Tag Archives: Kindle

Dear Amazon: Convert My Dead-Tree Library to Kindle Books

I have too many books. It’s a first-world problem, I know, and I should probably accept that I am not going to re-read many of them and sell or give them away to a good home. But I am unlikely to do this. In the meantime, my floor-to-ceiling bookshelves overflow, taking up valuable square footage in my modest townhouse.

Amazon, you can solve this problem. Here’s how.

You already have a strong partnership with UPS, which you use for shipping. Make another deal with them. There are UPS Stores all around the country. If I bring a dead-tree book to any UPS Store, they should recycle the book for me and give me a credit for the Kindle version of that same book. The cost of handling or recycling the book can be split between me and Amazon.

This is a win-win-win-win proposition.

I win because I have fewer physical books cluttering up my house, while retaining access to my library.

Amazon wins because more consumers will have large Kindle libraries. This will create an incentive to make future purchases in the Kindle ecosystem.

Book publishers win because when used books are recycled, the market for used books shrinks. Physical books are durable and resalable; converting to Kindle books solves the durable goods problem and makes publisher profits higher because they would sell more copies.

UPS wins because they get a small fee-per-book that comes out of the gains to the other parties.

When I talk about this idea, I find that the main objection I get is an emotional one: “Isn’t it wasteful to destroy used books?” people ask. And the answer is not really. No information is destroyed by recycling the book, because Kindle books are a pretty good substitute. And if the book were not destroyed, then the publishers would never go for the deal, and we would be stuck in a more wasteful situation, one in which a significant fraction of real estate goes toward book storage.

Amazon, you started the ebook revolution. Now take it to the next level by helping everyone complete the transition.

Reading for Dreamers

I am a dreamer. By this, I do not mean to imply anything about the hallucinations I have while sleeping, which I tend not to remember. I mean to say that I have a temperament, personality, or disposition that leads my mind to wander. I laugh at inappropriate times. Maybe everyone else is just like me—it is, after all, impossible to get inside someone else’s head—but I think not. I have a very rich interior life.

I would not change this about myself if I could, but it does cause problems. One problem is that when I read books, I go off on tangents, I chase rabbits, I take the ideas out for a spin. When I am ready to return to the book, I have lost my place. I end up reading paragraphs over and over again as each fresh reading brings about a new opportunity for mind-wandering.

I have recently discovered a solution to this problem. Not for the dreaming. For the losing of my place. I have been reading on my iPhone. I am using the Kindle for iPhone app. It is fantastic for people like me. People complain about the iPhone’s small screen when compared to the iPad or to the Kindle proper. But the small screen is such a blessing!┬áThe screen displays about a 12th of a page at a time. This is just the right amount. When I return from my meanderings, there is no question of where I left off. I left off there. And I can keep going.

Fellow dreamers, have you already tried something like this? Are you now planning to try? Do you have any other useful tips for people like us? Non-dreamers can feel free to comment too, of course.

E-Book Miscellany

  1. I very much want a Kindle, but…
  2. I am afraid of being locked into a vendor or technology. I currently buy almost all my books from Amazon.com with very little comparison shopping because I know that Amazon faces a pretty elastic demand curve. If I buy a Kindle, I will have only one source for in-copyright books, and Amazon may not always have an incentive to keep prices low. If I invest in a Kindle library, then I will always have to have a Kindle, even if some superior e-book reader comes along.
  3. Digital rights management is such a pain. My current book-reading habits include “borrowing” books from parental libraries. Non-transferability is the reason that e-books are so cheap relative to regular books, but I think I would rather pay full book price for an e-book if it included full rights of resale and transfer. The hypothetical used e-book market would of course be more efficient and liquid than the used paper book market, due to lower transaction costs.
  4. Of course, even if I bought a Kindle, nothing would stop me from raiding parental paper book libraries.
  5. From what I understand, Amazon has not yet perfected the within-household e-book syncing paradigm. Suppose I have an iPhone with the Kindle app on it, and both I and my wife have Kindles. Amazon offers an optional service that syncs the last page you were on across devices, so I can start a book on my Kindle and pick up in the same place on my iPhone if I am standing in line somewhere. As it stands (correct me if I am wrong), I cannot sync just my iPhone and my Kindle without syncing my wife’s Kindle also. This is troubling since there are several books in my house with both His and Hers bookmarks in them.
  6. The existence of e-books makes me wish even more that copyright terms were shorter, say, 20 years. Every book published before 1990 would be a free download, and I doubt that the incentive to write books would be too adversely impacted.
  7. There ought to be a way to upgrade my paper book library into a digital library. I mail a book back to the publisher and they give me a free e-book of the same title. Provided I pay the shipping costs and a small fee for processing, why should they be unwilling to do this? Taking a used book out of circulation means more new book sales.
  8. Think about e-books, the real estate market, and Caplan’s Jock/Nerd theory of history. Crudely, assume every nerd has a room in his house devoted to books, and every jock does not read or own books. Other things equal, nerds will need larger houses. Now e-books come along, and nerds can fit that entire room into one or two e-book readers. This is a change that benefits nerds to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars in real estate costs alone. To the extent that nerds demand less housing, it could result in lower housing prices for jocks as well, but this effect would be modest compared to the effect on nerd welfare. The invention of e-books is the revenge of the nerds.