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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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The Kindle is becoming more tempting. I’ve gotten pretty good at traveling for week-long business trips. I travel with soft-side 22×14×9 bag (which will easily compress to 20" for international travel), which is pretty much legal in any carry-on, unlike the wheeled monstrosities most people seem to bring. I also travel with a briefcase to carry my work laptop.

Space isn’t really a problem; via bundle packing and not overpacking, it’s pretty easy to fit everything I need for a week. Weight is a problem. About one third of my carry weight is technology. The next third is clothes, shoes, and toiletries. The final third is books. If I’m traveling for fun and taking camera gear instead of business technology, that quickly comes about half of my carry weight (which makes it very hard to travel within international weight limits carry-on only).

So, I carry a decent amount of books. Most of the reading I accomplish in a given year I accomplish during travel. Since this hasn’t been a high-travel year until recently, I’ve ready very little. I tend to read in the airports, on the planes, and in the evenings when I travel. So, it’s not abnormal for me to carry half a dozen books and finish most of them on a given week-long trip.

The new Kindle seems like a natural solution to my problems. It’s cheap, tiny, and weighs very little.

Getting content onto the Kindle is easy; either I buy the books I want to read, or I download an instapaper mobi bundle, and load it up. As much as I love instapaper on the iPhone and iPad, I’m sure I would prefer the kindle’s delivery.

There are three problems.

The first is the cost. The Kindle charges a pretty nasty convenience tax. Many of the Kindle books are the same price (or even higher) than the paperback versions. This makes zero sense to me. I know Amazon has a fee, and they have to pay the cellular carriers for “whisper net.” I realize that I’m buying intellectual property, and not a physical thing, and that intellectual property is worth something. Still, I just don’t get that there isn’t a huge price differential.

The second is the nature of books. I still love the feel and experience of books. But, more than that nostalgic and tactile aspect, books are an important part of my existence. I have shelves full of books. I love the way they look. I love it when somebody comes over and I can say “I have a book on that, here, let me give it to you so you can read it.” Whether it’s a gift or a loan, the ability to treat my library as a library is a pretty meaningful thing to me. Maybe it’s just a romantic notion, but I want books to be a part of my life. In my dream house, a room will be wallpapered with shelves of them.

The final aspect is somewhat related to cost. I have thousands of dollars of books I haven’t read. It will cost me thousands of dollars to re-buy those books and put them on the Kindle. I have a license (in my mind, at least) to own the content of the books I have in person, it bothers me that I cannot transfer this license. I know there is no ethical or practical way to make this happen, but I fear that this problem will propagate — when I do read books I love on the Kindle, I will want to buy them so I have a physical copy too. This is dumb. It relates to my problem with digital delivery of music. I have zero problems buying music without a physical copy, provided I can have an unprotected full-resolution version. Until that time comes, I need to buy a physical copy so that I can also acquire the digital copy that meets my requirements.

I’ve probably talked myself into getting one, don’t get me wrong. It makes a lot of sense for travel and convenience, and it seems like travel is going to be more common in my immediate future. I wonder if a subscription model (n-at-a-time ala-Netflix) would solve my gripes. I doubt it will happen anytime soon.