Kindle Me This

Monday, June 01, 2009

Amazon's Kindle is going to change everything about the book industry, from how big publishing houses work all the way down to how we read-- unless it doesn't. We'll talk about the pros and cons of the Kindle and other portable e-readers with technology writer Farhad Manjoo. We’ll also be joined by Molly Barton, Associate Publisher at Penguin’s ebook division and by Marion Maneker former publisher of HarperCollins’s business imprint and author of The Kindle Chronicles.


Molly Barton, Marion Maneker and Farhad Manjoo

Comments [31]

Marti from New York, NY

I'm surprised that Farhad Manjoo, who owns a kindle, didn't seem to know that much about it. The dictionary is built in, so you don't need to go to a website or even turn on Whispernet. It's very easy, and I've used it several times.

Also, when Mr. Lopate asked about classics, no one mentioned the free ebooks. I use usually. I've downloaded complete writings of Abraham Lincoln and many classics from the 19th c.

I was puzzled by Ms. Barton's remark that books cost the same whether in physical or ebook format. She said that they outsource the printing. Someone has to pay for that.

Jun. 02 2009 03:24 AM

Forget the Kindle @
What about the current Net-book from $ 200 up
How about a netbook (mini computer ) with a smartphone that can be detachted. you get all the features of a smartphone and a 9 - 10" net-book/ phone with the Andriod O.S. or Linux open source which you can communicate and download music and BOOKS and transfer all of it to main computer for saving - printing archiving. The pair which would fit together not much bigger than a Kindle with everything Inc.

Jun. 01 2009 01:54 PM
Joanne from Westchester

Public libraries usually don't have a lot of money or space to devote to large-print books, but the people who generally read these books have the time to read (and often the money) to buy large numbers of books. The aging baby-boomer market is a market that publishers could go after, but first, the e-book readers need to be made more user-friendly to older readers (who tend to be more phobic about new technology than younger readers).

Encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories, guidebooks, and pricing guides for antiques and collectibles (particularly those centered around a particular subject area or topic) are other types of books not mentioned on the show which could be potentially lucrative for publishers if they were disseminated in electronic format, with easy access to updated material (for an additional fee for each update).

Libraries often don't automatically order the latest edition of such books on a regular basis if the book would only benefit a relatively small percentage of their patrons (and most people don't want to have to run to the library every time they want to use these books anyway).

Jun. 01 2009 01:15 PM
Andy Funk from Westbury

Wish I'd had access to my computer while listening to the segment! Here are a few of my thoughts about ebooks...

First, most classics that are now public domain are available free from Project Gutenberg. They're available in many different electronic formats and can be read on computers and ebook readers like the Kindle.

Amazon even has a collection of public domain classics available through their "catalog."

I have a Kindle, and one of Amazon's policies is absolutely frustrating me. The Kindle uses a standard ebook format (MobiPocket). There are other distributors of MobiPocket format books with DRM that could be read on a Kindle... if we had access to the Kindle's unique code numbers. Amazon won't make these available to owners, and went after web sites that made available a simple way for owners to discover their Kindle's code number. I understand Amazon wanting to sell the books that Kindle owners read, but this level of control and restriction seems, to me, to be well beyond acceptable.

And I'm worried about the books I have bought. Will I always be able to read them? (I'm a frequent book re-reader.) What happens to my collection when my Kindle stops working... Will Amazon be there with either a new device that can read my old books, will they (even better) provide a way to unlock the DRM, or will my collection be unaccessible?

Also, books with DRM is not the only model that seems to be working. Baen Books sells DRM-free electronic books, quite successfully. Not only that, they give away -- free -- copies of many of their titles.

And an aside: reading on my iPhone is actually quite comfortable. I've been reading on Palm Pilots and cell phones for years. The iPhone is great -- one can easily select different font sizes, including some I can read without my reading glasses. Yes, this means "turning pages" rather frequently, but the convenience is great. And multi-function cell phones are definitely the true descendants of Palm Pilots!

Jun. 01 2009 01:12 PM
lanvy from nyc

Mary-Jane, I second your comment. Besides the sheer number of electronic devices available, the speed by which they are updated and reinvented have environmental consequences no one in the industry is addressing. My "Fahrenheit 451" is aging beautifully for the last 15 years since I bought it from my public library after having it on their shelf for 10+ years. I think the half life of most hand-held electronics is something like 6-8 months??

The coffee stain on the book cover recalls that beautiful summer day when I finished my book under the handsome blue sky with first love.

