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Kindling, part 1

Amazon made a lot of noise lately with the release of their wireless reading device, Kindle. Is its name intended to evoke book burning? Doesn't matter. There are three reasons I know it'll fail, without ever picking up the device. Today let's look at the first and most practical: price.

We know that the Kindle currently costs $400. We then must purchase each title for $10. We also know that, on average, a digital device's useful life is two years, after which it either breaks or the owner trades it in for a new device.

Most readers get books from several sources, including used book stores and libraries, and in several forms, ranging from mass market paperbacks to trade paperbacks to hardcover books. The average per-read cost is probably $15—and that's being generous. Therefore, a Kindle owner would have to read 80 books within the device's probable two-year lifespan to break even. That's a substantial number for all but the most avid reader. Furthermore, the Kindle currently rules out all consumer cost-saving options, such as second-hand book buying, library lending, or borrowing a book from a friend.

The Kindle seems to have addressed many issues that earlier generation digital reading devices suffered from, such as the light on v. light through reading experience problem. And it will probably sell fairly well at first just for its novelty. However, it costs too much and offers the consumer too little flexibility when compared with the thing it's trying to replace.

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