aren't concerned about quality then a cell phone camera is all you need. But if you really want to take good pictures you're going to spend money on a nice camera, even though that camera only does one thing -- unlike your phone which can take pictures, make/receive calls, surf the web, etc. That was my point.

Anonymous said...

I thank you for posting my response, your integrity is awe-inspiring. I do believe, however, that several of my points were missed, judging by the responses.

Liz missed the point on the credit card... Neat, you paid on your debit card... congratulations, you are the minority! Liz also mentioned, a heart-felt tale of her father's books being dumped in a landfill (after the local bookstore person went through them). Liz, has your city/town/municipality ever heard of Goodwill? Salvation Army? Do you not have a flea market in driving distance? The point is, books can span generations by simply being passed down. If the recipient is less-fortunate, even better! Want to hand an e-book down? Thats fine too, just get poor people some financing, have them buy a kindle, then prepare for court as the e-books have DRM, making it impossible without legal struggle to actually OWN them. Also Liz, you said (essentially) "If you don't want one, don't get one.", trust me, i won't. Then you went on to say "Me and my friends are super intellegent and well read, and we have a Kindle". Congratulations on being a super-genious, maybe one day I might be as smart as you. I just know that I didn't pay $400 for an electronic reading device when the alternative is so much better. And no, I seriously DO NOT think people who buy a Kindle are dumb. I just think they are people who mis-spent their money when there are so many other, more worthly causes to get behind than a $400 device, whose alternative was perfected in the 1800's. It's a textbook case of Apple-ism. Steve Jobs has nice turtle neck and cool device. I must buy it!

Paul, you missed my point also. I am not saying I don't think the Kindle is worth the money, I am stating the fact that IT IS NOT WORTH THE MONEY. In every sense of the phrase. The Kindle probably costs $50 to make, so in the literal sense, it isn't worth the money. The cost/benefit ratio proves this as well. $400 for the device. $10-$15 for the e-books. Or, $20 per real book (if you buy new, more like 5-10 if used). Of course, there is the fact that true value of the e-book drops to 0 as soon as you buy it, simply because it's just bits being shuffled around. With a real book, you still have value. You can still sell it, or , at the very least, give it to someone less fortunate (poor people), or an organization that works on their behalf. The other point of mine you missed, was in your camera comparison. I am not saying a netbook is better at reading books. I am saying a book is better. The point I made was that the reason an argument exists in the first place is because of the rediculous cost of a Kindle. "For the amount you would spend on a Kindle, buy a netbook and 10 real books.". I am not arguing that point, I am simply telling you the basis for this argument, from the side that believe the Kindle is a total waste of time and money.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I respect your opinion, but I started my Kindle blog because I not only love my Kindle but I want to see what the Kindle will be able to do in a few years besides just deliver readable content.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Doug, I am sorry you are so bitter and angry about the Kindle. I am just back from a ski vacation in Colorado and loved having my Kindle with me. I finished the book I was reading and loaded up another one without having to leave my hotel room. I love that. That right there might be worth the money to me because I can barely make it to dinner after a hard day of skiing.

I certainly never said that I was a "super-genious" nor did I say that people without Kindles are not intelligent or well-read. I know three other people besides myself who have Kindles and we are all four intelligent and well-read. That is all I said. One of us won a gold medal in swimming in the Olympics (not me) but I am not making the jump that having a Kindle means you are a world-class athlete.

Also, you are making some assumptions about getting rid of books. Why don't you call around your community and ask who will take 10,000 books? They are not that easy to get rid of. Find out who wants boxes and boxes of college engineering textbooks from the 50's. Find out who wants hundreds of paperbacks from the 60's and 70's. Find out who wants old hardbacks from the 20's, 30's and 40's after the used book dealer has gone through them. Ask your local Friends of the Library what they do with donated books that they don't want. (Hint: dumpster) Goodwill will not be excited if you show up with a basement full of books. There are probably more ways to get rid of books now, but my dad died in 1992 and we didn't have Freecycle at the time.

One of my favorite things about the Kindle is that I don't have the physical book. I don't have to acquire it, I don't have to haul it around, I don't have to store it, and I don't have to dispose of it. When I go on my annual beach vacation in the summer, I bring a laundry basket full of books. I will read approximately 15 books while I am there. I am so thrilled that I can do my reading on my Kindle this year and not have to acquire or haul the books that I am going to read this year.

You are stating that your opinion that Kindles are not worth the money is a fact. It is not a fact; it is your opinion. To me, the Kindle is very worth the money.


Unknown said...

Why dance around the fact that the Kindle has instant and pervasive wireless so that I can browse the web from almost anywhere, anytime, and I do when I'm not at home.

It's not as if it were WiFi and you had to look for a hotspot and one that was free.

I am ever curious, so I google a lot, quite often in front of products I'm not sure I want to buy and so I research them right there, with the Kindle googler. I write about my own reasons at because they're not mentioned enough.

Data-accounts on cell phones are usually $30 (lowest) per month to $100+ per month for web access.

The Kindle carries no Net access time-charges, beyond the cost of the Kindle. Use the lowest figure and multiply it by 12 months and you get $360, so Doug is wrong that it's not worth the money for people who do prize the ability to Net from anywhere at anytime.

The Kindle 2 also does a pretty good job now of webbing vs the first Kindle's extreme klunkiness. For $0 per month for this feature, I am happy.

I use it at cafes, at concerts, anywhere I want to know something.

I would never go on other gadget forums to say I don't want/value their product and so they shouldn't pay for it either. That puzzles me greatly, but it's not a Kindler's problem. Just a puzzlement.

And yah, the Kindle is a GREAT e-reader and I love using it. I also plan to get the Samsung 10" Netbook for other reasons but I don't confuse a Netbook w/ wi-fi with an e-reader with 24/7 wireless access. It's not an either/or world.