Man, I wish I had more time to update this blog — I had plans for this to be the fun one where I ramble about writing and publishing, instead of fat politics and feminist outrage. I hate that I have become the kind of person who Does Not Have the Time to Update Her Blog(s) almost as much as I hated becoming one of those “we appreciate every letter but cannot respond to each one personally” people. But I am both.
At least I can ramble about writing and reading a bit on the Powell’s bookstore website, where I’m guest-blogging this week. My first post, about the book’s title, went up today. Two more are coming (and Marianne is taking Tuesday and Thursday).
But what I’m thinking about now is inappropriate for Powell’s, for reasons that should be obvious from the post title: It’s about why I love my Kindle so damn much. And that reason is very simple: instant gratification. By which I mean instant gratification. I bought a Sony Reader a couple of years ago and loved the concept — 80 books in my purse at once! — but quit using it as soon as the novelty wore off, which was about 2 weeks later. Why? It was linked to the very limited Sony store, and I needed a PC to download books. Not a computer, a PC — the fucking thing wasn’t even Mac compatible, so I had to use one of Al’s computers. The Sony store has “tens of thousands of books”; the Kindle store has a few hundred thousand and counting. (And when I can’t get a book I want there, I can at least get the satisfaction of clicking the “request a Kindle edition” button.) I can get a book delivered to the Kindle with 1-click ordering from any computer, or wirelessly via the Kindle itself, if I’m sitting at an airport, for instance. (Last time I flew, I went into the airport bookstore as usual, but ended up writing down titles to download instead of buying books to lug with me.)
The truth is, I don’t give a shit about the design of my e-book reader or any bells and whistles. And I certainly don’t give a shit who makes it — if Sony or another competitor linked up with B&N or Borders or Powell’s or any other online bookseller, and offered the same purchasing options, my loyalty to Amazon would dissipate, if not disappear, instantly. But as it is, Amazon’s getting a huge portion of my book-buying dollars these days, because the Kindle is so damned convenient, especially when I’m traveling so much. The device is nice, but they didn’t do anything with the hardware that knocked my socks off. What they did was make it really, really easy to buy books and start reading them immediately, in as few steps as possible.
And given that I spend most of my life online, that’s exactly what I’ve come to expect. If I want information these days, I should be able to find it with a few search words and a couple of clicks. Buying a book for the Kindle is just an extension of that — yeah, I’m paying for it, but it doesn’t involve extra clicking or filling in my credit card info and billing address every time, and the books don’t take any longer to download than a PDF. It’s as seamless as web-surfing. And man, that makes a huge difference in my continued interest in using the product and spending more money on it.
I still love real books, of course. My house is full of them, and when I go to a bookstore, I rarely leave empty-handed. But the Kindle did exactly what technology is supposed to do — it improved upon the original experience, offering desirable extras I couldn’t get from the old version. Sony just didn’t go far enough with that — if I had to go wire up the Reader to Al’s computer, only to find they didn’t have the book I wanted anyway, what was the point? (If I’m going to be disappointed that they don’t have what I want, I might as well get out of the house and go to a bookstore.) Amazon gave me a reason to want and use an e-book reader, despite my abiding love for real books and real bookstores. Whatever issues I may have with them, they did what it took to change the way I read and make me a loyal customer. I’m happy to reward that kind of innovation and market savvy, even if I also wish they had some real competition for me to check out.