[FoRK] Re: Kindle first impressions

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Sun May 4 13:32:41 PDT 2008

On May 4, 2008, at 2:23 PM, Luis Villa wrote:

> Does the DRM aspect not trouble you, or do you just see the benefits
> outweighing the costs?
> More generally, the same question applies for
> the tying to a particular vendor by non-DRM means (e.g., the
> Whispernet functionality, or putting PDF conversion on their machines
> instead of yours.)

That's a complicated set of interlocking questions, with an even more  
complicated set of interlocking answers...  expect a more detailed  
answer some other time, I need to think about how to respond.  But  
we've touched on this in some of my exchanges w/ Tom, namely that I  
think I have a different understanding of the difference between free  
speech and free beer (and the relative importance of them, vs. perhaps  
other considerations) than he does.

The short version is this:  I like technology that improves the  
efficiency or effectiveness of workflows and processes that I already  
engage in via other means, or reduces the friction associated with new  
workflows and processes to the near-trivial;  technology like that  
wins, for me, almost (but not always) regardless of its politics.   
I'll take the superior solution (i.e., best added-value to my  
workflow) with inferior politics over the have-to-futz-with-it doesn't- 
quite-solve-my-problem solution with superior politics, most of the  
time.  Hence my love for Apple (hardware and OS, I'm not a media guy,  
rarely use the iTunes store), TiVo (though their implementation of  
HDCP is buggy and infuriating), and e.g. potentially Amazon.  All  
provide added-value apps and functionality on top of semi-open but  
often mostly-*standard* underlying technologies, and do so in a way  
that doesn't usually "get in my way" or distract me as much as other,  
more open solutions.  My dislike of e.g. Microsoft is not so much  
because of their closed nature as it is the fact that their shit just  
sucks, and that for a while it looked like there wouldn't be any  
reasonable alternatives.  (I've realized in hindsight that any such  
dominated market will always *breed* alternatives --- even ones that  
do fantastically unexpected end-runs like Linux.  The changes may just  
not occur as quickly as we'd like.)

Put differently, perhaps the cathedral is just inherently better at  
apps and at business models and complex interlocking-concern  
deployment scenarios than the bazaar.  And for things where that's  
important --- like user experience, administrative overhead, vertical  
integration of service and network, and particular areas like for-pay  
content --- it's a tradeoff I'm usually willing to make, assuming the  
ties and compromises result in reduced rather than increased friction.

In the case of Amazon specifically, (a) WhisperNet isn't closed, their  
"experimental" browser has full access as far as I can tell, it's just  
not very good --- if it were, I suspect they'd charge an access fee  
for WhisperNet, and that might be okay but I'd prefer a WiFi option  
when available, and (b) the whole stack has lots of added value.  I  
already spend vast sums at Amazon yearly, they are my online vendor of  
choice and I'm a huge book consumer not to mention the other kinds of  
gear and kit and gifts I buy from them.  The ability to have a  
reliable service holding and managing my digital library is actually  
awesome, though I do wish I could access same from e.g. my laptop.   
And I'd pay a very large premium if they could retroactively make all  
the bits-as-atoms that I've purchased from them available as pure-bits  
--- both to Amazon and to the individual content authors / owners.   
(Similarly, I'd happily pay somebody to digitize my library, and have  
as mentioned previously contemplated doing so.  Just not sure I can  
emotionally take all those gutted books, just not there yet... ;-)

Are bits free?  Does information want to be free?  Sure.  But here in  
the real world, Julian Dibbell's got to eat. ;-)  Therein lies a  
conundrum.  If Amazon comes up with a way to solve that conundrum that  
gets me the 80% I need, I can sacrifice the 20%...  and license purity  
and tying considerations are definitely part of the latter.  And I'm  
happy to pay Amazon the vig for the solution, assuming it's reasonable.

That said, this is an experiment.  We'll see in a few months how much  
of my Amazon consumption has moved to their Kindle delivery channel...



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