Amazon is releasing the Kindle, their new ebook reader, today, according to just about everyone. It sounds really cool. The idea from Jeff Bezos, the guy in charge at Amazon, is that people should have access to every book ever written, all the time. So this thing has some internet connection provided by Sprint, and you’re supposed to be able to buy a book from Amazon without using a computer in a few minutes.
Of course, the $9.99 lease payment for a new book is both a little high for something you don’t own and can’t resell, and a little low for Amazon to make any money, so I expect the pricing model to change at some point. Artificially inflating the price of a non-scarce good doesn’t lend itself to an efficient market, but the people at Amazon have done pretty well selling things so far, so I expect they’ll figure something out.
First on my list would be real ownership of content. If I buy an ebook, I should own it. It should be mine. I should be able to resell it or trade it or give it away. I would also like to see libraries.
There are some major details missing from the news about this thing so far, such as integration with the computer. I know you don’t need to use a computer to buy new books, but what about free ebooks released by their authors? Can I just transfer those or download them directly to the Kindle? A nice little library program on the computer would be cool, so I could organize my books onto SD cards or whatever this thing is using for removable storage.
Anyway, I’m very excited. I’d love to see this thing revolutionize the book industry like the the iPod did for the music industry. If I were a book publisher, I would be very nervous right now. They may find themselves increasingly less relevant, just like the big music labels, if they can’t figure out how to adapt to new business models.