This could get expensive …

Kindle on iphone:The shadows at top and bottom disappear
Kindle on iphone:The shadows at top and bottom disappear

and it may mean one participates in a collapse of  the bookstore  industry.

What’s going on?  Well, there’s a kindle application now for the iphone, and it is free.  What that means is that one now almost instant access  to all the books that can be read on’s kindle, a book size electronic reader.  Further, one can order a sample of the book without buying the book.

Now it has to be said that not many philosophy books seem to be on the kindle yet, though in another field of mine most seem to be.  Further, kindle versions of the books are about $20 less.  And lots of novels are.  What that means is that  those difficult times when you are caught in the airport waiting 4 hours for a delayed flight and too tired to read the texts you have with you, you can just order a nice $7 or so novel to read.  And if you are not sure you really want the latest Laura Lippman, despite Janet Maslin’s intriguing review of it, you can get the first chapter and see.

The downside.  Well, plenty, if you need to be thrifty.  Of course, one can ignore the world financial crisis, but…  And then there’s the book industry and bookstores.  I’ve pretty much vowed not to buy anything from Amazon that I can find in my city’s wonderful independent murder mystery store, I wonder about the other independent stores and, of course, Borders, which apparently is sort of financially borderline (couldn’t resist). 

The iphone and the kindle

In fact, I don’t find reading books on the iphone all that pleasant, so it will be limited to various somewhat emergency situations.  Such as unexpected hours stranded somewhere, or a lost textbook one needs to talk about in 5 hours  and so on.  But it’s probably a great introduction to the kindle itself, and getting one of them is expensive. 

Do you have any experience with reading on an iphone?  Or the kindle itself?  Or another electronic reader?  And what about bookstores,  independent or not?

17 thoughts on “This could get expensive …

  1. O dear. I just discovered that Hume and Kant are available for the Kindle, with major texts at $0.99. Haven’t checked out the editions, though. On the kindle itself one can search for words, not so the iphone version. Still, at a conference it would be nice not to be carrying a hard copy of the collected works.

    Wollenstonecraft is not on kindle, and only one volume of the Re-Reading the Canon series is. However, Foot’s Moral Dilemmas will be on it later this month.

    You get the idea…

  2. Having explored the current Kindle titles pertaining to Nietzsche, I’ve noticed that much of the scholarly lit costs as much as the print and not all of the best translations are available. In fact, I’ve noticed with several non-english language titles, one gets directed to inferior, public domain translations. However, Amazon has a feature (beneath the book cover image of titles not available on Kindle) by which you can prompt Amazon to notify the publisher of your interest in it becoming so available.

  3. Here’s a very cool thing about the Kindle 2–which I just received as a present. You can send amazon your .doc documents and they will convert them, for a nominal fee (10 cents, I think!). Then you can download to the Kindle and read wherever you go. Plus, you get access to 3G network for free, wherever you are (no wifi needed). Classics are super-cheap. $.99 for the Jane Austen novel I just downloaded. No, I don’t work for Amazon.

  4. I have a Kindle 2, and it is great! You can get anything on Project Gutenberg for free and I can send text based PDFs to myself so I save a lot of trees. It is wonderful to have all these books and articles with me everywhere I go and the Kindle is very enjoyable to read because it is not backlit.

    One of the only downsides for academics is there isn’t an official citation method for the Kindle yet. Kindle books do not have page numbers, they have place numbers that remind me a little of stephanus numbers. For official copies from Amazon, my research librarian has told me to invent a standard way of citing books until MLA comes up with something, and to check out the hard back copies of books I get for free from another website from the library for citing purposes. That might sound annoying, but it’s not because I no longer have to lug the complete works of Plato to class. I bring my Kindle with the free copy I downloaded and then use the “real book” for citations in papers.

  5. Is it really so expensive to use a Kindle? I own individual text books which cost more, and I can imagine that it wouldn’t take long for one to make up the difference in cost via free and discounted books.

    I’m also skeptical of the worry that the Kindle is somehow bad for the book industry. If you place some special value on traditional books, I suppose you might be concerned. But as many people have argued (see, e.g. the below article), the Kindle (and similar products) may actually be better for the written word generally by making authors and their work more accessible. And shouldn’t we care more about the availability of texts and ideas than about whether you can hold a physical book in your hand? I would think that bloggers (who, many worry, are contributing to the demise of print newspapers) should be able to appreciate this better than anyone.