Jun. 01 2009 01:07 PM
librarian from NYC

Re: Guest's comment about distributing e-books for the Kindle being against public library's mission.

This is ABSOLUTELY untrue. Libraries' foremost concern is to provide access to resources in a manner in order to support intellectual freedom, which entails a respect for copyright.

Libraries serve the interests of the collective by being able to negotiate cheaper prices (for books, DVDs, databases, etc.) because of their ability to purchase in bulk. These resources are the available for "free" (supported by public dollars, aka taxes) to anyone with a library card.

Many libraries, including NYPL, already offer many downloadable e-books that use an Adobe Reader ( They negotiate contracts with e-book providers, with contract prices dependent on variables such as the size of the population served, number of licenses per book, length of book license, etc.

I imagine that as the Kindle grows in popularity, libraries will consider accommodating this technology in a similar way - by negotiating contracts with Amazon to allow their readers to borrow instead of purchase books for their Kindles.

Libraries are dedicated to serving all constituents in their population, even Kindle readers!, if we can find a cost-effective way to do it. This is hard in a time where public funding for libraries is being ruthlessly cut.

Jun. 01 2009 01:04 PM

Just last week I discovered that the NY Public Library has downloadable books in several formats. They call the service eNYPL. I downloaded Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" in Adobe Digital Editions format onto my laptop. Given the myriad digital and online services NYPL offers, I think the future of libraries is that the bricks and mortar library will be just the tip of the iceberg. People who can't afford access via computers of their own will be able to go to a library and access both physical and digital resources.

Jun. 01 2009 01:01 PM
kate from nyc

I do value a commercial free independent voice which is what makes this kindle advertorial even more off putting.

Jun. 01 2009 12:59 PM
mozo from nyc

Thanks but paying $500 for a Kindle is beyond my finances. It can hold a lot of books but I can only read one at a time. What happens when the batteries run out? I would be mad as hell if I was engaged in a good book and the Kindle powers down! I simply love the feel and smell of a book. I love buying and collecting them. I don't see any machine giving me that satisfaction.

I'm going to wait and see how this technology pans out.

Jun. 01 2009 12:52 PM
marc from brooklyn

btw, lame hour long commercial. how about another side of the e - debate?

Jun. 01 2009 12:51 PM
WD from NYC

Argh WNYC, are you in cahoots with Amazon? i am tired of all this Kindle talk. its WAY more off-putting than any amount of usual fund-drive cheerleading.

Jun. 01 2009 12:51 PM
marc from brooklyn

give me a book. e readers are just another sign of the end of human contact. where does the inscription from mom go. do you want to pass down a digital family bible file? will a future president take the oath of office on a kindle? ugly future.

Jun. 01 2009 12:50 PM
Mary Jane from Brooklyn

I’m waiting for the all purpose device. The cell phone, Ipod, palm pilot, Blackberry, e-reader. There are too many electronics in my bag. Steve Jobs… Are you listening?

Jun. 01 2009 12:46 PM
Elise from East Village

it is disappointing that this segment, no doubt owed to kindle for their pledge drive contest prize, does not also discuss other e-readers on the market.

Jun. 01 2009 12:45 PM
Kayla from Forest Hills, NY

What are the pros and cons for COLLEGE STUDENTS?

Jun. 01 2009 12:45 PM
MH from NYC

$9.99 may be cheaper than some printed forms, but its more than mass market paperbacks, which is mostly what I buy. What about this?

Jun. 01 2009 12:43 PM
nat from brooklyn

In this hours long advertisement for the Kindle the important questions about Copyright, the public domain and the loss of freedom that the Kindle represents have not been asked.

The idea of having to spend money on an ebook that exists for free in the public domain. There are free document formats that have been used to digitize books in the public domain.

Every 19th century classic is in the public domain. It has been a mainstay of publishers to reprint these books because there's no author to pay, you are just assuming that hundreds of students read Jane Eyre every year.

They've hidden this behind copyright issues, but for the most part, this is irrelevant with Shakespeare, Austin, Ibsen or even books written as recently as the 1950s, which have no copyright restrictions. This has nothing to do with paying originators of content, but making money of what the constitutional thinkers have fought to call the public domain.

Also, if I buy a physical book, I can loan it to a friend. There is no such availability in the ebook. That is freedom lost.

Jun. 01 2009 12:40 PM
gregb from NJ

Interestingly, the e-ink technology company was just purchased today by the manufacturer of the Kindle.

Probably not a very good return for the investors, because the ebook industry has taken so long to gain traction.

