MASON MARK (.COM)

TV, turds, books, etc.

2009-03-06

Siracusa recently wrote some stuff about books[1]. I personally like books a lot[2]. And conceptually (though not so much yet in practice), I like ebooks even more.

Last year, Amazon tried to reboot (by which I mean boot) the ebook revolution with the Kindle. Unfortunately, though, the Kindle is a foul turd[3].

But turds, albeit stinky and ugly, do serve a purpose. And even smart people have to drop a turd from time to time[4].

On the other hand, what if you could dehydrate a useful turd down to a very small size, such that it was invisible and didn't stink[5]? Didn't VMWare basically make a multibilliondollar company out of that idea? Yes!

Like most people, I rarely choose to carry turds around with me in my pocket. But exceptions to the no-turds policy do have some precedent, at least when the turds in question are of the weightless, stinkless, virtual variety... enter Amazon's v-turd, also known as Kindle for iPhone.

[1]I love it when John Siracusa writes an article, because he writes long, engaging, informative articles that are seldom stupid and wrong.

[2]I'm grateful to my mama for limiting my TV time to one hour per week when I was a kid. (That hour was invariably allocated to the Duke boys' escapades, which in retrospect is pretty freaky; I occasionally wonder how many burgers I'd have flipped by now, were it not for the time limit...)

Mimimal TV, combined with the insufferable, agonizing, gut-wrenching boredom of those long stretches of time in which I wasn't allowed to roam the streets with my BMX gang[a] (roughly 9pm to 9am), naturally forced me to books. I read tons and tons of books. (That's not to say that my 6-year old reading material was any more sophisticated than my preferred television programming; by the end of first grade in 1979, I had read every single Hardy Boys novel yet published. (Subconscious memories of Chet Morton's jalopy would later inform certain automotive aspects of my teenage years.))

Like 98% of people who have read thousands of books by the age of ten, I never got out of the habit.[b]

So, like John Siracusa, I started dabbling with ebooks over a decade ago. First it was with roll-your-own ebooks for the Newton, then buying trashy thrillers from Peanut Press for my various craptacular Palm OS machines, and then various shitty solutions for shitty Japanese phones (which, although quite shitty, were of course not nearly as shitty as those in the US at the time).

None of those devices ever bested a paper book when I was at home in bed, but they sure did come in handy when yet another Japanese asshole committed suicide by jumping in front of my train, leaving me stuck in the fucking train car while they scrubbed his blood and guts off the tracks.

[3]: Yes, the Kindle is a fucktarded piece of garbage. A crock of shit! Who the fuck buys this trash? What is wrong with those people? I mean, it's just like a book, except it sucks way more. It has all of the disadvantages of a paper book[c], a bunch of disadvantages all its own[d], and one single cool feature that books don't have[e]. And yet[4]...

[4] Jeff Bezos really isn't a moron. He's navigated his crappy online bookstore into becoming one of the best companies in the world[f]. Anybody can come across as a dumbshit at certain times and in certain ways, but if you look at the arc of his career, Bezos is neither a slouch nor a fundamentally stupid person.

So why did he drop this turd on the world? Why the fuck did he do the Kindle? E-book readers (as in dedicated hardware devices like Kindle) are re-fucking-tarded[3].

OTOH, E-book-readers (as in software that lets you read (and, hopefully, easily purchase) books on a device you already carry around all the time) are in-fucking-evitable.

But are they inevitable like running out of IPv4 addresses, or inevitable like the collapse of our sun? Soon, or not soon?

Amazon sells books, and they don't care about delivery mechanism. So, soon would be nice for them. But it's a chicken-and-egg problem. Without one or more popular reading devices, there's no multinational-corporation-sized market for ebook content. But without the content, nobody really needs an ebook reader.

So Amazon decided, fuck it, let's cook up some REDACTED. They have the content, and now they have this turd that you can carry around to read it.

I spoke to Bezos last week[g]. And basically, what he said[h] was: Look, Mason, I know the Kindle is an egregiously foul turd. Only an idiot would want that fucking thing. I mean, I am embarrassed when I have to go in public and pretend its cool.

But its just to jumpstart the market. We sell the blades, man, the blades. We're gonna make a fucking killing with this shit. We started by putting ebooks in your Kindleturd. Now we're putting ebooks in your iPhone. Next we'll be putting ebooks in your fucking contact lenses.

We're gonna make a fucking killing.

--

[a]: the Falcons

[b]: A made up statistic that sounds true.

[c]: You have to carry it around with you wherever you want to read it. IMO that is really the only annoying thing about paper books. (This might help explain why we've been using them for so many centuries.)

[d]: Its battery dies. It is expensive enough that you will be bummed out when it is lost/broken/stolen. It is ugly and makes you look like a fucking dork to be seen interacting with it[*]. It is gargantuan, and cannot be folded. It has an ad for Amazon plastered across the top of it--akin to a book with ads on every single mother fucking god damn page. Did I mention it makes you look like a fucking dork?

[e]: You can pay money to put a new book in it, wherever you have EVDO service.

[f]: In the making-the-world-better-by-satisfying-your-customers sense of the word.

[g]: in my imagination

[h]: by which I mean didn't ever say but surely must know in his heart

[*]: Admittedly, this problem does auto-ameliorate once enough people unashamedly do it, though. Witness in-ear wireless cellphone headsets.

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2009-03-25
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