    As for complaints that many particular texts are not available, I have to imagine that that will improve, perhaps rapidly, as time goes on.,1

  6. Kuroda, texts that cost more than $360.00+?

    The idea of getting all that material in something so light is just wonderful, and trumps most things. Just think how nice it would be to come back from a convention without a bursting suitcase that one can’t get into the overhead compartment because it weighs so much.

    I really meant to ask a question about books and bookstores. But the question is serious; bookstores, at least good independent ones, are often curated (as my son has pointed out to me) and they can facilitate very valuable discoveries. I just discovered a wonderful detective story writer because of a conversation I overheard in a mystery bookstore. Also, while the owners are not perfect at generalizing from what I buy to what I will like, their recommendations are certainly ahead of the ones Amazon makes.

    And the serendipity of discoveries even at the chain stores are valuable.

    Maybe most serious is the fact that most people don’t have kindle and I don’t want the quality of books available to, e.g., most of my students, to go way down.

  7. jj, I think Kuroda’s suggestion was that a Kindle plus a whole library of Kindle editions is much less expensive than a whole library of paper editions. Assuming I bought them all new for an average price of $20, I’ve invested something like $7,000 in books over the last ten years. If prices for Kindle editions stabilise around $5, I could replace my whole library for about $2,100.

    Assuming my library is just the text in the books. It’s not; it’s also all the annotations I’ve scribbled in the margins of those books over the years. I’d be quite interested in getting a Kindle, but only when the major academic presses start releasing Kindle editions and only when you can save notes.

  8. Yeah, I figure by the time all the stuff — mainly from academic presses — I want is available in Kindle format and at decent prices — there will be a newer, better, and perhaps cheaper version of the Kindle around. (I would hate to have been one of the trendinistas who purchased the first one!)

  9. Those following this thread might note a misplaced comment that is here. The author makes the good point that the publisher has electronic copies which could be made public, and raises the issue of compatibility.

    The incompatibility of dvd’s among countries is very irritating, and electronic books may end up the same.

    Noumena: you can save annotations on kindle. Or so their description implies, by listing “delete” as an option.

  10. Yes but you can get the Stanza reader for iPhone for free and the many, many classic books in the Gutenburg project library also for free, and see if you like it (where “it” is reading books on your iPhone) before committing yourself to the Kindle. And if you’re looking for something to keep you amused in the airport, I’m sure the Gutenburg library has something you have not read yet! As an open-source person I’m shying from the Kindle thus far.

  11. It’s worth mentioning that so far it seems the Kindle has been a sickeningly missed opportunity to improve access to texts for people with vision impairments. See, for instance
    (sorry, I don’t know how to insert links into comments properly!)

    I understand that even with the text-to-speech capacity publishers will be able to choose whether to activate it for a particular book, so the campaign to get publishers to provide accessible electronic versions of books continues. In the UK, for instance, check out the RNIB’s ‘Right to Read’ campaign.

  12. Heg, your comments seem to suggest that the Kindle does not have the text-to-audio feature (otherwise, I don’t know what your complaint is), but the article you link to states that it does. Indeed, the sole comment on the posted article (made by a blind business man) says: “Amazon and others should be encouraged and congratulated for their efforts.” What exactly is the “sickeningly missed opportunity” you have in mind?

  13. Peisheng,

    The missed opportunity I have in mind is that the development of eBooks in general seems to have treated accessibility as an afterthought: thus, for instance, the text-to-audio feature in the Kindle is new to the Kindle 2. It’s also still a text-to-audio feature designed for sighted people, since the books can be played out loud but the menus can’t. That seems a particular shame since such technology surely has such great potential for access to texts.

    And second, the fact that there is now a text-to-audio capacity in the Kindle ‘handset’ (or whatever you call them) doesn’t mean all Kindle eBooks will be accessible, because I understand that it will be up to the publisher whether to enable the audio feature for each eBook.

    Here’s a user’s review of Kindle 2’s accessibility:

    So I agree that people should be encouraged and congratulated when they do make efforts, even belatedly, but I still find it deeply disappointing – sickening – that this wasn’t at the heart of it from the beginning.

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