There are two or three alternates to eink with real color and higher refresh rates- they will hit the market if standalone book readers maintain their growth.

Jun. 01 2009 12:33 PM
MattP from NYC

When discussing the pricing of books for the Kindle, no one has mentioned that Kindle books are saddled with DRM. That is, unlike paperbook, I cannot sell a used copy, nor can I even loan it to another Kindle owner.

$9.99 and above for a book that can only be used by its owner is too high. Presumably, even with the fixed costs your guests have said publishers face, these should be offset by volume.

Jun. 01 2009 12:31 PM
Lance from Miami

Sorry, but I refuse to pay almost the same amount for ebooks that I would pay for hardbound. Example: $10 for Kindle version, $11 for paperback for the book "1491."

Do Penguin and the other publishers really think the public is so stupid as to believe that someone is not increasing their profit by no longer having to worry about the costs of printing, shipping, and storing hardcopies??

Jun. 01 2009 12:28 PM
Kristina from Astoria

Lane- Amazon keeps all the books you purchase online as well- so you can delete things from your kindle and they remain available on Amazon.

Jun. 01 2009 12:28 PM
Kristina from Astoria

Additionally, what I don't think has really been mentioned is the fact that a great number of public domain books are available on kindle for free. I was given a Kindle as a graduation gift, and, though I was already a big reader, I have been reading and discovering 10x more books than I had before as a result. Though, I still wondering how those publishers who still print those public domain books will keep up.

Jun. 01 2009 12:26 PM
lorna sass from nyc

AS a cookbook author, I have been offered from 7% to 15% of net for on-line Kindle sales. I fail to see how I could benefit financially from such an arrangement. Am I missing something?

Jun. 01 2009 12:24 PM
Jerry from Manhattan

Please note that Kindle is available for iPhone & iPod... so you don't need to buy a Kindle to use it.

Jun. 01 2009 12:22 PM
Tony from San Jose, CA

You can upload magazines (for free) to the Kindle with a (free) program called calibre (I use it).

And public libraries here do loan out ebook.

Jun. 01 2009 12:21 PM

In terms of the kindle, what safeguards are in place to prevent you from losing hundreds of dollars worth of books if your kindle or computer is stolen? One of the reasons I can't see myself getting one is because the concept of losing that much information and money is really scary to me.

Jun. 01 2009 12:21 PM
Kristina from Astoria

I love Caitlin's comment and I want to add to her questions. As a recent graduate from SVA's Illustration BFA program, I am really interested in how this sort of technology is going to affect artists who create book covers and illustrations. Books still need art, and I want to start a discussion with art directors about how the new technology will affect our jobs. I think Irene Gallo over at Tor is on top of the game with, where there are stories and art that are commissioned only for the web. Also, will picture books be affected?

I think it's important to start a conversation about this now, so we don't get left behind like the music industry did with MP3s.

Jun. 01 2009 12:19 PM
Caitlin from Jersey City

If Kindles become more common, will public libraries have free downloadable books for them? I'd imagine publishing companies would try to fight that. (Maybe they could automatically delete themselves after being "checked out" for three weeks.) Will books become the new frontier of the filesharing battle? Also, can you read books on it that are free online (via Google book search, etc) or do you have to buy them from Amazon?

Jun. 01 2009 12:10 PM
Steve Gorka from Bridgewater NJ

I would buy a Kindle or other electronic reader if more periodicals were available. I would also subscribe to more magazines.

Some mags like Atlantic and the New Yorker(which are available on Kindle) and Harper's (which is not) travel around in my work backpack for weeks or months before I finish reading them.

Jun. 01 2009 11:29 AM
Bo from Brooklyn - Prospect Heights

Everyone keeps saying that the Kindle can hold "up to 1200 books." The operative phrase is "up to..." And then it is stretching things a bit.

Let's be a little clearer: The Kindle will hold 1200 books so long as each book is no longer than, say, 3 pages. I own the first generation Kindle, with a chip added for even more storage space...and it holds a grand total of 10 books before my being told that "there is not enough space in the Kindle memory for this book. Please use Content Manager to make more space".

Amazon, of course, will hold all the others for your reading pleasure; they are on the Amazon site, at your beck and call. But the device, all by itself, does NOT hold 1200 books.

Jun. 01 2009 10:57 AM
Tony from San Jose, CA

Kindle with free Wikipedia access is like a hitch hiker's guide to the galaxy.

The only bad thing about this device is that it does not support Chinese characters. But if you hack it, it no longer supports French characters.

Jun. 01 2009 10:28 AM

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