Kindle: We’re All Suckers Now

Richard Lutz asks if the Kindle e-book is the best thing since sliced bread or just a slick nasty marketing tool.

Having spent the greater part of the summer encased in a lead box with my new Kindle, I now feel ready to pronounce on the new device.

Kindle… the electronic book linked rigidly to Amazon . It fits beautifully into your hand, was great on my desert island as the waters lapped my perfect beach, was handy on the never-ending train from Scotland to Birmingham and slipped away into whatever paper bag I was carrying for my tooth brush and spare pair of socks.

Downloads were instantaneous- order a book on its miniscule keypad and it was there in e-writing even before you thought through whether you really need it.

But, here’s the rub. A terrible book is a terrible book on an electronic pad as well as in a grubby paperback you liberated from the dentist’s office. And a good book is as…well, you can see where this is going.

One major problem is that slave-chain to Amazon. Kindle is ultimately not about you as a customer and the ease of reading. It is a giant invisible marketing tool for the giant company with its warehouse of books in the sky.

It has you. You can only buy Amazon books. You sit in your favourite armchair or on the beach or in bed and tap away and order the books you want but would never really bounce down to Waterstones and grab from a shelf.

I mean, you don’t even have to open your laptop to go to the Amazon site. Tap away, buy and read. Tap away, buy and read.

To be fair, books out of copyright are free. So, if you are a Victorian literature fan, you’re in luck.

But if you like anything from, say, 1900 onwards, you pay.

And the prices are really not that good.

Take a writer I enjoy: historian Charles Nicholls. His biography of Leonardo da Vinci cost £13.99 on Kindle. But go into the Amazon site itself and you can have the used edition in slightly used condition for 1p

Yes, a single English cent. (OK, OK, plus postage)

Amazon bosses know their Kindle is ultimately a hook into every living room, every bedroom and onto every beach. It is a permanent huckster at your shoulder so you don’t have to face the problem of walking into a bookshop or, heaven forbid, use your library card.

It will definitely close more bookshops- look what happened to Borders- and make you more dependent on the electronic hardware that Bezos and Jobs convinced us will enrich our lives.

Yes, I’ll use my Kindle. But I’ll covet the feel of a book..