Bless me, O Biblioblogosphere, for I have sinned.
I have betrayed the trust of my librarian people by *gasp* loving my Kindle like I am told I would love a child if I had any interest in being a parent, which I don’t. But I do have an interest in reading digital content on a sleek, affordable, and easy-to-use device. Thus the Kindle.
In true geek fashion I recorded my Kindle unboxing (complete with Space Invader wall clings in the background).
Let me tell you why I love my Kindle so. But before I gush like a schoolgirl in love with Edward Cullen, let me tell you that I feel guilty for loving it. I boycott the Kindle as a librarian but love it as a consumer.
- Stellar User Interface Design: The Kindle has a gorgeous form factor. It’s easy to hold in your hands — light, smooth, and perfectly sized for my hands anyway. The user interface is easy and intuitive, end of story.
- Smooth Content Delivery: The simplicity and speed of getting content is amazing. I’ve been using the Kindle app on my Android phone for months now, and it literally takes you 5 seconds to buy and start reading a book from the Kindle Store. How long does it take to start reading a library eBook from the point you decide to download it? On the Kindle itself it’s just as easy.
- Cross-Device Content Delivery: Amazon was brilliant in being the distributor for the device, the content itself, and the interface/software used to access the content. But they were doubly brilliant in offering the content & interface on other devices through Kindle Reading apps, so you can use your desktop, laptop, iPhone, iPad, Android phone, etc. to access the Kindle universe of eBooks. The Kindle device itself is secondary…they really covered their bases.
- Seamless Syncing: Amazon’s Whispersync technology syncs up your library and where you left off in your books without you having to do anything. Not having to think is good, yeah? Steve Krug would be proud.
- Public Domain Title Access: You can get free public domain titles onto your Kindle through free eBook sites like Project Gutenberg, all linked to with instructions from the Kindle website.
Now that we’ve covered the pros, here’s why I detest the Kindle as a librarian:
- No Access to Library-owned eBooks (for shame): As you probably know, the Kindle is the only eReader devices that doesn’t allow library digital content onto it. The nook, Sony Reader, the sad little kobo, and even the iPad all allow library digital content. Amazon would rather only sell you their stuff. In the case of eBooks, Amazon does not support the standard EPUB format. It only allows for content that is in one of its approved formats: their proprietary DRM-format (.azw), plain text files (.txt), unprotected (read: no DRM) Mobipocket files (.mobi or .prc), unprotected (read: no DRM) PDF files (.pdf), and this odd and not-often-used Topaz format (.tpz). There are programs (like Calibre) that can convert non-DRMed EPUB files into unprotected Mobipocket files so they can go on your Kindle. And since there are scripts you can run to convert DRM-ed EPUB files into non-DRMed EPUB files, you can indeed get these books on your Kindle…but illegally unfortunately. The fact that Amazon doesn’t allow library-owned eBooks onto its devices is a travesty. It’s wrong on every level. But Amazon has no real motivation to open it up. They make money from selling people books. If people could get those same books on their Kindles for free and without paying Amazon, just by logging in with a library card number, Amazon is going to lose some business. And losing business for the sake of looking like you love libraries is sadly not a winning proposition in our society. Here are some straight-forward instructions to help you get around the idiotic DRM rules and get some library eBooks (MOBI only) onto your Kindle. This does clearly violate Kindle’s terms of service, the library eBook vendor’s terms of service, and even copyright law. But you know what? All you’re doing is accessing an eBook your library owns and wants to check out to you on a device of your choosing. Goddess forbid we can actually provide content that isn’t device-exclusionary! So you know what? Go for it.
- No Sharing or Selling (err, legally): Update: You can now share selected titles (none of the 13 on my device now, sadly), share a title once with another Kindle or Kindle app user for 14 days, and only U.S. residents can share their titles). As with almost all consumer-purchased eBooks, Amazon’s Kindle eBooks forbid the transfer of the book to any other user or to a different (non-Amazon) device. This is a violation of the First-Sale Doctrine which guarantees someone like an individual or a library to share the book once it’s purchased, loan it out, or sell it. None of us can do this with eBooks or other digital media like movies and music. It’s wrong and many people find ways around it because, frankly, the Kindle was not that hard to crack.
Perhaps someday I will make peace with the fact that the Kindle universe makes me happy. Perhaps someday Amazon will allow digital content from libraries onto its devices, will accept industry standards, and stop being an inbred walled garden of capitalist greed. But I’m not holding my breath.